For most of my New York life, the
Twin Towers have served as thermometer, barometer
and more -- a compass that helped me gain bearings;
a sundial that helped me tell time.
But of course, on 9.11 the skyline
changed for all time. And the loss of our tallest
buildings was the least of it.
And yet, in the aftermath of unimaginable
devastation, fear and grief and in the face of incalculable
loss, I also saw unprecedented beauty, strength
I saw people of all ages, races
and persuasions united as one, with all pretense
dropped and emotions unmasked.
I saw a struggling family from
the Bronx spend much of their meager savings on
aspirin, and make more than a four-hour trip to
I saw so many doing what they could
-- donating blood, making sandwiches, serving food,
buying and donating needed supplies (everything
from masks, goggles, gloves and shovels to sheets,
towels, work boots and saline solution).
I saw them line the highways with
flags and signs of appreciation
-- cheering on rescue workers and endless convoys
I saw those who had lost loved
ones in search -- handing out fliers, squeezing
hands, not losing hope. I saw walls of those fliers
throughout the city, with titles like "Missing
Mother," "Beloved Son," and "Lost
Loved One, Last Seen…" More often than not,
the people in these pictures were not alone. Arms
embraced them. They embraced others. Smiling faces
beamed forth. Incredibly intimate moments -- from
marriage ceremonies and birthday parties to beach
vacations -- were shared.
I feared, felt, wept, hoped and
prayed as never before, and I was not alone.
Renditions of "Amazing Grace,"
"God Bless America," and "You are
My Sunshine" ("please don’t take my sunshine
away…") rippled through the city. People prayed
into their cell phones…almost always closing with
a whispered and hoarse, "I love you" to
those on the other end. A marching
band from Alabama brought shovels and flags,
took song requests and dispensed hugs. Gospel choirs,
Tibetan chants and wailing sirens shared eerie but
reverent airspace. In memorials
and vigils that
sprung up around the city, candles were lit, banners
were hung, and there was no such thing as strangers….
At Chelsea Piers -- where a strong
group of grassroots volunteers fed, clothed, housed
and offered up everything from eyewashes to massages
for exhausted rescue workers -- hot meals, clean
clothes, cots and counseling were available, and
over 600 hotel rooms had been donated for those
in need of sleep.
These heroes -- who rushed into
the World Trade Center as others rushed out, who
were coming off of initial 24-hour shifts and brought
with them the smells of sweat and acrid smoke, who
threw off heavy boots and clothing to reveal bruised
bodies and bloody feet -- seemed only concerned
with whether they had done enough and when they
could return to work. They were awe-inspiring with
their blend of vulnerability, strength and determination.
While we washed and dried their uniforms, they told
tales of massive destruction and death. Yet they
served as the embodiment of humanity and hope.
One firefighter, who had worked
a solid 48 hours, admitted that he could only now
sleep: He had been one of the lucky ones who had
pulled a survivor from the rubble. And no sooner
had he been escorted to a nearby hotel for much-needed
rest than he was back on the job, wanting to do
what could be done.
I saw companies doing what only
companies can -- donating equipment (trucks, cranes,
computers, supplies), manpower and money on a large
scale. My neighboring construction site ceased operations,
flew a flag at half-mast on its crane, and dispensed
workers and supplies to Ground Zero. Restaurants
were converted to canteens for families, rescue
workers and the displaced, and provided enough food
and drink not only to feed armies, but also to sate
ordinary folks filing slowly past the missing-person
Perhaps as importantly as all I’ve
seen and heard and done, I FEEL more deeply than
I can remember. I mourn what many say is the end
of innocence. My heart goes out to the thousands
who have lost loved ones, colleagues and friends;
and to the heroes who have worked so hard to find
and save them. I also pray in a deeper way. I hope….
In the midst of ineffable sadness
and the greatest peacetime tragedy to take place
on our soil, I have been part of an unprecedented
coming together of civilian and military personnel;
rescue and construction workers; federal, state
and city employees; people of all sorts and stripes.
I feel privileged to be in a place
and among people this magnificent. And though I
have loved and left New York before, I would never
desert her now.
I believe both in the experience
of trauma workers, who say we have not yet even
begun to feel our deeper pain; and in the promises
made by Mayor Giuliani, who vows that we will come
back stronger -- culturally, psychologically and
economically; as individuals, as a community, as
a country…and hopefully as a world.
I am reminded of the strength and
fragility of life; of what matters most; of the
power of people and love and of the importance of
There is much we can do in the
coming weeks and for the longer haul.
I LOVE and THANK YOU all, and am
pasting in a few links that I hope can help.
Warmly and with thanks,
Can Be Done in the Aftermath of 9.11***
For More Information:
one of many sites that features comprehensive NYC
Emergency Information, as well a Hospital Patient
Locator System, DNA Collection Program for Relatives,
Transportation and Schools Information, Business
Services, links to current news and news organizations,
To Donate Funds:
Relief organizations report that, after having received
even more blood and volunteers than they can currently
handle, what they need most is cash donations to
fund special resources and personnel. To make a
donation or learn more about these organizations,
please visit www.helping.org,
To Donate or Receive
Office Space: www.Offices2Share.com
asks any companies with extra office space to donate
it to those companies that have been displaced from
the WTC. Listing fees will be donated to the September
11th Fund operated by the United Way
of New York City.
www.venturereporter.net links companies that
have been displaced with the more than 40 Silicon
Alley firms that can donate space. Firms in need,
or firms with space to offer (preferably wired and
with desks, chairs and phones), can e-mail
email@example.com or call
To Donate or Receive
Technical Assistance: www.npowerny.org
maintains listings, and can be contacted at
To Donate Blood:
While New York now has enough of a stockpile to
last 6 – 8 weeks, please check back with www.redcross.org
or visit the American Association of Blood Banks
To Volunteer: Volunteering
is something we hope you can do now and throughout
the year. For current and ongoing needs, please
Dining to Make a Difference:
How eating, drinking, shopping
and everyday acts can effect change and have impact.
To Discuss: America Online
and most Internet Service Providers, as well as
many of the links previously listed, have online
chat rooms, discussion groups and message boards.
To Boost the Economy:
It is recommended that all who can hold and buy
American Stocks at this time, with components of
the Dow Jones
Average and the Nasdaq
Composite being especially recommended. For
those who do not yet have an account,
www.frameastock.com/shares.html allows you to
purchase a single share of stock for as little as
$18.00 without having to open up any kind of trading
To Keep Vigils: Create and
post your own, and/or check out others at
To See Pictures: Here is a slide
show on the destruction of the Twins Towers
and the Pentagon.
Re: Retaliation: "A
View from Afghanistan" is one of the most
compelling pieces I've yet read. Please feel
free to circulate widely, and to weigh
in with where/how you stand on war and peace.
In Your Lives: Today
is a great day to do and say what matters most…to
affirm life, to love, to laugh, to give, pray and
Please let us know your thoughts,
and what other links we should add to our list.
Warmly and with thanks,