Monday, September 16, 2019

Let us never forget

 

 

To this day, I cannot hear or write 9/11 without a lump forming in my throat and a cold chill running through my veins. But on this ninth anniversary of September 11th, 2001, if seems only fitting to honor the memory of the three thousand-plus souls that lost their lives that day. It took reading six books before I found two that conveyed the message I wanted to say. (The first was too political, the second – too religious, the third – too name-blaming, and the fourth – too depressing.) My purpose is to lift up the heroes, remember the fallen, and celebrate our love for our country. The extreme jihadists of nine years ago and of today may have knocked us down like the Twin Towers, but they cannot keep the American spirit down. The one thing we all have in common is our love for our country. Americans may be feeling a rift between us again. But this week, we can unite again like we did nine years ago, and show pride in our country and in all we hold dear.

CLOSURE The Untold Story of the Ground Zero Recovery Mission

by Lieutenant William Keegan Jr.  with Bart Davis. Published by Simon & Schuster, New York 2006

CLOSURE is a true, emotional, and inspiring testament to the nine-month effort of the Port Authority Police Department, along with the NYPD, and the FDNY, to rescue and recover the victims of the 9/11 attack at the World Trade Center.

Lt. Keegan was the night commander of the mission at Ground Zero for the Port Authority Police Department. His ability to tell this heart-wrenching story with so much grace and respect, not only for the victims, but for his many comrades who worked the mission is awe inspiring. There were many obstacles besides the steel and dust to contend with in this hell on earth. The PAPD was almost unheard of. It was not under the rule of the city of New York, the NYPD, nor the FDNY. The Port Authority was established in 1921 by the states of New York and New Jersey as an independent agency to oversea the harbors. It was later given the tunnels and the bridges and later the major airports and bus terminals. They also built and owned the World Trade Center. They knew the buildings and the schematics by heart. Lt. Keegan showed us the power struggles each of the major departments had to “control” the site their way.  Each leveraging against the other, he showed their fierce protective nature to Rescue and Recover “their own.” In his book, he describes how they had to learn to work together and became a large band of brothers.

But Keegan also shows us hope and courage and resiliency in his memoirs of the events on the hallowed ground called Ground Zero. Their first response was a Rescue mission. They went into that rubble believing there would many hundreds, even many thousands, of survivors. They looked through debris, from tiny bits of dust to huge mega-ton bands of steel, looking for signs of human life. Gradually the reality hit that, in fact, there were very few. Although the PAPD was the smallest of the uniformed services to respond to the tragedy, they had the largest percentage of losses. Thirty-seven of their eleven hundred died that day. Not a single Port Authority officer failed to lose someone close to him, including Keegan. The Rescue efforts continued, all the while knowing that, for the most part, it was now a Recovery operation. If they could bring the remains of a loved one out of that rubble, civilian or service member, it would help bring closure to the terrible loss. They found more than just body parts and twisted metal. They found a perfect iron cross, made of huge beams. It was standing upright amongst the ruins, as if it was planted there by unseen hands. They saw a miracle of a body deflate so it slid easily from its twisted steel tomb minutes before they were going to cut it apart to get it out. To them, a body intact was a miracle. They also found a vault of gold and silver, amounting to billions of dollars, untouched by the ruins around them.

 

 

It was essential to the economic success of our nation and it thwarted the financial blow the terrorists planned to bring down on our fiscal stability. So through it all they also found hope, faith, love and security in a country that could not be brought down, no matter how hard they tried.

Battling unbelievable odds, beside the PAPD were thousands of workers, that included the NYPD, the FDNY, the building and trade unions, construction workers, nurses, doctors and health organizations, city officials, and the military. The book sheds light on the darkest hour of our country’s history. While the rest of the world was trying to move on with its life, these men and women lived the horror of 9/11 every single day for nine months. Keegan weaves the personal lives of his comrades and himself into the story as they slowly had to determine how to find their own closure once it was over.

This is a remarkable read. Highly emotional, but also immensely informative, it gives you pause to think about, not only the victims and the families of 9/11, but also about the many, many workers who dedicated themselves day and night for nine long months. At last, they were able to move that last beam of steel, and to bring the empty, flag-draped Stokes basket used to carry up victims, up the ramp and out of the hole in the earth one last night.  Now they just had to move on. Closure.

Chicken Soup for the Soul of America

by Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen and Matthew E. Adams. Published by Health Communications, Deerfield Beach, Florida 2002

Chicken Soup for the Soul of America is an uplifting collection of stories, from all over the United States and beyond, of everyday people that chose to lend a hand to help a neighbor, show their thanks, or console a stranger in the early days after the horrific day on September 11, 2001. They truly are stories to heal the heart of our Nation. Below are some excerpts from the book.

One short story, Send Beauty, page 161, is about a first grade teacher in Richboro Elementary School in Richboro, Pennsylvania that was pulled out of class to be given the news about the attack on the World Trade Center. Deciding not to tell her students at that time about the event, she instead asked them all to imagine the most beautiful thing they could think of. Then to take that thought and send it out to the world. The students all nodded and agreed to do that. At the end of the day, the teacher wanted to prepare the students for the news they were about to receive at home and simply told them that someone else had sent something not-so-beautiful into the world today. A little girl named Allie piped up, “Well. When I get home, I’ll send them something beautiful right back!”

In Four Simple Words, page 183, “One day after the attacks in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania, a man stood in a foreign country with an American flag and a sign…. On his sign were four simple words I will never forget: “Wir alle sind Amerikaner.” “We are all Americans.” What America stands for is what most people everywhere stand for. It is what men and women all over the world envy and identify with: freedom, democracy, courage, compassion. And yes, even rock ‘n’ roll.”

Reflections for a New Father, page 273, has a line worth quoting. “If July Fourth is our Independence Day, perhaps September 11 should become our ‘Dependence Day’ – a day in which we as a nation come to realize that our collective hope, future and lives were placed more securely in His hands.”

Take the time to read these books. What would you do differently today if you knew today was the last day you would see your loved one? Reflect back on those days. And no matter what, let it be said, “We Will Never Forget.”  God Bless America.

Joanne Tailele has been a full time resident of Marco Island for two years. Born in Youngstown, her last “home” for 12 years was Columbus, Ohio. Between Joanne and her husband, she has six children and nine grandchildren. She works as receptionist for a local real estate company.

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