11 September 2007

Ground Zero

It seems an eternity ago when terrorists flew planes into the buildings of the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon in Washington DC and when many brave people took back one plane and crashed it in Pennsylvannia rather than letting it reach it's destination.

I was living in Australia at the time. It seemed so surreal watching what was happening to MY country and MY home from far, far away. We were told NOT to go to the Embassey, NOT to go anywhere near the Embassey or Consulates. That's something that hit me like a slap in the face. Ever since I'd turned 18 and got on a plane to Holland--the first rule of international travel [beaten into my head] was if you're in trouble or feel threatened or need help, find the nearest Embassey or Consulate and go there. I was fortunate, I had some really good friends who stood beside me and held my hand when I cried for my country and refused to let me stay by myself for the first week. I had complete strangers who upon hearing my yankee accent, would hug me, and tell me that their thoughts and prayers are with me and my family and my countrymen. Six years ago feels like a blur. Six years ago feels like an eternity...but today it came crashing back to reality, back to the here and now.

Six years later and now I'm living in New York City. I got a call from Christi this morning asking if I was going down to Ground Zero. Truthfully I hadn't given it much thought, but she asked me if I would go and I told her I would try. On the bus ride into the city, I decided that needed to be my first stop today. After all, shouldn't I pay my respects for all the men & women who so needlessly lost their lives? Pay homage to all the police and firefighters, who work to keep me safe, whose partners and friends willingly sacrificed themselves so that others could be saved. So rather than heading north on the subway, I headed south. I got out at the stop closest to St. Paul's Cathedral and as I'm walking up the stairs, I hear Taps being played. I swallow hard, fighting back tears. I wind my way down past the Cathedral and cemetary to the street behind it and site of Ground Zero. A fence blocks the view, as the site is under contruction to become a memorial for those who were affected by the events of 09/11/01. All along the fence were flowers, gifts, letters. and people. People crying, people praying, people talking, laughing, remembering. And then there was this boy. He couldn't have been more than 13 or 14, clinging to the fence, sobbing. Not quietly, not calmly---big, fat, ugly, heaving sobs. As I watch him, I realize that he would have only been 7 or 8 when this tragedy struck, robbing him of a long life with the person--or perhaps persons--he was crying for today. A wave of selfish relief flooded me that I was not affected by this as he and thousands of others were. I was fortunate that my close family and friends were not harmed here. I was one of the lucky ones. I soon found myself sitting in a pew at St. Paul's, searching for answers--answers that had been asked many, many times before--but knowing the answers would never be enough, I just ended with a pleading to all Higher Beings to watch over this boy and let him one day know peace in his heart for his loved ones.

I think that through the hurt, today should be about celebration. Celebrating those you love and those you have loved, even if they may not be with you anymore. When you think about it, doesn't it all come down to love--the only true foe to hatred and ignorance? It's the one thing that endures to gives us strength, to keep us going and to make it all worthwhile. Love for ourselves, love for our family and friends, love for our world. Mourn today for those who have lost, but celebrate today because you are loved...and know that my world is a better place because I was lucky enough to have met you.


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