We continue with what was written in September 2002, a year after the 9/11 attacks. I had just gotten back from NYC--and Ground Zero--a month prior.
Thoughts on 9/11 Part II
“This poem makes me feel like my daddy is speaking to me. ‘I give you this one though to keep, I am with you, I do not sleep. I am a thousand winds that blow, I am the diamond glint on the snow. I am as sunlight on ripened grain, I am the gentle autumn rain when you awaken in morning hush, I am the swift uplifting rush of quiet birds in circled flight, I am the soft starts that shine at night. Do not think of me as gone, I am with you still in each new dawn.’ ” --Brittany Clark, 11, reading a tribute to her father who was last seen helping a handicapped woman on the 88th floor of Tower 1.
We had been in New York City for eight days now, and were two days from heading home. The trip had been tiring, exhausting, but so rewarding and such a learning experience. I hate clichés, but that’s really the only way to describe it.
On this particular day, we had one task at hand. We had been scheduled to travel down to Manhattan to the First Nazarene Church, where we would meet up with the pastor and get some information on the Festival of Life. The Festival of Life was an upcoming (then it was, it’s already passed now) festival with musicians, speakers and the Gospel of Christ being shared. All we had to do was to take a handful of fliers, which were just postcards with info on both sides, and hand them out around Ground Zero and Battery Park.
For those of you unfamiliar with the area, as I was, Battery Park is the southern tip of Manhattan, close to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, across from Staten Island. Right above Battery Park is the financial district, Wall Street and the Stock Exchange area. To the northwest was the World Trade Center, both towers, and the seven other buildings that make up the WTC. Just so you know, the two towers were only part of the Center itself. There’s your history lesson.
"I was so overwhelmed that day that I couldn't watch anything... My aunt was in NY that day on business... that day they were in the building across the street. The smoke and heat and debris of the first crash literally pushed them out of the building. They were running down the street with t-shirts covering their faces. They looked back to see people jumping out of the towers before they got to Battery Park. This too will be a day to live in infamy. This is our Pearl Harbor. I still haven't figured out what that means for me yet.” --Kasie Moser, Samford University
We arrived in the Trade Center area, which was weird, because there was this big patch of open clear beautiful blue sky where I know some buildings should have been. I had on my backpack, Erin had hers, we all had a handful of fliers ready to hand out. But as we got closer to the site, it became apparent to me that fliers weren’t even something I was going to be thinking of.
Going to Ground Zero… it didn’t necessarily excite me. Maybe it made me anxious, because we live in Alabama, and though we saw everything live on television, it still seemed like a world away. As we walked closer to the site, I began to recognize stores and shops that I had seen on TV, on specials, in pictures. The Century 21 Department Store building, the Famous Pizza sign on Broadway, things like that. The first thing we saw was the Memorial Wall, a fence that circled a church, a fence covered in things… I began to walk a little faster, ahead of everyone.
The area known as Ground Zero is surrounded by a maybe-seven foot fence, and most of the fence is covered in a black tarp. There are holes in the tarp, apparently where someone had torn through to see, but you still couldn’t see much. On the eastern side, however, is a platform with an uncovered high chain link fence set up for people to view the site. Because you can’t see Ground Zero, or the land itself, from the direction we were walking, the first thing that is noticeable is the high buildings around it, one of which, I am guessing One Liberty Plaza, is completely covered in a black tarp. I’m talking maybe 50 or 60 stories, covered in black. On the far side is another building (Dow Jones, if I’m right) which looks to be in use, with a roof that looks heavily damaged.
I was way ahead of everyone in our group, but it didn’t matter to me. I was ready to see this area. I somehow almost felt like I needed to see it, to piece together what I had witnessed on television to real life. I rounded the corner and came to the viewing platform to see Ground Zero, the site of where the two tallest buildings in the western hemisphere had once been. It was awe inspiring.
"I was, of course, in the best place to be, at church. Still in shock but comforted at the same time. Quietness was in abundance and time for reflection also. I don't think anyone in the office thought anything of any of us stopping to weep and pray for those families and rescue workers who were directly affected. I know that we have all been indirectly affected by the 9-11 attack and that life as we knew it is forever changed. [But we are reminded] God can take anything and use it for His glory." --Lynn Nipp, Pastor’s Admin. Asst. Valleydale Baptist Church
The hole that was in the ground was indescribable. In addition to the two towers, also destroyed were the Marriott Hotel that sat between 1 and 2, and then World Trade Buildings 5, 6 and 7. So the land obviously had to be big enough for all of these buildings to reside on… and there was even a courtyard in the middle. But they all came down into this big hole, which was the “basement” of the World Trade Center, including shopping areas, restaurants and other office spaces. The hole I stared at was at least 5 stories deep, and—I’m only estimating—a couple of football fields wide and long. There were 6 billion pounds of steel and wreckage when the buildings came down… it filled the hole I was looking at, and rose above it 7 stories. That’s at least 12 stories… 140 feet… high of stuff. Steel. Metal. Wood. Bodies. Computers. Chairs. Papers. Desk lamps. Counter tops. Pencils. Filing cabinets. Not only was it 140 feet high… the pile was probably a good ¼ to ½ mile in circumference. I never imagined it would be so big.
To be a fireman, or a rescue worker, going to the pile, pulling out stuff bucketfuls at a time… I can’t imagine it. I just can’t put it into my mind how they did it. Just seeing the emptiness of this pit, closing my eyes, and imagining what I saw on television actually being in a crater this size… it takes my breath away and breaks my heart into pieces.
Finally, I couldn’t look at Ground Zero anymore… it was just too much. I walked back towards the Memorial Wall, pulling out my fliers. I tried handing them out with very little luck… because I’m sure they didn’t want to be bothered, I managed to give out one for every ten rejections and pass bys I got. I made my way to the wall… and this is where it finally all hit me at one time.
“My AP physics teacher turned off the TV after a long time of watching, after the pentagon was hit, after hearing about the plane in Pennsylvania. He started to talk to us--mentioning that "if you're a Christian in this room right now, you need to be praying...” That was very bold to say in a public high school. Three girls grabbed their bibles and asked if they could have permission to go in the hall to talk - they went, I followed. I didn’t really know them. One simply asked, "You want to pray with us?" "Yeah." I remember getting tired of the people talking on the radio about it. I drove without any radio or music a lot of times after 9-11, just praying.” --Tammy McLeod, Then a High School Senior
The church that sat in the middle… I don’t remember the name of it… I have been racking my brain, but I can’t remember the name of it… of this wall was closed. The sign in the front read something like, “This church was a command post and triage for the wounded during the attacks on September 11th. We are now closed to repair and make renovations following the attacks, and will reopen (it gave a date I don’t remember).” The fence that was around it was a tall, iron fence, and the church and fence made up the entire block.
"Working for the Red Cross, it was no time until our donor center was filling up with people wanting to donate blood. Here in Alabama, donating blood was therapeutic and gave people a way to feel like they were helping their fellow man. By lunchtime a long line had formed and people were patiently waiting to donate. As the afternoon progressed the line grew even longer. At one point the wait to donate was 5-6 hours but no one seemed to mind." --Tad Roose, American Red Cross
I walked to the front of the block, the site of the first area that I had seen when I initially walked up, and began to look at the things on this fence. I was drawn to this fence… I put the fliers in my backpack (I’m sorry Fish, I didn’t do my job… please forgive me) and began to study this fence more closely.
There was a note from a little girl to her dad who had died in the Tower collapse. It said something like, “Daddy, I miss you.” And was written in crayon, laminated to survive the outdoor air.
There were thousands of paper cranes there. A school in Japan wrote, “The paper crane is our symbol of peace and healing. The crane was first created by a woman suffering from the effects of the bomb in Nagasaki, and throughout the century, has meant so much to so many people. We have made 7,000 paper cranes, one for each of your dead and your wounded in New York City.” And the cranes were everywhere.
There was a newspaper clipping of a young guy who had died, and how much his sister misses him
There was, of all things, a plastic mold of a seahorse, the kind you’d use in the sand on the beach. It sat in front of a ceramic angel, now faded and worn, chipped on the wings.
There was an Irish flag there, with the words “Ireland loves NYC! We are praying for you all!”
There was a poem there from a son to a father, who died in the crash
There was a letter from a wife to a husband who was aboard one of the plans.
There was a Mormon Bible there, inscribed to someone who was killed
There was a stuffed rabbit there, with a white coat, now brown from dirt and dust, from being outside so long. The fur was rough feeling, but the rabbit was very squeezable.
There were many I Love NY t-shirts, all with different things written on it, with signatures from California, Alaska, Mexico, Georgia, Japan and many other places.
And a fireman’s helmet, just hanging there on the fence. Nothing else with it, just a fireman’s helmet.
Crosses. Toys. Trinkets. Necklaces. Baby booties. Pictures. Frames. “Missing” photos. It was all there. I looked at a large wooden cross for several minutes, and then tears began to form. A light tap on my shoulder came from Fish, who was walking by. She saw me… I don’t know what she thought I was doing, but somehow I think she understood how taken in I was by all of this. She talked with me for a minute, asking me if I would go across the street to Office Depot and pick up a few things. She spoke very softly, very gently, as if not just in reverence for the lost lives represented on this wall, but almost seemingly out of respect for me, because she could see on my face that this was really hitting me hard.
Fish gave me a reassuring smile, a small squeeze on the shoulder and she walked past me. I turned back to the cross I was in front of, and a tear trickled down my cheek. I quickly wiped it away… was it okay to cry in front of all these people? I mean, some of these people were taking pictures in front of the wall, like it was tourist attraction or something (which totally inflamed me)… could I cry? I think it wasn’t a matter of whether I should or not. I knelt down in front of the cross, took my backpack and laid it under me, and placed my hands on the iron fence and on the curb. I began to pray, and I prayed for at least twenty minutes right there. And as I prayed, the tears flowed. For the families, for the little girls who lost their mommies, for the little boys who lost their daddies, for the parents who lost their little boys and girls, no matter the age… for the lost, for the saved, for the entire area. I prayed for the survivors and their families, and the victims not just in New York, but Washington and Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
"[It didn’t hit me] until I was watching the news where all the people were crowding around with pictures of their loved ones, screaming for them, screaming for anyone to help them find them. Knowing deep in my heart that they were probably dead. That's when I cried. That's when I sobbed for 20 minutes or longer. I'll never forget their faces, or their urgent pleas. "My son, he was a window washer on the 102nd floor of the World Trade Center, Tower 2. If you see him, please call. . . ." "My husband. We have a little boy. . . please, please, if anyone has seen him, please call me." Here we are, a year later, and I know that I'll never forget the images I saw over and over again. I'll never forget some of those faces. I'll never forget President Bush's face when he found out, or the comforting words he gave out to the nation."
Stephanie Campbell, Atlanta, Georgia
Finally, I stood up and wiped my eyes. Behind me, I heard several people taking pictures… it would be arrogant to think they were taking pictures of me praying, but it’s possible. I didn’t even see anyone I knew, except for that brief moment with Fish, for another few hours. So I was able to walk the block… I was told to walk the block, from God I believe, and prayer walk. And so that was my afternoon… I won’t dive into that, because that goes into a whole other story…
I’ll stop now. I didn’t know quite how to end this, but I think I’ve found it. It addition to the comments Tammy McLeod sent me above, she included an excerpt from her journal, written on 9/11/2001. And it’s a fitting way to end this email, to end this letter to you guys.
"God, You are such a mighty and awesome God. I thank You for the peace You give me and everyone who trusts in You. I pray for the victims and their loved ones. I can’t pretend to know their suffering and pain. But You've not given me or anyone else more than we can handle. I’m glad that nothing surprises You. Thank You for the promise of working everything out for the good for those who love You. forgive me for all my ignorance - please stop me from making this simply an emotional time - I pray that I will be an effective Christ follower so that the people around me will see You in the midst of their uncertainty and questioning. I love you...”
Tammy McLeod’s journal
Can you believe its been 4 years since the 9/11 attacks? Like the Challenger explosion, Princess Diana's death, and for older people, the moon landing and JFK's funeral, this is one of those rare events where everyone remembers where they were when it all began to unfold. I wrote the following essay below, in two parts, and I want to add a third part later this week about my re-visit to Ground Zero about a month ago. When 9/11 happened, I attempted to write some things... but nothing made sense. A year later, I finally was able to produce my thoughts on paper; mind you, this was before I dated Stephanie, this was before I worked at NBC, this was in the midst of The Deuce, so this was a long time ago. So, here we go...
Thoughts on 9/11, Part 1Oh, the rhetoric we are thrown this week… “Tuesday morning began as such a beautiful day…” “Everything seemed so normal on Monday…” “Our lives would change forever on that day…” But here’s the crazy thing… it’s all true. Tuesday morning was a perfect day. Monday was your typical Monday. And nothing would be the same.
To spare you from what you’ll hear over and over and over today and tomorrow and in the next few days, I want to share with you a few different things. I want to give you my Tuesday morning. And then I want to share with you my Wednesday afternoon that occurred eleven months later. These are my thoughts… maybe they ramble, maybe they are boring… but I wanted to share. The stats I have come from USAToday.
I work at 1069 the Point and 973 Oldies, but last September, it was Oldies 106.9, and down the hall was Rock 97.3. Rob and Shannon premiered on Monday on the 106.9 station, stolen from up the hill at Magic 96. I had already me t both of them, and had applied—and been granted—an internship with their morning show. The first day was really hard, being there at 5:45, answering phones, telling people where Burt and Kurt went (the old morning show, now you can find them on 101.1 The Source in the afternoons), telling people about Rob & Shannon, talking on the air some, being introduced as SuperDave. Katy still calls me that… I like it.
I’d been at Cox Radio for almost three months, I was still learning my way around, still learning my place. My computer was old, the only person I knew really was Michelle Carr, then the national sales assistant, and she was even kind of intimidating, because she was tall and knew everyone and everything much more than I did. I made it through the morning show, Rob and Shannon made it through the show as well, and I came back to my desk to work on Alabama Football packages. I didn’t know Katy. I didn’t know Lori. I barely knew Tammy McLeod, Jason Demastus and knew nothing of Alex and Erin and Melanie and the Shades church up the hill.
Tuesday morning, I awoke at 5:30 am, got into the shower and headed to work. Rob & Shannon’s second day on the air, one of today’s big features was that a guy from San Francisco was going to call in about pricing records. He’s a big vintage record expert, and we were going to invite listeners to call in with their records to be priced. I found out my vintage “The King and I” soundtrack album, with the Deborah Kerr and Yul Brenner cover, was worth about 18 dollars.
At 8:50am, the phone rang, and I answered it… it was Ericka Woode, our lovely midday host, also stolen from Magic 96. She was letting me know that since 8:46am, the World Trade Center had been on fire, and that we should turn on the television in the studio. We did, and Rob began to announce over the air that the tower was on fire, and that this was something that everyone needed to watch. We played another song, as Rob, Shannon and I were talking about it, and then at 9:02, Rob was on the air again.
Shannon and I stood transfixed on the TV, watching this image of the tower burning, knowing now it was a jet that had crashed into the side. Rob began to say, “Folks, if you are not hearing the news, it appears that a plane has crashed into the side of one of the buildings…” when I noticed a small image in the background of the TV getting bigger. I pointed it out to Shannon, who said “That looks like a plane.” The image got bigger and bigger and then, on live TV, crashed into the other tower. It was surreal… the people on the news on ABC were quiet for just a few seconds, and then people were screaming, with the newscaster yelling, “Oh my God! A plane has just hit the second tower!”
Shannon and I gasped, as Rob was also quiet for just a moment. “Folks, we have just seen history… another jet has gone into the World Trade Center. You need to turn your television on right now!” Suddenly, everything was different.
The phones began to ring off the hook, the program director came running in the studio, the new director began to go ballistic, pulling every news story he had to put this on the air. Within an hour, we were directed to go straight to news and news only, as every Cox Station joined a news feed. We then began to answer phones, finding out information, answering questions to what we knew, being clueless to what we didn’t know.
At 9:59, on live TV again, I saw the South Tower began to shake and then fall. At 10:28, I saw the next tower come down.
I was in New York City in 1998, and had visited those towers. I didn’t go to the top, but stood outside looking at their might, their majesty. They were 1,300 feet tall, straight up in the air. I was 5’7, with a straining neck, not able to see the top the closer I got to the base of the buildings. In 102 minutes, the world I knew had gone from pricing records to seeing both of the World Trade Towers collapsed. And I had no clue how to react to that. It was surreal. It wasn’t happening. This was a movie, this was a disaster movie from the 70s starring William Holden and Shelley Winters.
I answered phones for most of the morning, but then just grew weary… I got tired of people saying the same things over and over, asking the same unanswerable questions over and over… I just wanted to go be somewhere else. I tried logging on to the news sites but they were jammed. I remember ESPN.com, my favorite site, having a small picture in the corner with the announcement “North tower struck by plane”. After the South tower was hit, the entire site was devoted to the coverage.
There are several things I will never forget…
The smoke from the first tower
The plane slamming into the next tower
The shrieks of the news people when the second jet hit
And that video of the man with the towel…
I saw video of a man hanging out the window of the North Tower, the first one struck, waving a white towel. He was close to the top of the building, maybe the 90the floor or so… he had no chance. The rescue helicopters couldn’t get to the roof, the firemen couldn’t get past the 90th floor, where the jet hit. He was just waving his white towel… I saw a firefighter later talking about it. He was in tears, simply saying, “This man… wanted us to help him… but there was nothing… there was nothing we could do…”
200 people packed into the 78th floor lobby of the South Tower. They are all there, some going up, some going down, because they were told that the tower was secure. It was that floor, the 78th, that was sliced in half when American Airlines Flight 175 rammed through it. 200 people were there. 12 survived. Twelve people out of two hundred survived the left wing of a plane flying 417 miles per hour slicing through the floor they stood on, waiting for an elevator.
Another thing I can’t imagine is the desperation… being on the 100th floor, knowing you are going to die. Knowing you can’t go down. Knowing you can’t go up. So… you jump. I’ve seen video of this as well… and it’s haunting. What do you do? An estimated 212 people died by jumping. But you have to think that there were scores more that we’ll never know about that found a way to die without jumping… stabbing themselves, hitting themselves, maybe helping each other die somehow. Maybe taking an overdose of Benadryl in a co-workers office to knock you totally out.
I went home that day during lunch, sat in my room and cried. My tears flowed for a few minutes, watching the television, watching the people running around, scared, hurt, lost… watching the thick smoke, watching the fires blaze out of control. When I went back into work, I stopped at a gas station… already, gas prices were rising because of gas shortage fears. There, I ran into a college friend of mine, Donna Tucker.
Donna is my height, very pretty, very plucky and perky. She graduated a few years after me at TSU, but we knew each other instantly, and gave each other a hug. “How are you?” she asked. “Oh, I’ve seen better days. It’s been crazy today,” I replied. “Yes, I know.” We chatted for a few more minutes, about the past, about life and other things… I think God sent Donna that day to me, because for four minutes, I knew nothing about New York City, I knew nothing about Washington DC, I knew nothing about Flight 93 in Pennsylvania… I only knew of Donna and her life, her husband and how she was doing. It was a break from reality, even if ever so brief.
Rudy Giuliani made a good point… we’ll never know all the heroes. Of course, we know the firemen, the rescue workers, the police officers… but there must have been so many people who died we’ll never know of. Those people who helped usher people down the stairs just in time. Those people who gave up spots on the elevator, just in time for someone to be saved. Or maybe those people who helped comfort those others, when they all knew they were going to die. I’d like to think I’d have been that person.
Reflecting back, I’d like to think I’d have been th,e person to stand up and say, “People, Christ loves you. In a few minutes, you’ll have to stand before God, but right now, you can make a decision to live with him forever!”… but I am afraid I might have been the guy (this actually happened, according to reports) who told a lady trying to get on the elevator in front of him, “Lady, this isn’t the Titanic, woman and children aren’t first.” Who would I have been? It scares me to think about.
The rest of the afternoon was spent in silence for me. Usually, my cd player at my desk blares out whatever music I’m in the mood for, but not today. Many people in my office left early to go to their families. I called my mom and told her I loved her. I went home, and as cheesy as it sounds, I was really happy to see Michael, Tom and Shawn there. It was a comfort zone, and right then, on that day, I didn’t want to be challenged with anything. I wanted to be with people I cared about, and it was a relief to see them.
At Bible Study last night, John’s main point was to say there are no accidents. You can say this was or wasn’t the will of God, but you have to know that despite the devastation, so many people know Christ. So many people have heard the gospel. So many people are going to spend eternity with him as a result of September 11th. You can say, “Why would God sacrifice so many to save others?” but you know what, I don’t have an answer. I don’t have a clue. I do know though, that God uses everything for His glory and His purpose.
From one of my favorite sites, The American Spectator, comes one of my favorite columnists, Ben Stein. Truth is, the man is a genius, a funny guy and a complete Right Wing Nut Job, just like me. Here it is:A few truths, for those who have ears and eyes and care to know the truth:1.) The hurricane that hit New Orleans and Mississippi and Alabama was an astonishing tragedy. The suffering and loss of life and peace of mind of the residents of those areas is acutely horrifying.2.) George Bush did not cause the hurricane. Hurricanes have been happening for eons. George Bush did not create them or unleash this one.3.) George Bush did not make this one worse than others. There have been far worse hurricanes than this before George Bush was born.4.) There is no overwhelming evidence that global warming exists as a man-made phenomenon. There is no clear-cut evidence that global warming even exists. There is no clear evidence that if it does exist it makes hurricanes more powerful or makes them aim at cities with large numbers of poor people. If global warming is a real phenomenon, which it may well be, it started long before George Bush was inaugurated, and would not have been affected at all by the Kyoto treaty, considering that Kyoto does not cover the world's worst polluters -- China, India, and Brazil. In a word, George Bush had zero to do with causing this hurricane. To speculate otherwise is belief in sorcery.5.) George Bush had nothing to do with the hurricane contingency plans for New Orleans. Those are drawn up by New Orleans and Louisiana. In any event, the plans were perfectly good: mandatory evacuation. It is in no way at all George Bush's fault that about 20 percent of New Orleans neglected to follow the plan. It is not his fault that many persons in New Orleans were too confused to realize how dangerous the hurricane would be. They were certainly warned. It's not George Bush's fault that there were sick people and old people and people without cars in New Orleans. His job description does not include making sure every adult in America has a car, is in good health, has good sense, and is mobile.6.) George Bush did not cause gangsters to shoot at rescue helicopters taking people from rooftops, did not make gang bangers rape young girls in the Superdome, did not make looters steal hundreds of weapons, in short make New Orleans into a living hell.7.) George Bush is the least racist President in mind and soul there has ever been and this is shown in his appointments over and over. To say otherwise is scandalously untrue.8.) George Bush is rushing every bit of help he can to New Orleans and Mississippi and Alabama as soon as he can. He is not a magician. It takes time to organize huge convoys of food and now they are starting to arrive. That they get in at all considering the lawlessness of the city is a miracle of bravery and organization.9.) There is not the slightest evidence at all that the war in Iraq has diminished the response of the government to the emergency. To say otherwise is pure slander.10.) If the energy the news media puts into blaming Bush for an Act of God worsened by stupendous incompetence by the New Orleans city authorities and the malevolence of the criminals of the city were directed to helping the morale of the nation, we would all be a lot better off.11.) New Orleans is a great city with many great people. It will recover and be greater than ever. Sticking pins into an effigy of George Bush that does not resemble him in the slightest will not speed the process by one day.12.) The entire episode is a dramatic lesson in the breathtaking callousness of government officials at the ground level. Imagine if Hillary Clinton had gotten her way and they were in charge of your health care.God bless all of those dear people who are suffering so much, and God bless those helping them, starting with George Bush.More Mysteries of Katrina:Why is it that the snipers who shot at emergency rescuers trying to save people in hospitals and shelters are never mentioned except in passing, and Mr. Bush, who is turning over heaven and earth to rescue the victims of the storm, is endlessly vilified?What church does Rev. Al Sharpton belong to that believes in passing blame and singling out people by race for opprobrium and hate?What special abilities does the media have for deciding how much blame goes to the federal government as opposed to the city government of New Orleans for the aftereffects of Katrina?If able-bodied people refuse to obey a mandatory evacuation order for a city, have they not assumed the risk that ill effects will happen to them?When the city government simply ignores its own sick and hospitalized and elderly people in its evacuation order, is Mr. Bush to blame for that?Is there any problem in the world that is not Mr. Bush's fault, or have we reverted to a belief in a sort of witchcraft where we credit a mortal man with the ability to create terrifying storms and every other kind of ill wind?Where did the idea come from that salvation comes from hatred and criticism and mockery instead of love and co-operation?And thats all he wrote...