In the Aftermath of 9.11
Strength in the Face of Fear...and What Can Be Done

 9.11: What Has Happened and What Can Be Done ....

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 and solidarity.

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 deliver it.

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 of trucks.

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 fliers….

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 common cause.

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,

wendy@vergant.com

 

***What Can Be Done in the Aftermath of 9.11***

For More Information: www.nyc.gov is 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, and more.

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, www.redcross.org or www.charitywave.com.

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 jason.calacanis@venturereporter.net or call 646.473.2201.

To Donate or Receive Technical Assistance: www.npowerny.org maintains listings, and can be contacted at Information@NpowerNY.org, 212/677.9622.

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 at www.aabb.org.

To Volunteer: Volunteering is something we hope you can do now and throughout the year. For current and ongoing needs, please visit www.idealist.org, www.impactonline.org and www.guidestar.org

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 account.

To Keep Vigils: Create and post your own, and/or check out others at http://www.online.vigil.org.

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 play.

Please let us know your thoughts, and what other links we should add to our list.

Warmly and with thanks,

wendy@vergant.com

    

 

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