I wrote this on the tenth anniversary.
My memories of 9/11 are indelibly marked with certain events of the day on which I was working at the firehouse. When I first saw tower number one on fire on the TV in the kitchen that morning I said a quick prayer for all those firefighters and people inside. The magnitude of such a fire at that height left me awestruck and we didn’t know a plane crash had caused it yet. I was out of the kitchen when the guys gasped in horror as the second plane hit. I ran in to watch as remnants of the explosion trailed out the back of the second tower. It took a moment but fellow firefighter AJ said a second plane had just crashed. I remember heading out to shop in the morning so as to get us our food for the day before they had a department lockdown or what not. As I drove though the south loop I ran into rush hour traffic leaving downtown at 9:00 am as everyone had been sent home. I was listening to the car radio as the first tower fell and have no recollection of the second tower falling except I’ve seen it on video later. Then on my return there were no cars or people to be found on the streets of an abandoned downtown Chicago. Later in the early evening, standing on the runway of then Meigs Field I viewed an empty sky except for one lone fighter jet high in the stratosphere. What I remember most is the emptiness, sadness and frustration felt for my brothers in New York and all the victims of the cowardly attack. The worry that a similar thing could happen here in Chicago at anytime and thankfully never did.
While I have visited ground zero twice I was not there for the recovery on the pile. My respects to those that did and especially to those who are sick or dead because of that service. I drove by once when I went to New York in November of 2001 to pay my respects to my fallen brothers by attending wakes and funerals (which is a story unto itself). Then again in 2002 when Chicago Firefighters bicycled there raising money for FDNY Widows and Orphans. I worked the support van (I was the cook). I still have trouble grasping what happened to cause such a big whole in the middle of New York City.
I will never forget. My children will never forget and hopefully one day my grandchildren will never forget. Those who think that their beliefs trump all others and suppress the views of others will always be wrong. If you live with hate in your heart for others know that you will never know the true beauty of life. Kiss your daughter, hug your dad and remember to appreciate those that love you. That’s what I’ll be doing tomorrow.