September 12, 2021
Mom and I walked past the large group gathered, probably a few hundred, in the outdoor concert venue. Their wine glasses in their hands were filled with their favorite Merlot or perhaps they were trying a new Chardonnay or Cabernet Sauvignon for the first time. They were all chatting, smiling, laughing, many seated on the soft grass, others standing at the few high tables scattered about, having a good time.
The band was playing soft music in the background, band members wearing sharp black suits. This was a familiar sight repeated every year at this time at our oceanfront, enjoyed by locals and visitors alike.
Beach goers walked past quickly, on their way to the beach a few yards away, while others walked a little slower as they headed back to their vehicles, having enjoyed a beautiful morning at the beach.
I scanned the boardwalk looking for the huge sign that I expected to see with throngs of people there to Remember and Honor. There was no sign. I asked a volunteer under a white tent if he knew where the 9/11 Memorial Event was taking place, he could not say. And so every where I looked, things were normal with people living the last days of summer well.
A short walk away, I came across a group of about thirty people, about eighteen of whom were taking turns carrying the log, a 700-lb carved log, created by Cameron Dockery. Among the group were volunteers from the police and fire departments, EMS, military. I was surprised and disappointed at the number of people that were present.
My 80-year old mom and I followed them on their walk for about two hours. I got to know many of them as well as part of their stories. One ex-marine told me he chooses to come and carry the log each year because it helps him get rid of the burdens he carries all year long. Two other gentlemen shared with me a little of their experiences when their call of duty took them to the Pentagon 20 years ago. My attention and interest was 100% in that moment as I listened intently and walked next to them, each with their unique stories.
I mentioned that my mom was at work at 57th Street, which is north of where the horrific incident occurred in Lower Manhattan/New York City, and of course, our first concern was for her safety. A few walks later, the procession stopped, and I was asked to share my mom’s story with the group. I did not expect that opportunity, but by the nodding heads and interest shown by my short speech, I could tell that everyone was appreciative to know that they were in the presence of someone who was actually in the city during that fateful day. Later on, as one of the leaders thanked me for sharing mom’s story, I replied, “Did I do okay?” Her reply was complimentary to me.
It then occurred to me, I’m glad I was ready!! How, I really cannot say, just that when the moment came I am glad that I was ready to share our family’s story.
Later that day, as I read more about the 9/11 hijackers’ targets, specifically the fourth plane, United Flight 93, that crashed in a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania, I was riveted by what had probably occurred inside that plane minutes before the crash. It appeared the plane was heading to the U.S. Capitol or the White House, but instead crashed elsewhere. I thought of the heroic men and women inside that plane who basically revolted and sabotaged the hijackers’ mission. I imagined what that was like for each of those individuals who, within minutes, and amongst strangers, had to choose to act, thereby determining what their lives would stand for. Never in a million years would they have known what they were about to face, but when the moment came, they were ready!!!
Just like the hundreds of first responders who participated in the search and rescue, following the massacre that took place on September 11, 2001, THEY WERE READY!!!
More to come…