<< Back to Day 15, Rhode Is.
Thank You, To Everyone
The next day in Hoboken, we went down to Frank Sinatra Park. It's a beautiful patch of grass on the waterfront, with an amazing view of the south end of the city. We picnicked there a number of times when we lived in Union City, and it was a great place to play frisbie, suntan, people-watch, or just look at the World Trade Center.
There were candles. There were flowers. Signs read "We will never forget you!" Flags were taped against the railing. And photos... photos of people, memorials, remembrances. Photos of Bin Laden, defaced with an angry red marker. Photos of the Twin Towers, with the caption United We Stand. Photos of the heroes who were able to save over 25,000 people from such a terrible, terrible disaster.
I cried. I held onto Aimee and I cried.
But it wasn't a sad cry. Of course I was upset that these buildings had been decimated. Of course I was upset that over five thousand people were dead. But it wasn't for that reason.
I was proud. Proud of the people of this city and of this country. Not just of the rescue workers, alive or dead, or the volunteers, or even myself. I was proud of the everyday human being who took the time to light a candle. I was proud of every person who went out, bought a flag and hung it in the window of their home or their car. I was proud of anyone who went out to donate blood, even when the blood banks were overloaded. I was proud of the memorials, and the candlelight vigils, and the relief funds, and the donations, and, and, and....
People are busy. How many times have you thought, if only I had an hour to spent on myself...? People become bogged down by the everyday. They wake up, they shower, brush their hair, go to work, eat at their desk, spend an hour commuting home, eat dinner, watch TV and go to sleep. Every day. Then they say, if only I had more time.
Every candle in that park, every poster of a loved one, every banner and flag in every window represents a donation. Time. The people of this city, who can't spare a moment for themselves, all took ten minutes to tape a flag to their window, two hours to give blood, an afternoon to write a letter, or an entire night to keep a candle lit.
While we were still at Ground Zero, I read a letter that was taped up to one of the pillars of the World Financial Center. The letter was from a child in second grade at a NY public school. It read something like this:
You are great people for what you are doing to find people. I was sad when the twin towers fell they were my favorite sky scrapers. I wanted to give blood but my mom says I am too little but if I was bigger I would. I want to be a firefighter so I can help people like you are...
You may think that writing a letter or lighting a candle doesn't help this cause as much as a bag of clothes or a pint of blood. This letter did more for me than any donation that came in while I was at the site. It reminded me why I was still there. I may not have been searching for survivors, but I was only one step away, making sure the workers stayed healthy so that they could find the survivors. I may not have been wearing an FDNY logo anywhere, but that letter made me feel like a hero.
And when I saw the candles lined up at Frank Sinatra park, I thought of all the people who were still working inside the checkpoints, still digging and tunnelling, hoping for some sign of life. Just one more person. Just one more. Imagine the joy that one more survivor would bring to a world that's almost given up hope.
We were a part of that. In some small way, we helped. Those candles and those flags were for the workers as well as the victims, and for every one that said they would never forget the loss of lives, it also said that they would never forget the heroics to save the people that they did. Anyone leaving the site should know that in some small way, every candle and every flag is saying This Is My Support. Stay Safe. Take Care Of Yourself.
I'm Proud Of You.