I was on my way to tape my scenes for Guiding Light THAT DAY. My call was for 9:00 am. I had just walked in Central Park and had seen a friend whose husband was to die half an hour later on the 93rd floor of the first Tower. She was walking her dog and we chatted so happily without a care in the world. When I got out of my taxi, at the studio, fire trucks were speeding down 2nd Avenue. These trucks were filled with young men -- the first responders -- they didn't know how soon their lives would end. When I got to the studio the second plane rammed the second tower. Everyone at the studio wanted so to believe that it was an accident, but I remember standing with Wes Ramsey as we saw the Pentagon plane hit on the TV and we knew for sure we were being attacked. I remember going over to Bruce Barry, our director, and whispering, "We are very close to the United Nations. We better get out." He had already thought this out and sent us all home. We were so stunned. We left in a daze. Many came home with me THAT DAY as the world shut down around us. New York was paralyzed. Bridges, tunnels, subways trains and all. My husband had a lunch scheduled at Windows on the World that day. I so often thank God it wasn't a breakfast. Our city, our sorrow, our friends -- so many of them were taken from us that day.
THAT DAY is still so raw and so alive in our souls. We in fact will never forget. When those Twin Towers were struck and imploded, on that fateful September 11th morning, our minds and souls were also struck and imploded. The sheer immensity of the physical devastation was a mirror of the immensity of our spiritual devastation. The planes were our planes, carrying people, our people, in an attack against a nation, our nation. And we wept as a nation and we keep on weeping. We wept for all those who perished, for their families left behind, for those witnessing and escaping the horror physically, but never mentally -- for the end of security as Americans.
And slowly, we started hearing about the Heroes. The Heroes who stood as tall as those Twin Towers once were, who filled the desolate space at the World Trade Center with their incredible bravery, their immense compassion, and sometimes with their lives. They stand where The Towers once stood in our minds. They went in to save those in the buildings and filled the rubble with their sacrifice. The Heroes were fellow office workers who helped people down the stairs and even carried people down. The Heroes were the firemen, policemen, the EMS workers.
On Canal and West St. my husband and I worked as volunteers. We would give water and Gatorade and food and medicines and clothes to the thousands of firemen, police, and EMS who were working to put out the fires and to find the survivors. They would come out after 12 hours and longer with glazed eyes from the horrors they had seen, faces streaked with tears, caked with dust. They could barely move a muscle yet they would say "thank you" to us. They who were risking their lives would say thank you -- how unimaginably generous and what incredible goodness. They would come up with lists of what they needed and we would get on our cell phones and call friends who would scour the suburbs for knee pads for them to kneel on as they went through the rubble. They needed digital thermometers to check their body temperatures as the fires still were going on and the next morning someone would deliver to our apartment hundreds of thermometers.
They were the Heroes like all the Americans who made sandwiches, sent in boots and clothes and aspirin. All the small delis that gave their ice and emptied their shelves of the medicines needed, all the huge chains that would pull up massive trucks to their warehouses to send to the Javits Center, all those who gave blood even if it scared them to give blood. And then no one needed that blood. No one was left. The Heroes were the men who crashed the plane in PA rather than let the terrorists use it as a living bomb. The Heroes were all the nations around the world who helped us with vigils and mourning and supplies and as allies.
The Heroes filled the space vacated by the Twin Towers. Our pain for those lost will never be assuaged, but we have shown what we are made of in the face of disaster and our firemen and police have given us new Towers of strength to look up to, a new landscape of bravery.
"The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy."
--Martin Luther King Jr.