Friday, September 11, 2009

Here Comes the Rain Again

It's another gray, rainy day in New York. But unlike the rest of this summer when the constant rain felt like an unwelcome intruder, today it feels appropriate. I am, of course, talking about the anniversary of 9/11.

At first I had hoped to avoid thinking about it altogether, but in this day and age, that's pretty much impossible. When I left for work this morning, the families of the victims were still on TV, reading out the list of those we lost. And when I checked my Facebook page later, almost everyone mentioned it in their status updates, recalling where they were when it happened or offering R.I.P.'s to friends who had been in the towers.

So I can't help but to recall where I was then. As I write this, it is 2:15 in the afternoon. Eight years ago at this time, I was in the lounge of the hotel where my mother worked, waiting for the trains to start running again so we could go home. It had been a bizarre morning. I had driven in to the city with my parents and as we crossed the 59th Street Bridge, we heard on the radio that a plane had struck the World Trade Center. I thought it was some crazy accident...until the second plane struck. We could actually see the smoke and fire from the bridge. We should have just turned around and gone home, but we each had a job to get to, and honestly, I didn't know how bad things were going to get.

When I got to work, everyone crowded into one of the offices that had a TV and we watched the towers fall. It was an impossibly surreal moment. The hours after that were filled with frantic calls to my family and friends. My mailbox was flooded with concerned e-mails from everyone who knew I worked in Manhattan. I met up with my mother at the hotel, and at around 3 PM, the trains started running again and we finally went home. I was relieved to find my father and brother in the living room when we opened the door. We were all safe. All of my friends were safe. And I was grateful.

I found out later that someone I was friends with in high school had been in the towers and she hadn't made it out.

Days later, when the Red Cross set up stations near Ground Zero where the relief workers could go for food and rest, a few of my coworkers and I volunteered a couple of times to work the overnight shift. It felt good to help in some way, even if that just meant listening to them talk for a while, or making sure they got an extra helping of pasta. And seeing what they were going through helped to snap me out of any tendency I had to dwell on my own petty problems and concerns. Around the same time I also volunteered with New York Cares to help clean up a local park. I found that the best way to combat grief and fear is through positive action.

So now, eight years later, as we remember the tragedy of that day, I encourage you to do something positive and selfless. Volunteer, mentor someone, do someone a favor, plant a tree, tell your friends and family how much you care about them...whatever floats your boat, basically. And then tell me all about it. Just don't let the bad things that happen overwhelm and discourage you. Instead let them motivate you to fight even harder to make the world better in whatever way you can.

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