September 11, 2019

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September 11th is one of those days that will remain with people for as long as they live. To me I imagine this is how witnesses to Pearl Harbor felt in those first few decades. My witnessing was on television, and knowing friends who were there and who survived as well as personally knowing someone who knew someone who didn’t woven with my own history of life in New York and Long Island (who disproportionately lost a significant amount of firefighters) really affected me in ways that I believe the rest of the country can’t even fathom.

On that day, we had just returned home from New York and Long Island. We traveled under a similar clear blue sky and looked from the bridge towards the Twin Towers which could be easily seen. The next morning the television was on, and our door was open to the neighborhood; to anyone walking by who wanted to glance in at our TV and get a quick update. It was surreal.

We spent days, weeks even, glued to the television, at that time thinking that more survivors could be found. We watched and mourned, tears easily coming without warning all throughout that time. I remember that entire first year of suddenly breaking into bouts of crying and flinching every time I drove by the nearby airport when a plane was taking off or landing, fear paralyzing my driving for a split second that the plane was low in the sky.

That first anniversary was my son’s first year of public school: kindergarten. I felt that they schools, especially New York schools, should have taken the first anniversary off. We kept him home that day. The three of us went to the State Museum in the capital of Albany and looked at the exhibit with other likeminded, numb, silent except for some quiet weeping New Yorkers. We stood by the chain-link fence with missing posters signs and ribbons, photos and other memorials. We stood in horror and sorrow at the fire truck crushed under the collapse and debris of the formerly magnificent structures known as the World Trade Center. We moved from one thing to the next until we’d seen all we could.

In subsequent years, we’ve done different things. Our kids continue to go to school, and this is the first year that our children will learn about Nine-Eleven. My daughter who wasn’t born in 2001 is in her last year of middle school. My oldest son who was there with us at five years old is now a volunteer fire fighter.

I did not want the nonsense of this present Administration to have anything to do with yesterday. I stayed off of Twitter, and avoided any political content until the evening and after hearing what happened in North Carolina, I was very glad that I made that choice.

Instead, I began my day with Mass, where our priest was celebrating a couple’s sixtieth anniversary of marriage. They renewed their vows. There was one woman present who lost her son on 9/11. The tollling of the church bells at the moments the planes hit the Towers was profound and solitary and emotional. Fr. J gave me two words to take with me yesterday morning: peace & justice.

I drove from there to the Hudson Crossing Park in Schuylerville, New York to walk and pray the labyrinth there. It was a wonderful experience. As I sat in the middle of the center and prayed, again I knew I had made the right choice. On the way out, I was in time to see the Erie Canal Lock #5 in action as the lock filled with water, raising what appeared to be a small boat but wasn’t. As the couple rose to my eye level, we greeted each other and talked briefly before the gates of the lock opened and they sailed north.

From there, I went to Cracker Barrel for no other reason than it was on the way home, and I enjoyed a quiet lunch by myself and did some writing.

In my small ways, I honored the day, and kept it solemn in a way that worked for me. On my way home, I felt blessed. I hope others did the same and got through the day in ways that felt blessed for themselves.

Hudson Crossing Park Labyrinth at The Play Garden, Schuylerville, NY. (c)2019


Lock 5 at Hudson Crossing Park, Schuylerville, NY. (c)2019


Lunch at Cracker Barrel: Homestyle Chicken Sandwich and Pecan Praline Bread Pudding. (c)2019

September 11th

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Every year I try to reflect and write something meaningful for today. I’m not sure that any of us who were witnesses to the events of 9/11 will be able to just let this day pass unnoticed.

While touring Northern Ireland, I was very much surprised to see a tree and plaque commemorating September 11th. I do understand that many faiths and nations lost people in those attacks. However, I was moved that this wasn’t a remembrance for their own citizens, but in mourning, memorial, and solidarity with us. It is directly across from the Northern Ireland War Memorial, and within the gates of Belfast City Hall.

The text on the plaque reads as follows: This tree was planted by Belfast City Council on 11th September 2002 to commemorate all those who so tragically lost their lives in the horrific events in New York, Washington D.C. and Pennsylvania on 11th September 2001 and to mark the special relationship which the City of Belfast enjoys with the United States of America. (c)2017

The Post Office, Part 1

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Starting at the top, clockwise: Lapel pin of America Responds stamp, Ornament commemorating 100 Years of Letters to Santa through the US Postal Service, America Responds stamp sheet, Harvey Milk stamp sheet, plastic mailbox to hold stamps or Valentine’s. (c)2016

Starting at the Top, clockwise: Baseball Sluggers, Sunday Funnies, Star Wars, Disney Magic, Super Heroes Chapter Two, Animals, Super Heroes Chapter One, Disney Romance, Star Trek. (c)2016

Fireboat

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This is a photo of the John J. Harvey as its passengers disembark onto the deck of the USS Slater. This photo was taken on August 20th, 2001.

It was a greyish day, a little cooler than we thought it should have been so late in the summer and as my husband and our son, all of four years old and a dedicated junior fireman took a stroll along the Troy riverfront, the John J. Harvey was getting ready to sail down the Hudson to NYC to its new home as a museum and historic landmark.

They had been giving free rides between Troy and Albany. The crew offered them a ride, but the voyage was one way only. Could someone pick them up in Albany?

Mom, of course. Please…

The hoses went to work, drawing water up through the pumps from the river and out again, demonstrating how the fireboat worked before its retirement in 1995. Sprays of water arched against the grey clouds. The passengers got a little damp. I could see a tiny sample from the adjacent highway as I was driving to get to the drop off area before they arrived.

The gangplank was laid between the ships, the Harvey and the Slater. Both crews had done this several times before that summer. As they went from one former working boat turned floating museum/historic landmark to another, they were given a quick tour of the Slater as well.

From crew to passenger, their days were made!

No one knew that day was a mere three weeks from the bright blue September sky that turned black with the rising smoke from four hijacked airplanes.

We know the story of September 11th. We were there or we watched it unfold in real time on our television sets. We frantically called family and friends. We watched in horror as one tower fell and then the second, the incessant sound of beeping of firemen down.

Along the waterfront of Lower Manhattan, however were boats. Big boats, little boats, sailboats, fishing boats, trawlers, ferries, the Coast Guard. If it could get in the water and do runs from Manhattan to Staten Island and Brooklyn or wherever they needed to go, they went, and they continued to go until everyone who wanted to leave had left.

This was the largest water rescue since Dunkirk.

The John J. Harvey came out of retirement and went back into the fire service that day. They ran hoses and they ferried passengers. Other firefighters came out of retirement simply because they knew they were needed. They searched. They rescued. They recovered. They and the John J. Harvey exemplified that day what it meant to be a public servant, a fire fighter; what it meant to be an American.

September 11th isn’t mattress sales and rolled back prices. It’s the day they thought we could be torn apart but instead brought us together.

Read about the heroes of that day.

Read about the John J. Harvey. Visit her at her home at Pier 66.

That four year old of mine is now 19. He is a fireman and an EMT, and he is in his second year of college studying the fire protection service.

Support your local fire departments.

Support the 9/11 First Responders.

Stories of September 11th should be told, and will be told even when the witnesses have gone.

9/11 First Responders

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Maybe instead of 4 separate moments of silence, Congress can stop being silent and renew the 9/11 First Responders Health Law and make it so first responders who went where no one else would and paid the price, some the ultimate price, don’t have to beg for their health care ever when we didn’t ask them once for their help and sacrifice.

It’s disgusting that this is even an issue.

Remembrance

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Most people who’ve read me for a while know that this season is kind of a difficult one for me. Fall, the most perfect season and the most difficult; until the next difficult time comes around.

A lot of people have an especially hard time today. I was very lucky, and my friends and family were very lucky, but it was still traumatic for me in its own way.

I’ve also recently found out that two newish friends have their own difficult memories of 9/11 and so I think of them today a little extra than I normally do.

I usually write something for today – a memory, a feeling, but this morning, I just wanted quiet. I prayed the rosary, and I posted my picture of the firefighters. I have that same picture on a pin that I wear, but I didn’t wear it today. I think of the 343 and then today in my workshop, our free write prompt was the pros and cons of cell phones. (Our theme this semester is nature vs. technology.) I wrote this cute little blurb, about two hundred or so words, but then as I finished it with a humorous bit, another little part came to me and I’ll share that excerpt with you here:

Actually today is a good day to remember the role of cell phones and technology played – the ones that worked and the ones that didn’t.

The information black hole on an airplane over Pennsylvania that was then opened up to the passengers through their cell phones, giving them precious moments to plan and to say goodbye.

I spent that day thirteen years ago on my cell phone, calling and re-calling. There is nothing like a cell phone for speed dial.

Hope and despair in the palm of your hand.

I hope today is peaceful and quiet for you as we remember those people lost thirteen years ago in our own ways. Today I try to seek the warm blanket of comfortable things – reading, some writing, some prayer and other things that keep me moving forward. I hope you have your own path to peace.

Remembering September 11th

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Mass was oddly unsatisfying this morning. My expectations may have been a little high, although the somber intonation of the congregation’s response to the priest’s words illustrated that it was not an ordinary day for daily Mass.

I read a friend’s account of 9/11 and I hadn’t known that she was there that morning, and her reminiscence of the perfectly blue, perfectly clear sky over Manhattan triggered my memory that I truly had forgotten about in talking on Tumblr this morning.

We are from Long Island; in fact, I grew up in NYC before that, and after marriage, I moved about 250 miles away, well out of the city area. We traveled often to visit our parents and siblings, and on September 10, 2001, we were returning from Long Island. The crossing over the Throgs Neck Bridge gives you a perfect view of the World Trade Center, and we drew our four year old’s attention to it.

We got home safely, but had to be up early waiting for the Verizon guy to fix our phone line. I turned on the television as I did every morning and watched the Today show. They were talking about a plane that ‘accidentally’ hit the World Trade Center.

I watched the rest of it unfold in real time, spending the day trying to get through to our family and friends still in the area, keeping my son entertained away from the TV, and talking to passersby on the street.

At the time, we lived in a first floor apartment, and while our landlord lived off site, he was very well known in the community, and he happened to be there for some kind of maintenance work on that morning of September 11th at our apartment. Our front door was open, and we were on the way to the local supermarket by the older people with their wheeled carts. I think every person stopped by, poked their head in the door and asked for an update. We had neighbors, strangers and acquaintances alike stepping in and out, watching the television for a few moments, speak to landlord, shake their heads in disbelief and walk aback out to finish their morning errands.

The rest of that week was spent huddled in front of the TV. Driving past our local airport was traumatic. A plane overhead against our state capital’s skyline nearly made me drive off the road. There were local memorials, prayer vigils, thankfully for us, no funerals, but our families knew people and my husband’s NY office lost nine people that day.

One year later, our son should have been in kindergarten, but we kept him home. We opted to bring him to the New York State Museum where there was a 9/11 exhibit. I have never been affected by a museum exhibit except Holocaust displays. This one was somber, silent save for some weeping. They had a piece of original fencing where folks memorialized loved ones with missing persons flyers and flowers, flags and ribbons. Relics and artifacts, fire helmets, badges, parts of the buildings’ infrastructure, street signs, but the most profound item: the Engine 6 Pumper, destroyed in the collapse of the Towers.

Even recently, my husband and watched Fringe, and there are some parts that take place with an intact World Trade Center. I find it very jarring. It doesn’t fit my world, and it brings me unbelievable sadness and pain.

For me this is one of those Holy Days, much like we just observed with Rosh Hashanah and will celebrate with Easter. That’s not to be disrespectful of more religious people, but this is one of those days that I just reflect. I think about my life, and the direction it’s going, the mistakes I’ve made and how to adjust myself to be a better person; I think about my kids and friends and family. I’m grateful for our friends who survived; I pray for those still struggling, with physical ailments related or PTSD, and I mourn, not only for the dead, who simply went to work and never came home, but also for the people; the world that changed on that day for all of us. I think when our parents told us things and quelled our fears, and said we were safe and would be well; I think they truly meant it. I wonder for how many do those words feel hollow and like a lie? I feel it. There are no other answers, but to reassure our children or our friends that need reassurance, but how hard it is to say when I’m  not sure if I believe it, but I still hope and I guess that’s why I continue to say it, not only to my kids, but to myself.

One day I will go to the memorial. I don’t know when or if it’s something that I am strong enough to do, but it is something that I must do; one day.

Every year, I always recommend this book. I believe it is out of print, but try and find it anywhere. It is the epitome of humanity and of strangers coming together and doing.

The Day the World Came to Town by Jim DeFede

Also, visit the Dalai Lama’s Twitter and Facebook. He is a wise, compassionate man and it is good to think on his words.

As well as one of the main organizations that I support: Random Acts

 

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