Saturday, September 11, 2010

Fear is Not the Only Force at Work in the World Today

This is an article I first wrote for my high school paper after I returned from a citizenship trip to New York City in March of 2002. As I reflect on today day, this article continues to be one of the best representations of my thoughts, emotions, and experiences.

"Sandy, get up. Jessica is out of the shower so itís your turn for the bathroom." Those were the first cheerfully spoken words I heard on Saturday, March 23rd. About twenty minutes later, as I debated whether or not it was cold enough to wear my leopard print hat, it finally hit me that I was actually in New York City. It was my first day to really be able to see the city. I was very excited to be fulfilling this dream not only for myself but also for my family. Our first stop that morning was to be Ground Zero. Everyone was in a very excited mood, mostly caused by an almost dangerous combination of sugar and adrenaline, but as soon as I saw Donny's face as we boarded the subway, my stomach dropped, and I knew it had nothing to do with the chocolate doughnut I had eaten for breakfast. Donny's uncle was in one of the towers when it collapsed, and the few of us in the group who knew this fact weren't in much of a joking mood during the subway ride downtown.

The streets were eerily silent as we walked down Wall Street. We passed several memorials along fences, and as touching as they were, I couldn't make myself look at them for more than a few moments at a time. Just as we neared a corner I heard myself gasp. Directly across the street from us was a Burger King that had been boarded up and signs spray painted on the boards and windows read "NYPD Temporary HQ" in bright orange letters. It was obvious that this makeshift office hadnít been used in months, but no one had made any effort to remove the signs. We walked slowly up to a fence just a few feet away from the rescue workers. The first thing I noticed was the iron cross, the only thing standing more than head height above the pile of nothing that was once two of the largest buildings in the world. The next thing to capture my attention was a line of at least five ambulances. As our group stopped to stare with morbid fascination at the pile of rubble, one of the ambulances pulled away with its lights and sirens on. Any semblance of composure I had managed to maintain until that point was driven away with that ambulance as its siren pierced the silence.

As the tears rolled down my cheeks, I remembered a promise I had made to my cousin Mike a few weeks earlier. I told him I would say a prayer for everyone at Ground Zero, but as hard as I tried, I couldn't make the words come. All I could do was weep. As millions of thoughts raced through my mind I began to realize that my tears of sorrow were turning to tears of joy. I knew at that moment my way of thinking would never be the same and there was no way I would be able to return home the same person I left as. Suddenly the words of my prayer flooded my mind. I took a deep breath, wiped my tears, closed my eyes, bowed my head, and began to pray quietly. "Lord, I know there was a reason for this great tragedy. Please be with everyone that has been affected by this, even in the most remote way. Thank you for this amazing opportunity for growth, not only for me, but also for the world. Amen." As I lifted my eyes I saw a sign hanging on the building across the street. There was a picture of two hands clasped in prayer and the words "Fear is not the only force at work in the world today" printed boldly across the bottom for all the world to see. "You know," I thought to myself, "they're right." I took one final look at the cross and walked away with a smile.

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