Ground Zero Memorial

I am sure we all remember what we were doing on this day 10 years ago. 9/11 was, it seemed, one of those dates on which the world shifted sideways, and things would never be quite the same again.

My then husband was in New York, working in an office in midtown. We had spent most of the previous 18 months living in the city, in a small apartment on West 11th St in Greenwich Village. I had enthusiastically taken to life in New York – running in Central Park, rollerblading along the Hudson, working out at Crunch on Christopher Street, dining in many of the hole-in-the-wall restaurants in the West Village and clubbing at Lotus in the Meatpacking District.

But I was temporarily back in Britain for a walking holiday in Scotland, and was out for a solitary hike that day. I had my mobile phone with me, and the first I knew of the disaster was when I came up out of a valley, a reception blackspot, and my phone beeped to let me know I had a voicemail. It was my sister, asking if I had heard the news from New York. No details. What news? I wondered. Was my husband okay?

A bit later my phone rang. I saw it was an international call and picked up, but promptly lost the signal. I knew it was probably my husband. As the day wore on, the story slowly unfolded. Phone calls and voicemails from anxious friends revealed that a plane had hit the World Trade Center. Then a second plane. That was when I turned around and headed back towards the guest house where I was staying. This was evidently no accident, and I needed to know what was going on.

More calls came through as I walked the eight miles back. It was a very strange feeling – my body was walking through the beautiful Scottish countryside, surrounded by mountains and heather and autumn-gold bracken, but my mind was completely absorbed with thoughts of New York. Everybody knew we were based in Manhattan, and were concerned for our safety. I heard that one of the towers had collapsed. Then that the second tower had gone down.

I arrived back at the guest house and sat in front of the TV, mesmerised by what I was seeing. I couldn’t believe it was real. It looked more like a Bruce Willis movie. By now I had spoken to my husband and knew he was safe. He was rattled – he had been able to see it all happening from the windows of his midtown office, and that night he would not be allowed through the cordons to get back to our apartment – but he had been safely away from danger.

I sat and watched the TV coverage, again and again. The plane. The explosion. The smoke. Dust-covered survivors. I yearned to be there, to do anything I could to help. I felt as if a close friend were in trouble, and I was stuck 3,000 miles away, unable to reach out and help ease the pain. It would be another 6 weeks before I was able to get on a flight to New York, and I found a city that seemed to have lost its usual vivacity. My New York friends seemed subdued, humbled, indignant. St Vincent’s Hospital was at the end of our street, and I stood and looked at the wall of photographs and messages from relatives still desperately hoping to find survivors. I went to Ground Zero and saw the jagged, charred remains. Some people might have thought it was ghoulish to visit the site, but to me, it felt like a pilgrimage.

So why am I telling you all this? Three reasons, I suppose. The first is that reliving our experience of the events in question is the natural human way of marking such occasions, and I felt the need to do the same – and the dorados were not an especially sympathetic audience. The second reason is that I wanted my American readers to know that, even though I am a Brit, for a while back there I was a New Yorker, and felt the events of 9/11 as keenly as any American.

And the third reason is this: to ask now, ten years on, after much more blood has been shed in direct and indirect consequence of 9/11, what the longer term consequences of that day might be. Was it truly an ideologically-motivated attack on the values, morals and lifestyle of the West? Or was it something else – maybe something even more cynical? How deep, and how widespread, are the fracture lines that have radiated out from that single day of violence? Was it a one-off tragedy, or will it prove to have long-lasting repercussions?

I’d be interested to know what the media commentary is like. I believe that 60 Minutes is doing a big 9/11 feature. A short summary of their analysis would be much appreciated.

Other Stuff:

By serendipity, the book I am listening to at the moment – “The Unthinkable” by Amanda Ripley (see below) includes several interviews with 9/11 survivors. The book is about disasters and how humans react to them – and, most interestingly, how we can respond better when catastrophe strikes. It seems that, like many things, we can improve our resilience through training. By gaining experience in stressful situations, we can become better at handling them. So, on that basis, after 6 years of braving everything the capricious ocean can throw at me, I should be in good shape come what may.

The chaps downstairs are getting ever more boisterous – and ever more numerous. There must have been about twenty dorados milling around today, flicking water at me with their tails, and bumping against the boat. I do hope they are keeping the barnacles at bay.

I saw a ship today – the first one I have seen since setting out from the Abrolhos over four months ago. It looked like a large cargo ship, heading the same way as I am. I didn’t hail them. Just didn’t feel the urge.

Rachel in the Maldives – I’m afraid you would have to have very good eyesight indeed to see me from where you are. But I’m glad that your students are learning from my experiences – no matter where I may be!

Laurey – so very good to hear you sounding strong and optimistic. Tremendously pleased to hear you’ll be with us for a good long while yet. You’re a true inspiration.

Bob – “usufruct” – what a fantastic word. I also like the Native American philosophy that land cannot be “owned”, any more than the air or the sun can be owned. It is there to enable life, and as such belongs to all of us.

Stephen – since when has ANY word in the political arena been used to mean what it should mean?! ūüôā

Quote for the day: “War would end if the dead could return.” (Stanley Baldwin)

Sponsored Miles: An anonymous donor sponsored ten of yesterday’s miles. From the higher numbers beyond Roz’s destination, thanks go to Keith Arnold.

12 Comments

  • I was part of the leadership team of several hiking, paddling, adventure and child rearing meetup groups. I used these groups to set up and promote¬†a pretty large event here in Sacramemnto last year for Roz’s US tour. Happily, I recieved this email cut and paste yesterday. Meetup is¬†specifically, an “online community to do offline activities.” Although we mourn, recover and sometimes flourish despite great odds, I will never forget.

    Fellow Meetuppers,
    I don’t write to our whole community often, but this week isspecial because it’s the 10th anniversary of 9/11 and manypeople don’t know that Meetup is a 9/11 baby.
    Let me tell you the Meetup story. I was living a couple milesfrom the Twin Towers, and I was the kind of person who thoughtlocal community doesn’t matter much if we’ve got the internetand tv. The only time I thought about my neighbors was when Ihoped they wouldn’t bother me. When the towers fell, I found myself
    talking to more neighbors in the days after 9/11 than ever before.
    People said hello to neighbors (next-door and across the city)
    who they’d normally ignore. People were looking after each other,
    helping each other, and meeting up with each other. You know, beingneighborly. A lot of people were thinking that maybe 9/11 could bringpeople together in a lasting way. So the idea for Meetup wasborn: Could we use the internet to get off the internet — andgrow local communities? We didn’t know if it would work.¬†
    Most people thought it was a crazy idea — especially because terrorism is designed to make people distrust one another.
    A small team came together, and we launched Meetup 9 monthsafter 9/11. Today, almost 10 years and 10 million Meetuppers later, it’sworking. Every day, thousands of Meetups happen. Moms Meetups,Small Business Meetups, Fitness Meetups… a wild variety of100,000 Meetup Groups with not much in common — except onething. Every Meetup starts with people simply saying hello toneighbors. And what often happens next is still amazing to me.They grow businesses and bands together, they teach andmotivate each other, they babysit each other’s kids and findother ways to work together. They have fun and find solacetogether. They make friends and form powerful community. It’spowerful stuff. It’s a wonderful revolution in local community,
    and it’s thanks to everyone who shows up.
    Meetups aren’t about 9/11, but they may not be happening if itweren’t for 9/11.¬† 9/11 didn’t make us too scared to go outside or talk tostrangers. 9/11 didn’t rip us apart. No, we’re building newcommunity together!!!!

    The towers fell, but we rise up. And we’re just getting startedwith these Meetups.
    Scott Heiferman (on behalf of 80 people at Meetup HQ)Co-Founder & CEO, MeetupNew York CitySeptember 2011

    I stole this post from Susie S, one of your staunches fans.
    “Grief is the price we pay for love.” ~Queen Elizabeth after 9/11/2001

    Here is my contribution: Mark Bezos Volunteer Firefighter on being heroic too, a life lesson learned.   http://youtu.be/sAQfzHBpRsc  

    Row Roz Row!

    The San Francisco Bay Area homecoming festivities plans will start this week!
    If you want in, Please stay tuned!

    Jay Gosuico, RN BSN Emergency Department / Shock Trauma Intensive Care Unit.

    I will never forget.

  • Hi Roz,

    I’m not a New Yorker and have been as distant as an American can be from it, only stopping there on connecting flights and seeing it in movies.¬† But the chain reaction of events from 9/11 totally spun my life out of kilter.¬† And each of those¬†events comes freighted with enormous emotional baggage – rage, horror, terror, sorrow, frustration, pride, shame – the whole range.¬† Some of it¬†is shared¬†with my fellow Americans, much intensely personal.¬† I avoid the commemorations.¬† But I do have¬†a few resolutions.¬† I will never let something like that push me so that I’m not centered in my values.¬† And I will do what I can to prevent it from becoming an Isreali/Palestinian style generational blood letting.¬† I will not succomb to knee jerk media inspired fear.¬†

    Peace.

  • Roz, it appears that most are enjoying the day, or averting this subject from the lack of response so far ¬†— only Jay and Eric and it is nearly 4pm (PT) … Frankly, I have a different take**.

    I tuned in to a mainstream media TV station and watched the reading of a few dozen names at the memorial … I don’t normally sit glued to the TV lately due to other higher priority activities. I think you understand. So I have no idea about how this anniversary was covered by the media. Sorry. But, ten years ago, I did spend more time in front of the tube, especially on the morning of 9/11/2001.¬†

    As normal I turned on NPR when I woke and happened to tune in just as they were announcing that a “small commuter plan” had crashed into the the tower. ¬†It was about 5:50 am (PT), less than two minutes after the impact. Stunned, I switched on the TV trying to fathom what was going on as the adrenalin surged and woke me. Soon, I watched the second plane penetrate and explode in real time, then over and over and over again. At some point in the next hour, I showered, shaved and went to work where my staff had a TV set up and I checked it periodically all day.

    I had never seen an incident unfold live where a person or many people were killed instantly, before or since. Watching the towers collapse with thousands dropping to their deaths in a few seconds was devastating for me. For the rest of us, it is heart-wrenching pain to rethink it. But for the many of the victims, it was over in an instant. Over. Done. That fast. They did not know what hit them.

    I believe that more people suffer annually on a sustained basis from lingering diseases and treatments — diabetes, cancer, asthma and other debilitating chronic maladies — suffering for years, months, weeks. Dying slowly and painfully. ¬†I watched my dad die over a two-week period. He was alert and cogent as his body disintegrated around him — trapped inside. ¬†To me, this is terror: that I might end up suffering in a condition where I have no escape and have to just wait it out.

    I believe that 9/11 and all other terrorist acts that led up to it is terrible whether directed at the western world, or taking place within the eastern world. ¬†But, I believe that western foreign policy, our carving up land and creating nations in the Middle East and Africa, our national arrogance, our life styles, our unintended impact, all precipitate hate toward us which led to those despicable acts over the decades. ¬†We all contribute to the resentful and hateful environment, whether we realize it or not. Visit the counties where oil and other resources are taken from the earth. Look at the conditions of the land and the people who are subject to the raping of the land and the local economy for the sake of corporate profits. The hidden price of their suffering is not included in the diamonds, minerals, coal and oil that are delivered neat and tidy to us … sterile of the pain and suffering that we impose on others around the world.

    If there was a price (or fee) on commodities that reflected the true impact, or if the Corporate Executives were to walk a mile in their shoes, perhaps our impact on the developing nations would have been less past dozen decades. I believe we are paying for the wealth of the robber barons … both the industrial revolution robber barons and those who have inherited their positions of power and wealth.

    This, we need to change, and I am glad that you are involved.

    Row for change, Roz!

    ** I believe those who advised George W. Bush (Project for the New American Century or http://bit.ly/P_N_A_C) were waiting for just such an event and looked the other way to let whatever was going to happen happen. I honestly believe George W. Bush expected something but not of that consequence, hence the look on his face in that kindergarten room.

    • “Man never made any material as resilient as the human spirit.” Bern Williams
      As always UncaDoug, your writing is captivating. In following Roz, one inevitably follows your witty comments. And I agree with most of what you have said in your above comment. There is only one parenthetical “note” I would like to add because I feel like it needs to be said. (I, unlike others, am not without words on this day.) It has to do with your ¬† ¬† mentioning that “…for many of the victims it was over in an instant.”In mentioning the 9/11 victims, it seems a bit unfair to minimize their suffering. Most of them DID suffer, whether mentally or physically.
      A lot of us are very aware these types of events happen on a daily basis throughout the world, albeit on a smaller scale, but this was one act of terrorism that was so bizarre it was hard for most of us to fully comprehend. Airplanes? Skyscrapers? A metropolitan city? Multiple targets at the same time?
      On 9/11/01 at 1 World Trade Center on that morning there were those who were running for their lives down endless flights of stairs after the first airplane hit (those who were handicapped were being carried by others), while smoke was pouring into the stairwells and exhausted firemen were climbing up. There were those who as they unsuspectingly stood by elevators were burned by jet fuel as it poured out of the shafts when the elevator doors first opened. There were those who huddled in corners of their offices, laying low to the ground until the floors were too hot to stand on, the surrounding air and smoke seared their lungs, and the heat began to singe their skin. There were those who climbed out the windows and clung to the outside of the building in desperation until they fell to their deaths, and those who decided their only way out was to jump. There were those passengers in the airplanes who knew they were hijacked; some even knew from phone calls to loved ones on the ground that they were heading for disaster. People at the Pentagon crawled through fire to get out of the building Рthose that could, anyway. One mother burned at the Pentagon said that for months her young children cried every time they looked at her disfigured face and body. People on the ground were hit by debris Рone man recounts narrowly being missed by the tires of one of the airplanes as it crashed to the ground and bounced on. Body parts rained into the apartments of those who lived nearby. There were mothers and fathers, partners, sons and daughters, uncles and aunts who frantically called their loved ones to leave one last message. There were those who spent the day, and weeks after, agonizing over whether their loved one might be alive Рor dead. And then there are the walking wounded who witnessed this hell on earth and to this day cannot get the sounds, the smells, and the images out of their heads. There are those who have already succumbed to or are battling illnesses related to the after effects of working and/or volunteering at Ground Zero. This, my friend, was not a split second event; this event was agonizing for all those who were involved, however long it lasted. 
      In the end 9/11 is not about Americans “waking up;” it is about human beings and the sheer horror of being terrorized in your own “home.” It is about the loss of security, and the dastardliness of fanatics. 9/11 is about life never quite being the same again – for all the wrong reasons. This should never have happened here, nor anywhere else in the world. Famine, illness, earthquakes, floods, tsunamis – they are all natural events. Man-made terror, is not.¬†In closing, 9/11 is also about altruism and the fortitude of the human spirit, and that is what I would like to believe we celebrated on this 10th anniversary. We learn by looking back; we live by looking forward. We HAVE moved on. We ARE rebuilding.¬†We MUST never forget. We WILL cross that ocean.

  • I was in Wal-Mart in our small town in Michigan. I was buying my wife an anniversary card because our anniversary is Sept. 11. As I was walking through the store I heard something over the store speakers. It was an announcer saying the World Trade Center had just collapsed. I immediately went and checked and when I got to the car I called my wife and said turn on the TV. When I got home we just sat and watched it over and over again. Before this happened we were getting married and our close friends said do you know your anniversary is going to be 911? Well we hadn’t even thought of that. I just said well it will be easy to remember then. Now people say your anniversary is on nine eleven?¬†

  • If there was one thing of beauty that came out of that horrible day, when so many innocent people lost their lives, it was the solidarity we had with the world. There was the overwhelming grief felt for others, there was shock, and anger. And there was a feeling that this attack against innocent people going about their business was an attack against all. Love hearing your remembrances and your feelings on this sad day in history. Today we sang “This is My Song” in church. The music is “Finlandia,” my most favorite ever melody to sing. Except the tears-both for the beauty of the music and the words had me kinda missing the second verse…that’s okay, I belted out the last one!!! Do you ever sing that tune when you’re out looking out at the amazing, ocean all alone?

  • I live near NYC, I could see the towers across the bay on clear days. On 9-11-01, after I got home from work, I stood at the waterfront (six blocks from home) with my family and watched the unbelievably large trail of black smoke drifting southeast from Manhattan to a point over the southern horizon.

    Just the previous Sunday (9-9) I had driven back from Colonial Williamsburg to New Jersey and passed right by the Pentagon.

    Many people who work in Manhattan live in the communities around where I live.  There are many 9-11 monuments in these towns.  I work in New Jersey but used to make a lot of deliveries to NYC and to the WTC.  The painting company that had the contract at WTC lost two of their painters who were near the top floors when the first plane struck.

    Our Boy Scout Troop regularly has flag retirements of old and worn out flags people turn in for that purpose.  Since 9-11 the practice has been to read the names of victims, one for each flag being retired.  Sometimes we get through a couple of hundred at a ceremony. Whether you hear them read or see them inscribed on monuments it is very evident that the victims come from all over. I have heard they come from many nations, many cultures, many religious backgrounds, including Muslims.

    We don’t forget but we do carry on. Row or drift? We all can choose between those options.

  • I was teaching that day. Class was cancelled before it started, campus was closed for the week. The next time we met we spent the whole class period talking about what had happened and about what it meant to us and how the world would change forever. The students were pretty shaken up and it was a very very sad day but it felt good to process together.¬†

    I think about those brave people on the flight that crashed in Pennsylvania. I pause and reflect on it every time I think about it. 

  • I think the West has created all these problems by continually interfering with the lands and lives of other people.
    The West must learn to live people alone.
    I am a nomad who has worked and visited over fifty countries in my lifetime, and only one country in the world follows the right path, and that country is Switzerland, where that have had no wars for over 200 years, and is also a neutral country, and do not invade other countries.
    I would like to see all countries become neutral and mind their own business. You cannot change the world, its people, nor religions, so leave them alone.
    I am an atheist and proud of it, but do not attempt to change others.
    I am also 82 and think by now I know what I am talking about.
    Roz Savage I admire adventurers like yourself more than any other kind of people, the few people with determination like you are my best friends.

  • Sandra tried to add this, but it would not upload. Sorry if others had similar problems yesterday. Rita.

    I was very moved by you sharing of your experience with 9/11. It seems that as Americans the media often tells us how many throughout the world hate us for our wealth, our military power, our global businesses, and we hear all of these criticisms of us as ‚Äėarrogant‚Äô Americans. It was healing to hear your story, Roz. You were a New Yorker; we all were New Yorkers on 9/11.¬†¬† I lost a great¬†number of¬†friends; parents of friends, children of friends, siblings of friends, and friends of friends, and the list goes on.¬† May their memories live on forever.¬†

  • I remember coming home at night here, and for a change turning on the TV. The 1st plane had just hit. I sat and watched. Then I saw the 2nd plane hit. I instantly saw it was a 2nd plane in the 2nd building and concluded that some deliberate attack was being carried out. Yet the live reporters took perhaps minutes to say so.¬†Minutes.¬†One even announced there must be a replay on his own channel! And I thought, “Yup, institutionalised people, awaiting the OK/confirmation to state what should be obvious to their own eyes. Awaiting the official OK from the boss, from the ‘authorities’. Unable to transgress their own realm of ‘authority’, as if denying their own eyes until someone gave the ‘OK’.”

    So many institutionalised people in the “civilised world” are like that.¬†

    Its a bit like the current slow collapse of the western economic model, and the demise of the human species: the authorities have not given the OK to report it yet. It only appears from “subversive” sources. Currently, the business economists still still to talk about the global economy using 20th Century idioms, although even here the cracks are often openly expressed.

    Its a bit like the road accident I was at earlier this year. I am with the injured biker, stopping the blood and asking a guy in a suit to drag the bike away because of leaking petrol; and he is unwilling to do so because the authorities have not arrived to record the accident scene properly yet. Its apparently safer to have an authority in charge. A small common-sense issue of avoiding immolation would require transgressing the cubicle of comfort he was keen to remain in.

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