From The Ashes

Posted By Brie Austin In Category: In Search Of , Opinion

From the ashes of tragedy a spirit has risen from within New York City to unite the citizenry of our great nation. What was meant to terrorize has galvanized us as Americans and awakened a sleeping giant, which has shown its strength and courage. And it is that strength that makes America great. It is not in our real estate, or our government – it is in the spirit of our people.

Hero’s have stepped up in a moment of crises to risk their lives simply because they were needed to do so. Like the man who carried a crippled woman down 48 flights of steps from within the World Trade Center building, who, even when she begged for him to save himself and put her down – he wouldn’t, he couldn’t. It has been said that courage is bravery in spite of fear. Today, courage was on display. New York City rallied with a one for all and all for one unity of pride, love and shared struggle, and in doing so, inspired a nation and the world. On this day, I am among many that are proud to be a New Yorker and an American.


It is Four O’clock AM Saturday September 15, 2001 and I am finishing my last cup of coffee at the Moonstruck Dinner while I write down these thoughts. I have just returned from Ground Zero. I am filled with emotions as thick as the ashes and soot that covered thousands of terrified people just over 72 hours ago. Certainly I feel sad, but not just for the people lost and their surviving loved ones, but also for the fact that someone, somewhere, felt that they had the right to do this. How is it that you can so coldly kill the innocent in the name of your god? More people have died throughout history in the name of religion than any other single motivation. Today, along with most of the world, God is weeping.


Tuesday September 11th, in the aftermath and confusion of the terrorist attack, I sat and watched thousands of people walking up 2nd Ave., like an exodus in a movie scene. The streets were devoid of cars, except for police, fire and emergency vehicles. Convoys of trucks, earthmovers and specialized equipment would scream down the avenues for the next few days, sometimes 10 at a time. This was a war zone — we were in the aftermath of war. But this was America and no one had ever inflicted war on our mainland soil, not in over 200 years. This was our wake up call.


Early Friday evening, four women and I waited for the cross-town bus on 23rd Street. It didn’t come. Finally a shuttle bus, which had been working all day at Ground Zero, stopped to ask us where we were going. “Cross-town” I said. “Jump in, I’ll take you as far as 2nd Ave.” he replied. He had pain on his face and exhaustion in his eyes, but like all New Yorker’s that day extended a hand to who ever needed it. As we rode I noticed the seats filled with ashes, and we all spoke about what was happening, right now, in New York City, our home. They attacked our home !!! People were dying. As I left the bus I wished them all safe journey and thanked the driver for his kindness, and he said, “we all have to stick together at a time like this”. I agreed but asked “shouldn’t we stick together like this all the time?” He nodded, hesitating for a moment to absorb the thought, then pulled off.


I sat up until 2:AM Saturday morning when I was compelled to get up and walk 40 blocks downtown to see first hand the aftermath at Ground Zero, to have a chance to absorb what had really happened, purge my grief, and connect with my neighbors. I used the walk to clear my head and try and prepare myself for what I was about to experience as I walked south down 9th Ave. towards Liberty and Church Street where the towers once stood.


I could never have prepared myself for what I found. There were people everywhere, some sitting, some watching, some just mulling around and strolling Canal Street, fulfilling a need to just be close and feel connected to someone, anyone. Strangers would stop and exchange a quiet moment, and some would hug just to feel life close to them. Everyone was in a daze. A steady stream of workers, city officials and volunteers moved to and from the site. From Canal street I could see the smoke rising in the distance like a Volcano that had recently erupted, now still and quiet in the night. Despite the bustling of people and machinery, there was a calm to the scene, a cold stillness that said, “life will never be the same”. This was one of those moments in history that for a second froze us in time. For as far as I could see there were people on the streets supporting the efforts going on just up the block, wanting to do something, anything. So they cheered the workers, like they were soldiers coming home from war. They held up flags in unified solidarity and waved signs they had made at home, things like “you are our hero’s”. Regular men and women who were risking their lives in extreme circumstances – they were hero’s, each and every one of them. And leading the way was a Mayor who in one swift action gave this city courage and direction. There was no room for bullshit here, not now. There was no politics or no name calling necessary. Mayor Rudolph Guiliani stood up to be counted upon. This was his city to take charge of and he delivered.


As I looked around there were people with binoculars trying to follow what was happening at Ground Zero, while children to young to understand were sitting on the corner steps eating popcorn. And the flags were everywhere, on shirts, on hats, pins on lapels, ribbon on shirts, and a man who had a full-length flag tied around him like a cape, which he was wearing like a protection from the evil that may still be lurking in the darkness. And just as I was feeling strong with patriotism I came upon a vigil, with candles and pictures, hundreds of pictures. Those that had had loved ones missing were sitting, praying and hoping that somehow things would get better. And others, not related to any of the pictures, stopped and said prayers. Not because they were directed to as in a large moment of silence, but because they were compelled to from within there own hearts. Strangers, such as I, stopped to pray, cry, and remember what once was.


So as I sit here and try to find the words to express this week of horror and sadness, I am filled with so many emotions. In the faces of my fellow New Yorkers I have truly seen the presence of God, in their courage, their spirit and their love for one another.


We have put men on the moon, sent spaceships to Mars, and yet cannot find the tolerance around the world to live in peace in our own small corner of the universe. May God watch over us until we all learn that to kill anyone, is to strike at the heart of us all, we are all one.


To all of those that have lost loved ones, the world cries with you, for me personally this is a sorrow that I will carry for a long time.

Copyright 2001 – All Rights Reserved


About Brie Austin

Co-author of I'd Do It Again, he is a columnist/reporter for a variety of magazines in the areas of music, lifestyle, nightlife, travel and business. He also writes business documents and creates copy for websites.

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