Excerpts From Book About 911
The immediate and generous response of our small city, which—on a normal day—is six hundred and fifty miles from Ground Zero, made it seem like New York was our next door neighbor. Thus, by the time all the follow-up emails and phone calls had been exchanged and we announced our clearance to help man the Salvation Army’s relief stations in New York, Jackson was falling all over itself to support our new endeavor.
Before this point, recruiting volunteers or donations for service projects sometimes felt more like asking people to give up vital organs while they were still living and in need of them. After the towers fell, however, asking for help became akin to asking people for a simple cup of water. Residents arrived weighed down by armfuls of donations, as if the items they were bringing poured out of their faucets for free.
The typical buzz of New York’s streets had been replaced by the steady crank of machinery and generators—a rumble that we adapted to surprisingly quickly, like the tick of a clock you didn’t even hear in the background.
Nothing was as it was just a few days before.
Any other day, for example, this much chaos and effort would’ve signified some sort of city festival. Now, a street fair of blue and white tarped tents lined the sidewalks to serve as a makeshift town, ready to shelter the nearby relief workers with food and services. The ground that would’ve normally been kept clear by city sanitation workers, if not for an occasional stray leaf or piece of litter, was dusted with a thin coating of shredded paper and glass particles, as if a local Office Max had been incinerated and its contents dumped on the scene like unwelcome confetti.
…Standing there in soaked rain gear, shivering, my voice jumbled through a weighty mask, I had some of the most compelling conversations of my life with people who became close friends out of necessity rather than through years of passing each other in the hallway each day.
Over the next couple days leading up to 09/11 I’ll be sharing excerpts from my September 11th story. The entire story is available in Part 4 of my book Picking Dandelions: A Search for Eden Among Life’s Weeds. Read other excerpts here: Part 1.