Thursday, September 11, 2008

Inside Ground Zero, Part 4

In a place that had so many surrealistic qualities, the strangest and most eerie to me were the small restaurants and shops turned into supply depots or medical clinics. One place on Liberty Street was a deli, and the soup of the day and other menu selections were still written on the chalkboard, covered with dust. The windows were gone, and the glass front ice cream case that held the big tubs of ice cream was full of medical supplies. Doctors from the Public Health Service conducted their business at the small round tables near the front windows where people used to drink their coffee and read the morning paper. Up the street, there’s a Burger King that looked just like the thousands of other Burger Kings across the country, except that the cash registers were ripped out and the stainless steel counters held milk crates full of candy, granola bars and chips. Letters and banners from children to rescue workers papered the walls, and the food preparation area in the back was stacked full of supplies. The Brooks Brothers store on Church Street became a temporary morgue. Spray-painted signs on plywood advertised the new “businesses”.

There were some truly wonderful things about Ground Zero, as hard as it is to imagine. At the top of that list are the people who lined the streets outside the compound, night after night, cheering, waving signs, and offering bottles of water as we left for the night. There were so many organizations providing food and services for workers- the Red Cross, the Salvation Army, the Massage Emergency Response Team (MERT), and McDonalds, just to name a few. They cheerfully provided everything from steel-toed boots to clergy to endless cups of coffee, and I will always remember Ground Zero and the people there with mixed emotions.

Our mission was over during the first week of October, when FEMA brought in permanent command posts and administrative staff. I left New York from LaGuardia Airport, and returned to Seattle to a welcome home party in my parent’s peaceful garden and gifts from friends and neighbors, a changed person.

I no longer care how much money my husband spends on what I consider unnecessary fishing gear or how many pairs of hundred dollar sunglasses he loses or breaks. I don’t care if a train blocks my route for a half hour. I don’t care if the person in front of me in the express line has more than twelve items. I would like to think I’ve become a nicer, gentler, more patient person. I don’t know if that’s true, but I do know that my priorities are very different now than they were on September 10th, 2001.

4 comments:

ann daggett said...

god bless them all.......

ann daggett said...

let us never to forget

Helen, Robert, Jack, and Emma said...

You continue to reveal yourself to be one of the most incredible person I know. This story really helps refocus on the task ahead after such a horrible dat that none of us could ever forget. We are all changed.

Janel said...

I didin't realize you had assisted in these effort. I'm sure it was rewarding yet devestating at the same time. Thanks for sharing your experience.