I can't believe that 10 years have passed since the morning I turned on the radio and heard screaming that a plane just hit the World Trade Center. I got to the TV as the second tower was hit.
My apartment faces south and I saw smoke rising above the tall buildings. Fear paralyzed me, knowing my city was attacked. Manhattan is an island and I felt so vulnerable. Public transportation stopped so all I could do was wait. Seeing the Pentagon hit added another level of panic. Everyone I knew was safe but that didn't lessen the tragedy of so many people losing their lives.
For many days after, sirens screamed outside and fighter planes and helicopters circled above my apartment. Living near the UN made this a high-risk area. I wanted to run but where? I kept my windows shut to hear it less and keep out possible toxins. I'd never been so frightened. Every time an airplane roared by my stomach jumped. We had a thunderstorm a few nights later and I woke up screaming and turned on the radio, thinking it was bombs.
I was desperately driven to cleanse the violations against my city by doing things to help. After waiting for hours to give blood, they ran out of vials. My frustration escalated. I couldn't rest until I made a difference, albeit small.
So I bought medical supplies and headed downtown on the subway. When we sat for a while at 42nd St. with the doors closed. I panicked, thinking maybe it was a terrorist attack. Walking from the subway to the supply station was spooky. Police everywhere. Few cars. Yet I felt a beautiful feeling of hope. People carried candles, and smiles. They were kinder to each other. A police officer nodded permission to jaywalk. Camaraderie flowed through everyone.
It truly was a triumphant moment in the midst of tragedy. We were united New Yorkers!
I couldn't look south at the empty skyline. Seeing the Twin Towers that I loved gone was too painful. Someone handed me a mask for protection against the acrid smoke. I asked a supervisor what they needed. He said many used laptops to link people. I offered to get them. I saw doubt that I could do it in his eyes as he reluctantly gave me his number. He didn't understand that I'm very spiritual and live by the Law of Attraction. I'd found my mission. There was no way I'd let them down!
I sent an email to everyone I knew asking for help getting laptops. I believe that God forwarded it around the world. I heard from the heads of major companies -- Intel, Time Warner, even Kenneth Cole. All were anxious to do something but didn't know who to contact. I ended up becoming known as a go-to girl for technology and office space donations for the September 11th Fund.
Then I got a call from a Time Warner VP, saying they needed me to get 50 2-way radios with specific specs for the National Guard. From then on I lost track of how many times I repeated, "But I'm just a writer." But I agreed to do it. It was Saturday so people weren't at work. After many fruitless calls and emails, I was ready to give up. It was after 6 p.m. but my strong faith kicked in. I began strongly affirming I'd find the right person.
I got out the Yellow Pages, repeating my affirmations. The second cold call was to a guy at a store who was working with Motorola provide radios! Requests like that continued since they saw me as someone who delivered. Spiritual support help me get more. Then someone from the Soros Foundation stepped in to coordinate IT. Correspondence with the team they formed -- all heads of major corporations -- included me, as journalist with an ear to ground zero! Me! A freelance writer! Feeling the spirit in my city that brought us together spurred me.
A few days after 9/11 word spread that people should go outside at 7 p.m. with a candle. Neighbors spontaneously began by singing "We Shall Overcome" right on the streets of midtown Manhattan! People from the Norwegian Seaman's church on my block stood on their steps and led us in many songs, including "God Bless America." They invited my whole block in for refreshments after. It was very moving -- a strong feeling of kinship arose from the ashes of the World Trade Center.
For a month I worked to get supplies funneled, happy to help. A quote by Sarah Bernhardt went through my head: "It is by spending oneself that one becomes rich." It was an honor to serve my city and beautiful to see everyone unite as New Yorkers. I'm glad we haven't forgotten.
Follow Daylle Deanna Schwartz on Twitter: www.twitter.com/@daylle