September 11, 2001: A Reflection

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12 September 2016 (Pasadena, CA) Although not a golf blog proper, I wanted to share a few reflections of my experience as a New Yorker on 9/11/01. Perhaps it will be cathartic. I used to lecture on the theological implications of that day but had to stop because I was constantly reliving the trauma I/we experienced that day. I cannot watch video replays of the events anymore and for the most part avoid any and all electronic media post in recollection. I, like you, watched in horror as that day’s events unfolded. Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2001 was a beautiful New York morning. My wife and I were preparing to take our 3 month old daughter out to vote in a mayoral runoff election when it all began. You know the story so I don’t need to rehearse the day’s events. What I can tell you was that around 5 pm there was a procession coming from lower Manhattan of traumatized people covered in ash. Just walking. Their faces lined with tears in their silent procession. Sirens blared for what seemed like months. Military jets and helicopters roared over the Manhattan airspace. I was sick. I love New York. I could not sleep that night and decided to go to the volunteer center at Chelsea Piers. I sat there for hours watching relatives searching for loved ones. It was too soon. The destruction too great. It hadn’t even been 24 hours yet. Sometime around noon, I hopped on a transport with a bunch of steel workers from CT and headed for Ground Zero. We took the Westside Highway and already people lined the streets waving American flags and cheering the transports. How odd I thought. I glanced at my arms and recalled seeing that someone had scribbled with black marker: S/R (search and rescue). Our transport stopped blocks away from Ground Zero. Smoke and dust everywhere. We were at a school. It looked as if it had just snowed ash. Your feet actually sunk in it. We would not be searching or rescuing. We sat until someone brought about a dozen brooms and we started to clean. It seems odd now but it felt meaningful at the time. We would help the school recover. Eventually buckets were brought in to collect debris which was deemed relevant. Documents, photos, personal items. Were they from the aircraft, the Towers? At some point in the early evening, I began my dust covered pilgrimage from lower Manhattan towards 14th Street where buses were running north. I got on one going back to 120th and Broadway. People stared at me as I boarded. They new where I had been. An elderly couple boarded somewhere around 72nd Street in tennis clothes with their rackets. I was furious. I said nothing. Fast forward to October. The Yankees are playing in the World Series against Arizona. Every night I went to bed frustrated that we had lost another game at home only to learn that Derek or Tino homered late in the game. It was the first time I had smiled since 9/11. I/we would rally around the Yankees. Game 7 in Arizona, Yanks up by 1, Mariano Rivera in to seal the deal. How, why could the tables turn and the Yanks lose that game? Our joy, our happiness, our city’s collective identity shattered with some bullshit broken-bat single. It was over. I could not contain my pain any more. I wept that night like I had never before. There would be no fairy-tale ending to this nightmare. I recall the next time I was on the George Washington Bridge, a bridge that had one of the most awesome views of lower Manhattan, a bridge I had almost wrecked on because I would always be transfixed by this beautiful view, I looked downtown and just screamed at the empty space that was Ground Zero. I still do.

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