I’ve been to the site of the World Trade Center two times. I visited back in April of 2008 when I went to Washington, D.C., New York, and Niagara Falls, my first trip in over ten years.
I went back during my month long travels in September, on the 11th, to pay tribute to those who lost their lives. As I was flying on many flights, it was something I wanted to honor. Flying is something many (including me) take for granted.
There were a lot of people, with all different points of views, some paying tribute to those they lost, some with other agendas around the site. While we all have our own opinions and beliefs, it was humbling to walk around and see it all in person without any judgement one way or the other.
I remember that morning back in 2001 when I woke up for school, turned on the television, just in time to see the second plane crash into the tower. I remember at school, the television in each class I went to being tuned to the news coverage. I remember walking home and turning on the television for the rest of the afternoon and evening.
I was a teenager, and I really didn’t understand what took place that day. To this day, I still don’t. And I will probably never fully understand it.
Nearing the end of circling around Ground Zero, I walked by the fire station of Engine Company 10. The front door is literally 20 feet (across the street) from the fence surrounding the construction of the new buildings at the site. Before I knew it, a man was yelling “Make way! Make way!” I turned to see what the commotion was.
I stood in the street and watched. Several men from the department marched from inside the station around the corner to the memorial on the side of the station. The men took turns standing at attention next to the memorial dedicated to the 343 firefighters that lost their lives running to help people get to safety. There was also a bagpiper who played while facing the memorial. People circled around him to watch, taking pictures and recording videos.
There aren’t any words to describe the feeling I felt standing there watching this happen. It is similar to what they do at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. If I hadn’t walked around and practically stumbled upon the fire station, I would never have experienced it. Two years ago when I walked by this same location, I didn’t notice the fire station.
Having to rush back to JFK for another flight, I left with a little more knowledge of what happened to the people of New York, the country, and the world on that tragic day. And I learned that when you’re open to new experiences and looking at the people around you, you can learn a lot about the world in a short amount of time.
In the end, we may be different in the way we behave, how we live our lives, what we believe in, and many other “gifts” each of us has, “good” and “bad”. But what is important is to make an effort to understand each other.