When I opened that large manila envelope six and half years ago and read about an opportunity to volunteer with the September 11 Family Association as a docent, I had no idea what a blessing lay before me. I had no idea that six years later I would have completed 250 public tours for the Tribute Center, numerous tours for family and friends and that Tribute Center tour would now be the official walking tour of the National September 11 Memorial. To be honest I had to look the word docent up in the dictionary. Then I thought I am not even a member of the September 11 Family Association. I hadn’t joined any groups in the months and years after September 11. I remember calling and saying I was interested in finding out more about these walking tours at the “site”. I traveled into NYC for the first interview with Rachel and I was so nervous. I knew nothing about lower Manhattan. I knew nothing about the World Trade Center. I had only been there twice in my whole life. I barely knew the facts of September 11. The “stomping ” ground of my youth had always been from the Port Authority to Columbus Circle for auditions and dance classes. Or Greenwich Village for acting lessons. But all of that was a lifetime ago. In recent years my trips into NYC had been to take my girls to the Rockefeller Center tree lighting or a Broadway show or the Bronx Zoo. This traveling into lower Manhattan was new and scary. What was I thinking?
Actually I know exactly what I was thinking. The Tribute Center’s mission was “person to person” history and I knew I could do that. I could tell my story/ Bruce’s story. I had already told “our” story many times but that was in churches or at ladies groups. This was a whole new thing but I knew I had to try. So I went to the training. I felt like I was going to throw up the whole time I was driving there. I was sure I was in way over my head. When I walked into the training Bruce’s captain was there. Wow!! Thank you, Lord. A nod from God. The training was going along nicely and then it was mentioned that you shouldn’t get political. Well, that was fine I am not political. And then a fellow trainee commented “you shouldn’t get too religious either”. Oh no, now I am going to have to say something. I cautiously raised my hand and said that if we weren’t allowed to mention God I would respect that but if they wanted me to tell my story I had to mention God because God was my story. And I was told that if God was part of my story I could mention God. Wow!! A big nod from God.
And now six and half years later, I tell my story. I say “That there are two things have gotten me through the last 10 years. The first thing is my faith. God has gotten me through. And the second is the fact that my husband was a New York City firefighter. It was his job to go into those buildings. A job that he loved.” I also say “That when I started doing tours, I only had my story and that was enough but now I know the story of my fellow docents – other family members, survivors, fire responders, and rescue workers, who saw things no one should ever see. Downtown residents who couldn’t go home for weeks and even months. I believe the story of September 11 is a mosaic. That the stories are like little pieces of glass that lay next to each other to make the picture of what happened on September 11, 2001 – hundreds of thousands of stories that come together to tell the story.”
Being a docent has been an unexpected blessing for me and I love giving tours and I am awed by my fellow docents and everyone at Tribute – what an amazing group of people. So on Monday I will talk to two school groups, lead the 1pm tour and then support 3 pm tour or to quote one of my fellow docents ” I will get my volunteer on”. By the way, if you are ever in Manhattan stop by the Tribute Center,120 Liberty St and you may get unexpected blessing, too.