It really should have been stormy on September 11, 2001, to match the horror that ensued. Instead, it was mockingly crystal clear and one of the most beautiful weather days of the year.
We all know what happened, and my version is from the perspective of a lucky one who watched it unfold from enough of a distance to experience the terror, but not be in the thick of it.
It is a vivid memory of first seeing a plume of smoke rising from way downtown on my walk to the subway. The rumour then was that a small plane had accidentally
hit, and I thought "how tragic." But the tragedy was only beginning.
I made it to my office in midtown on what would be one of the last subway trains to run for the next number of days, and I turned on the radio to hear the reporters, at first keeping to the clinical reporter-style tone, but gradually catching on to the enormity of what was happening until they couldn’t hold back their "human"
anymore. I’ll never forget one reporter in particular shouting "It’s GONE! Tower One is GONE!"
At that point, and being all alone in my office, I began to think the world was indeed coming to an end, and that I should try to get home. My decision was made
clear when I received a phone call from Max, my friend in Florida, who somehow, no matter what the catastrophe, when all telephone and cell lines are down,
always manages to get through to me. She was screaming and crying "get out of there!" So I did.
Outside, there were hundreds of people just milling around the streets with vacant looks on their faces, staring at their cell phones like they would magically begin to work again. They did not for quite some time.
I started to walk in the direction of home, and as I did, I began to hear jets flying overhead and my first thought was they were not ours, and that I would be blown up any second by a bomb. As it turned out, they were ours, and I finally made it home in one piece. I was one of the lucky ones indeed.
In the days that followed, we were all glued to our televisions as a sort of lifeline to what was going on in our mortally wounded city. We could see the
smoke billowing over the river downtown and there was a distinct smell in the air, even uptown. A film of ash coated everything, and I could taste the rubble on my lips as I walked outside.
But then, something else started to happen. As we walked the streets, we saw all of the memorials beginning to pop up around the firehouses and precincts along with the candlelight vigils, and suddenly, the part of the human spirit that can never be destroyed began to emerge. There was pain and suffering, but there was also hope.
Our firefighters and police never left the site of the Twin Towers, digging with tools and sometimes their bare hands in the hopes of finding survivors. I would
see trucks full of volunteers traveling down the avenues every single day, making the journey to sift through the rubble, knowing the horrors they would certainly find. But there was hope that they might find life.
In the years since, it is coming to light that those heroes are paying the ultimate price for their diligence, many of them with their lives due to cancers and diseases related to the toxicity from those days in that pit. People who lived and worked in the area were also affected as the information coming down from on high at that time was that the air was "perfectly safe to breathe." I called bullshit on that then, since I knew those towers were built in a time when asbestos was freely used as
a routine building material.
And here we are today, on another anniversary.
This past week, we decided to participate in the annual 9/11 Walk of Remembrance, recommended by our friend, retired firefighter Tim Brown, who WAS in the thick of
it in Tower One as it collapsed. He lost 93 friends that day and has chosen to dedicate himself to the 9/11 families over these past years.
As we walked and met those involved with this event, it was a valuable reminder of how there is life that happens outside of the realm of politics, rhetoric and
social media. It’s real, with real people and real pain, sorrow, laughter and love. We were led by NYPD Detective Steven McDonald, himself a quadriplegic, having
been shot on the job in 1986. We traced the footsteps of Father Mychal Judge who is documented as the first person pronounced dead after the attack. He was a
beloved figure and mentor to many, with a passion for life and peace, and there was an abundance of that along the way.
As a result of attending the 9/11 Walk of Remembrance, we were compelled to create a video in an attempt to capture some of the emotions of the day. It is also intended as a testimonial to the human spirit that cannot be destroyed or crushed by any of those despicable cowards who try.
And no, we will never forget.
Watch this video of the events of the day:
9/11 Walk of Remembrance