I Was There.

It was a day just like this day in New York; absolute blue skies.  It also was a Tuesday.  I’m not going to rehash every little detail, they’ve all been reported; most everyone knows them all too well. 

I can still smell the smell in my nostrils; it’s like none other I have had before. I can still remember how loud the quite was.  The only noise was an emergency vehicle’s wail from time to time and the sound of rubber tires on the road.  Yes it was that quiet that you could hear the tires going ‘round and ‘round on the street’s pavement.

After 36 hours of seeing things one could only have nightmares about I finally returned home; we had to cut my socks off as my bleeding feet had dried.  It was a day like none other before; nor since.  Yesterday, a television station asked what I remember about September 11th; how do I reflect?  I answered I look for someplace very quiet.  Because I saw it too close and too real; I do not need to reflect on it, I lived it.  Experiencing something like ‘that day’ becomes part of your very fiber.

Someday, I will share my entire story of that day, but not today.  A few close friends know the whole story.  It’s a story that, really, no one knows about.  It’s a story that could clearly be made into a movie.  On this day, two points jump out at me. 

The first is that we were starting a brand new event at the DRI.  The first meeting was going to be that Tuesday night (of course that meeting was postponed two weeks).   On Monday September 10th, 2001 Peter (the chairman) contacted me and stated that he was looking for an absolute shock value to impact the devastation of diabetes on the gathering of friends.  He said there are 16 million people (The number at the time I believe) with diabetes, “Give me something that is a cold hard fact.”   Peter is a GREAT guy.  He has a daughter with diabetes and is an attorney.  He wanted to have a visual, he wanted statistics.  “My friends will help with the event but we need to give them numbers.”  I faxed Peter what he asked for and the last line stated (remember this is September 10th, 12 hours prior to ANYthing happening):  “The amount of people dying from diabetes on a daily basis would be equivalent to 2 commercial jet planes crashing every day with no survivors.”

The second thing that I remember was the resilience of people.  What I became involved in that day involved hundreds and hundreds of volunteers, all involved but for one reason; to help.  I have many of their names and/or business cards; they have been in an envelope since that day.  I take them out on this day and look at them.  I don’t remember all their faces but I love them all for the work they did on that day.

In as much as I remember what could only be described as a war zone, I also remember the kindness of strangers.  I remember strangers from all walks of life that came together on this day to make a difference in others’ lives that needed them.  When it all began, we had no idea if we were in harm’s way or not; we did it because it needed to get done.

I remember the pain, the smoke, the smells, the death, the ruin; I remember the heroes, the fireman, EMS, the police, the hospital workers, the worry of my family at home, and my friend (who I would see almost every morning outside his church) Father Mychal Judge and how I learned that he was victim #1.  We lost other people we knew as well.

But I also remember a large group of people who became a force of volunteerism, worked nonstop for 30 some-odd hours together, and went back to lives and loved ones when the job was completed.  No fanfare.  No accolades.  Just everyday………heroes.

On this day, I say a prayer for all of them.  Never forget.  I’m a Diabetesdad.

6 replies on “I Was There.”

Lovely post, Tom.

That day resonates here as it does there. All of us in the UK know where we were when we heard the news. I was at a trade show at London’s Excel, right next to London City Airport. Planes were taking off right past our windows as we watched, slack-jawed, at the impossible, sickening footage on laptops. It seemed entirely unreal, except the ashen faces around us, phones clamped to their ears, told us it was all too real.

The show was DSEi, the largest multi-force arms fair in western Europe – it had opened at 9am UK time that day. It hosted the top military purchasers from every wing of the US and UK armed forces, including special forces, and had on display, ironically enough, some of the very latest civil and military defence hardware.

We stood together then, as we stand together now, united in grief and remembrance, in resilience and brotherhood. We live the lives that those lost that day, and on 7/7 in London, cannot.

We remember.

I so want to say something, but I have absolutely no idea what to say. Those are pretty much the feelings I’ve been having all day in reference to pretty much everything, not just this blog post. Such an emotional post, but when I open my mouth (fingertips?) to speak (type?), nothing comes out.

I’m glad you’re OK. How I wish everyone was.

I remember going into work that night at the 3rd Pct and answering approx 20 calls from spouses/parents wanting to report a loved one missing who hadn’t returned home from work. I remember nervous citizens calling to report planes flying overhead and having to explain that it was OUR military. I remember going into the city that Friday and standing guard outside the Israeli embassy in a torrential downpour. I remember people walking by thanking me, blessing me, shoving a hot cup of coffee into my hand. I remember the Pfizer company across the street offering me a hot lunch in their employee’s cafeteria. I remember being miserable standing out in the rain for 14 hours. I remember feeling guilty complaining to myself about my discomfort. I remember the volunteers who came by with waters and dry socks. I remember thinking there is nothing better in the whole world than dry socks. I remember thinking of those we lost who would never again know the beauty of dry socks. I remember suppressing my tears. I remember being very angry. I remember it’s been 11 yrs since of I’ve told anyone any of these memories. My hands are shaking as I type this. I remember.

Thank you all for sharing. Here on the west coast I remember it like it was yesterday. Before diabetes entered our lives…a saddness and horror all consuming. May we never forget – and never experience this again

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