How does one find inspiration in a tragedy such as 9/11?
I found it in the hearts of my fellow Salvation Army volunteers, many who traveled across the country, as we served food to rescue workers at a temporary morgue. I found it in the generosity of the police officers who drove me home after working those 12 hour shifts. I found it in the gentle spirit of Buddhist Monks during a work encounter. And I found it in the tears of the many rescue workers who just finished shifts at Ground Zero, as I bought beers for them at my favorite pub.
I’m reminded of those people as I look through my journal. And I’m thankful that I did keep a journal during that time, as I never want the memories and emotions of that period to fade as they usually do with time. Here are some excerpts from my journal:
I was awakened on the morning of the 11th – my departure day – by the phone ringing off the hook. It was my mom to say that all area airports had been closed and two planes had just crashed into the Twin Towers. In disbelief and shock, we ran down to the water to see the tops blazing with smoke. It was only a matter of minutes before both towers collapsed.
The crowd just stood stunned in complete and utter disbelief. It was surreal – it was a movie of the week – it didn’t really happen. The rest of the day was spent glued to the TV set. A similar attack was made on the Pentagon and another plane went down in Pennsylvania – apparently heading to the White House. That plane, eerily, was hijacked out of Newark heading to San Francisco – the route I was to take later that day. For the most part of the day I was trying to reassure my friends and family that I was safe. No easy task considering phone service was poor.
I’ve now been at a loss the past few days, trying to figure out what I should do and where I should go. I’m currently homeless and jobless and my trip is up in the air. I was planning on carrying on with it, but even though the airports are closed, I know that I need to be here.
Though I left my job in production for my travels, I was able to work on a freelance basis a few times.
I was up at 4am for work as EPG was hosting a press tour for a Buddhist Monk from Vietnam (Thich Nhat Hanh). He was promoting his book on “Anger” and how to embrace it – very appropriate for the time. With him were 24 monks and nuns who would meditate while he was conducting his interviews. I could relate to so much of what he had to say about embracing ones anger and recognizing it so as not to use it to cause more harm. And so much of the views of Buddhism are based on common sense. It’s just so sad that people are too ignorant to recognize these basic principles.
When I wasn’t freelancing, I was volunteering with the Salvation Army.
We had to first drop off & pick up someone at Ground Zero. It was indescribable – very spooky. We had about 15 checkpoints as we drove by residents raising “thank you” signs. It was like a war zone – a lot happening everywhere and the mouth of the destruction before us. It was past midnight, so the lights were reflecting off the smoke, water and destruction. It has to be so traumatic to be working down there constantly, not to mention exhausting.
I had the opportunity to meet some of those who volunteered at Ground Zero at my favorite mid-town pub.
I’ve been finding that’s the case most of the time. I’ve been meeting a lot of rescue workers and firemen, and I seem to be a sounding board for them. I really don’t mind, I just wish I had more to say. And I’ve never seen so many men break down crying.
When I went back (to the Irish Pub) this past Friday with the EPG crew, I was left a t-shirt and a very sweet note from one of them: “I want to thank you for your act of kindness asking me to select music at the juke box. This may seem small & trivial but made a big difference in my emotional well being.”
If only he knew how much he inspired me.
A month after 9/11 I found myself finally on my way to SE Asia.
During this time I met so many wonderful police officers, rescue workers, medical examiners and volunteers working at the canteen. And I was able to witness how wealthy and generous of a country we have. And despite everything that has happened, we are all so lucky and should be so grateful for where we live and all those we have in our lives, not to mention the opportunities and freedoms open to us.
But it is time for all of us to slowly move on. And for me that means on with my travels.
On this Anniversary of 9/11, I can’t help but think about all of these people that I encountered during that time. I can only hope that they have been able to carry on with their lives and are healthy & happy, especially those that volunteered at Ground Zero. I believe that I am where I am in my life today because of them.