September, 2001


Here we are.  Amy and I. 

Six years ago we took a trip to New York.

This photo was taken in September of 2001 in Times Square in New York City.

It was taken exactly two weeks after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Only two weeks.

American flags were proudly flown EVERYWHERE.

The city was overrun with rescue workers from all over the country and the world.

There were pictures of missing people plastered all over the subways with desperate headlines reading:  "Have you seen me?"

Makeshift memorials were erected in front of fire stations with pictures and names of those who had climbed those burning towers and lost their lives.

We were walking around with permanent lumps in our throats. 

It was all just TOO BIG.

We were not allowed out to go visit the Statue of Liberty or to climb the Empire State Building.

So we went to St. Patrick's Cathedral and knelt down and prayed.  There was such a desperation to connect with God in those terrible days.

We took the subway down to Lower Manhattan.

And the first things that we noticed upon exiting, were the smell and the smoke. That awful, acrid, burning smell and the choking smoke that made our eyes sting.   

The second thing was the gaping hole in the Manhattan skyline. It was completely surreal.

Ground Zero was still burning.  It was two weeks later.  And it was still burning and smoking.

The dust was still a foot deep.

Mannequins in store windows four (!!) blocks from the devastation were completely covered with the brown filth. 

Rescue crews were still pulling out remains and sifting the twisted wreckage.

But we felt like we had to just "be there."

We stood there next to other citizens and just stared helplessly and wept openly.

Looking for comfort, we headed up to West 52nd Street to Victor's Café for (what else?) Cuban food.  I talked with Victor for a long, long time, fending off my homesickness and finding comfort in hearing that inimitable Cuban accent.  He had invited one hundred fire fighters from Miami to come and eat that night in his restaurant.  When those guys walked in, everyone in the restaurant stood and gave them a well-deserved ovation as they found their way to tables set for them in the banquet area.

We experienced so many things on that trip to New York City:  Tears. Pride. Fear. Comfort. Unspeakable sadness. Boundless patriotism. Indescribable hope.  Along with a fierce gratitude that we live in the land of the free and the home of the brave.

The small stuff in my life became small again. My priorities were dismantled and rebuilt with a firmer foundation. The really important things became important once again. When I got home, I kissed my husband gratefully and hugged my kids a little tighter.

"Freedom and fear, justice and cruelty, have always been at war, and we know that God is not neutral between them."
President Bush's address to a joint session of Congress on Thursday night, September 20, 2001.

I will NEVER, ever forget.