9.11.2009

Flashback Friday: Never Forget

September 11, 2001
September 11th
9.11.01
9-11
Nine Eleven.
A date that will never be forgotten.
One Tuesday morning I will never, ever forget.
I can't believe it has been 8 years.
Where were you on 9/11?
I was 22 & had graduated from college a few months before. Kevin and I had officially started dating 2 days before on 9/9/01.
On Tuesday, 9/11 we had plans to meet at a local coffee shop before work like we had done for the past few weeks.Ironically, Kevin was taking the day off work because he had an interview at the local fire department to become a volunteer firefigher. What are the odds?
I remember waking up to the alarm on my radio & hearing about the twin towers. I couldn't believe it nor did I understand the impact it would have on our country. I met Kevin at the local coffee/bagel shop we always met at and we talked with people about what was going on. Everyone was in shock. I went to work ( I was working for my dad at the time) and we were listening to the radio all day. That evening & night we went to Reid & Kelly's and our eyes were glued to the TV watching the coverage. It was surreal. I will never forget those images.
A few months after 9/11 a group of 20 people from our church had the opportunity to go on a mission trip to New York City to volunteer at St. Paul's Chapel & the NYC Salvation Army. I knew I had to go. So, I went. (My sisters also came on the trip) We got special clearance passes that we had to wear at all times:
I can't even put into words the experience I had.
The words I have type won't even do it justice.
I fell in love with the people of NYC, the NYPD & the FDNY.
(Please excuse the quality of my pictures, I scanned them in)
I went in honor of the men, women, police officers & FDNY who lost their lives on this day. I went to serve those who were serving others. It was a trip that changed me. It was an experience that I will treasure in my heart for the rest of my life. The city of New York & the FDNY holds a special place in my heart.
My sisters & I all got to work together on the same shifts. Because we were the "younger" ones on the trip, we were signed up for the graveyard shifts on both nights.
The first night we worked from 8 pm to 8 am at St. Pauls Chapel at the edge of Ground Zero. St Paul's Chapel had become the home base for all of the NYPD, FDNY & construction workers who were clearing out the debris from the Twin Towers.
At St. Paul's Chapel the PD, FD & workers could come to the church for meals, dry clothes, showers, tolietries, a place to sleep or a place to go talk to someone or pray.
St. Pauls chapel was at the edge of the World Trade Centers & was miraculously untouched by all of the debris of the Twin Towers falling. It became a rest & relief center for the workers. The outside walls of the church became a memorial where visitors came & posted letters & American flags.
Our job was to help get food prepared &, get them supplies & be available to talk to them & keep their spirits up. The night we were there, it was mostly firefighters from FDNY who were coming to the church. As we served them food they would re-count their 9/11 stories to us. They told us what they did on 9/11, how they responded to the call & the family & friends that they had lost.
These were real stories with faces to the stories. It was heartbreaking & tragic. But there was also hope. The American spirit was alive. People were crying out to God in despair, but also looking to Him because He is the one who brings hope, peace & love in the midst of crisis.
One firefighter, Jack K (FDNY Ladder 54) poured out his heart to my and my sister. He was a firefighter who came from a family of fire fighters. The past year he had gone through a divorce. He told us of the uncle, cousin & brother that he lost on 9/11. He was so grateful to us & couldn't believe we came all the way from California to help out. (It was the LEAST I could do!) Despite all the serious conversations & tears that were shed, he was also a jokester & kept giving me a hard time about being 22 and getting married at such a young age.
Toward the end of the night, Jack told me & 2 other girls to come with him so he could give us a closer look at ground zero. He let us into the FDNY Suburban & drove us into the "pit" of ground zero so we could get an up close look at what was going on.
We had to cross through all this secruity & the pit of Ground Zero was 20 stories below street level. "The pit" took up 17 acres! It was HUGE!
The pit during the day:
The pit at night:

It was where the Twin Towers once stood. I couldn't believe how big it was.It was amazing & horrifying at the same time.
I know these pictures of the chain link fence don't mean anything to you, but these are the only pictures I was allowed to take when I went into the pit. (I actually wasn't supposed to take pictures, but I did anyways!) I wanted to document it so that I would remember it. Being at the bottom of "the pit" and looking up was surreal. We had to wear a mask in the pit because of all the toxins that had been released in the air from the Twin Towers falling. A few months after I got back from the trip I had a package from the NY Deptartment of Health 9/11 Registry. I have to fill out a questionnaire every year to make sure I have no "health" effects from being at Ground Zero.
The next night we had the graveyard shift at the Salvation Army Respite Center on the other edge of the WTC. The Salvation Army set up "The Bubble", which was a huge white tent. It was seriously huge, about the size of a football field, but all enclosed.
We served hot meals here & beds were set up for the workers. The Bubble was mostly for the construction workers & clean up crew. I honestly don't remember much about this night because I was so delirious from lack of sleep, we had only gotten 3 hours of sleep in 48 hours. I remember serving food & clearing people's plates. At that point, I was emotionally & physically overwhelmed. This is Becks & I on the subway back to the hotel after our 2nd shift. So exhausted!
Below is a picture I took of the Miracle Cross. On 9/11 when the Twin Towers collapsed, a Cross of steel girders was somehow left standing, torn away from the rubble and destruction of the Twin Towers. Henceforth the Miracle Cross. It is a reminder to all that with our faith and prayer in God we will overcome what was brought upon us that day.
The cross still stands today, a silent testament to the power of hope. It has become a destination for visitors to ground zero, and is part of the memorial for the WTC.

It was a mission trip I will never forget. I have been on several mission trips before. In high school I went to Mexico 3 times to build houses & work at an orphanage for a week. In the spring of 2006 I went to build houses for Hurricane Katrina relief, but this mission trip to NYC has still impacted me big time, almost 8 years later. I am thankful for the opportunity I had to go & serve in that capacity.

View of the NY skyline with the Twin Towers missing:
To the Heroes who responded on that day, you will never be forgotten.
To those who lost loved ones on 9/11, may they never be forgotten.

Thank you to all of the men and women in our town, county, state and country who choose to serve to protect our freedom and insure our safety.

16 comments:

  1. You never cease to amaze me with the incredible things you do for others! You have such a tremendous heart, I'm proud to call you my friend!

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  2. Wow, what a phenomenal experience. Thank you so much for sharing. I couldn't read the whole thing without tearing up though... I'll have to read it at length later.

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  3. What an amazing story and such a selfless act! Thank you for sharing. The pictures are heartbreaking but somehow hopeful.

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  4. Great post! What a trip to the city, what an amazing story. Thanks for sharing. I wrote my own post 3 years ago: http://asthenoonday.blogspot.com/2006/09/september-11th.html

    Can't believe it's been so long.

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  5. Oh wow. Wow. I have to read this again too. Can I post the link to this so my friends can read? Seriously Mel, what an experience.Thank you for sharing

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  6. Wow, Melissa! That was incredible to read! Thank you for your big heart and for sharing this with all of us!

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  7. How incredible....I so badly wanted to go and do something then....but i didnt know what to do.

    I was at Ground Zero on Saturday and when I stood there and looked up at the emptiness left by the missing buildings....its truly amazing and sad to stand there.

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  8. Well, you got me crying! It was very real for us, too, living just 2 hours outside of NYC. My husband and I love that city!

    Like you said though, people were turning to God and America stepped it up. When we are reduced to nothing, still there is God!

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  9. I was crying while reading this post!! Thank you for sharing this!! I still cannot believe that this happened. My husband is in the military and has been deployed twice since 9/11 and seeing pictures of the Twin Towers....it still seems like a bad dream!

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  10. I cried during this post! I saw your title on Kellys Page and immediatly started to tear up. What an amazing story you have and what an AWESOME thing you did. Thank you for sharing!

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  11. WOW1....I cried through reading your entire post. I woke up to my alarm clock talking about the WTC as well, also from California. I remember wanting to help somehow, so AWESOME that you were able to contribute in such an important way.

    I went to NYC 2 years ago and I too was amazed at the sheer size of ground zero.

    Great post.

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  12. You are a great American! Unless you were there it is hard to share with others the sense of loss of life on that NY. As someone who was in NY on that day, thank you so much!

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  13. What an incredible post and what an amazing person you are! I cried through this entire post! How amazing the incredible things you did for others! YOu can tell you have an amazing heart! Thank you for sharing

    Summer

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  14. Wow! What an awesome trip! I loved looking at the all the pictures! I'm sure your life was touched so much by this trip! I love NY and have such a heart for that city. Everytime I visit I take a picture of that 1 cross...It's incredible that it still stands!

    I just found your blog and love it! I'm a new follower!

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  15. Wow that you did was amazing. Between the reading and pictures I almost was in tears! It gave me goosebumps to read this. You are truly amazing. Thank you for what you did. God bless!

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