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.