Here I am, the week before the 10th anniversary of 9/11 and I am watching a documentary called 9/11 Heroes of the 88th floor. For most Americans, the memory of that day still brings great deal of emotion and heart ache. We all remember where we were and what we were doing when we first learned of the news. I was soon to be 11 years old at the time and I was getting ready for school when my parents learned what was happening after the first tower was hit. They called us down and we all sat there staring at the tv not making a sound as we listened to the news. We watched live as the second tower was hit and continued to watch in awe and terror as both towers collapsed. I remember being upset that my brother and I had to go to school. I didn’t want to be away from my parents because I was scared out of my wits, understandable for an 11-year-old. I cannot remember what happened in the hours and days that followed that, but like for many others that day was one I will never forget.
So anyway, to get back to the documentary I am watching….. this is incredible. We all know about the heroic deeds that the firefighters, policemen, and many others who made their way into the towers performed. But do we remember the people whose bravery and heroic conduct kept them IN the towers freeing those who were on the higher levels of the buildings where ground help would never be able to reach? Construction manager Frank De Martini and building inspector Pablo Ortiz were two such men. They cleared the 88- 91st floor and rescued over 77 people that day.They were willing to risk their safety and give up their own lives in order to save as many people as they could. They were the kind of men whose consciences would not allow them to leave others behind in order to save their own lives. In the midst of the tragedy, their actions make me smile. But more than that, they inspire me as they did other people. Not only did Frank and Pablo save 77 people, their actions led many of those they saved to also help rescue people on their way down the stairs. I think that is a defining characterization of heroes. They not only act themselves, but they inspire others to act as well.
And this is what I love about Americans, that in the wake of extreme and terrorizing events we pull together and work to help each other. We don’t just think of ourselves. (yes some do, but I think) Americans are a compassionate and courageous people. Just like when other disasters have hit our country like Katrina and the Joplin tornado, Americans have come together to help each other in any way they possibly can. The documentary talks about how as Americans we are often distant from each other during an average day. We have our personal bubbles and don’t initiate conversations with people we randomly meet on the street normally. But put us through a scary event and all that changes. People hold each other as they cry even though they don’t even know their names. They try their best to help people out of rubble even though it puts their own lives in danger. They gently talk to people to calm them down when they might otherwise just pass on a regular day. Now, some people might say that only being able to do this when tragedy hits is wrong. But we aren’t perfect and in my mind being a part of a nation that IS able to pull together in the midst of a tragedy is a wonderful thing. The older I get and the more I recognize the great deeds of my fellow Americans, the more I am inspired to do the same. It still hurts to think about 9/11 and it makes me cry every time I watch those two towers fall, but it can also bring a smile to my face when I remember the courage of the men and women in our country that day (including those on United 93, 175, AA 11, and those in the Pentagon as well).
Everyone remembers the pictures of the towers that look like satan is visible in the smoke. Every time I see those, I can’t help but think that although Satan did have a huge impact on our country and the lives of the people who live here, he didn’t win the battle. God used the tragic event to bring our citizens closer together. Now since then I think we have grown apart again and that breaks my heart. I wish we could be more unified like we were the few following years after 9/11, but I hope it doesn’t take another event like that to do it. I am on a mission to bring back unity to our nation. It is going to be hard and I can’t do it on a massive level like others could, but I can do it through my influence on those I see on a day-to-day basis. I can do it by just smiling at someone as I walk by or by asking, really asking, how someone’s day was. And I am willing and ready to greet my challenge. I’m prepared to give back. I may not have personally been impacted by 9/11 as much as those immediately involved, but that day changed my life and I will not let it just be a memory. Will you? I’m committed to making a difference in someone else’s life as often as I can and it starts today.