We never called it Ground Zero

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As we walk diagonally across the Memorial, Steven* in true gentlemanly fashion is carrying the bag containing the head sets. On this walking tour, I am the lead docent and Steven is my support person.  Steven is new to the program and is a little apprehensive but when he speaks of “his guys” you hear and see his passion and expertise. You see the firefighter. It makes me smile how the firefighters Steven included always try to take care of me. I have carried that bag back to the Tribute Center many times through the ten years I have been volunteering.  I appreciate the gesture. I am grateful but I am capable. I am not the “little FDNY widow”.  In reality, Steven is actually shorter than I am and we are about the same age.

The Memorial is busy. There is a gentle buzz of activity.  I notice faces of visitors from many nations, hear softly spoken words, see tears being wiped, selfies being snapped and the sound of the south waterfall. As we walk along Steven suddenly comments “We (FDNY) never called it Ground Zero.”  We stop walking and I nod in agreement. The media said Ground Zero and to me that term Ground Zero always brought the image of a red and white target.  Steven continues “We called it the Pile and as we got lower we called it the Pit.”

The Pile I had seen that for myself on September 28, 2001.  I remember that massive hole (the Pit) in the ground from when I started volunteering at the Tribute Center in 2006. We continue walking and I add “and now it is the Plaza.” He nods in agreement.

Our conversation confirms in my mind something I had been pondering for a while, this place and I had been on parallel journeys since September 11, 2001. The World Trade Center which I had only visited twice before the attacks had become a travel companion. We had weathered the attacks, sorted through the debris, filled the void and remembered those we lost as we continued on.

*name has been changed

 

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I haven’t walked down the stairs in the shoes of the business person fleeing the building.

I haven’t climbed up the stairs in the boots of the firefighters arriving to rescue and aid.

I haven’t run away in my bare feet towards the Hudson River to find safety.

I haven’t stood in my black uniform shoes directing thousands to safety.

I haven’t knelt on the ground to treat the injured.

I haven’t said a prayer over a dead body.

I haven’t dived under a car or into a building to seek safety.

In one way I was removed from the September 11, 2001 attacks, I wasn’t there.

I was 50 miles away listening, watching, praying…

And then

I walked in the shoes of a FDNY widow.

I walked in the shoes of a 9/11 Tribute Center docent.

I  walked in the shoes of a keeper of the story.

 

I challenge each of us to remember that September 11 is an international tragedy but to many and not just those who lost someone it is very personal. Be kind to yourself. Be kind to yours.

Extra, Extra, Read all about it!

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I was recently interviewed by a Wall Street Journal reporter. She and a photographer attended a 9/11 Tribute Center tour and then she interviewed me. I guess I talked so much she felt compelled to write more than one piece. I am grateful for her professionalism and how she fact checked everything. Thank you Sophia and Mark.  Two different pieces featuring my 9/11 story appear in the WSJ   Amazing. I am humbled and very appreciative of the opportunity.

 

http://www.wsj.com/articles/a-9-11-story-helping-a-husband-follow-his-dream-of-becoming-a-firefighter-1473455936?tesla=y

 

http://www.wsj.com/articles/a-9-11-widows-story-life-came-back-1473453906

 

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random ramblings

last column bearing Squad 41 where they found Bruce's body.

This is a reprint from a blog this time last year. I felt it is worth saying again. This anniversary is fifteen years so the “activities/hype/coverage” will be even greater than a normal year – 3rd, 7th, 13th… I did watch a good documentary on CBNC called “Ground Zero Rising: Freedom or Fear”  Lee Ielpi, founder of the 9/11 Tribute Center, was featured as well as a fellow docent, Matt Crawford. Another documentary being shown on PBS on Sunday September 11 is “The Trees” by Scott Elliott. I was interviewed for that film. I will say the thing that makes the countdown even more difficult for people I know is when the days line up and September 11 is a Tuesday. Thankfully this year it isn’t. Side note: September 11 and Christmas always fall on the same day of the week. I know that is a weird thing to…

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