calehawley

10 Years Ago Feels Like Yesterday

In Generosity, News on September 10, 2011 at 9:47 pm

I initially wrote this on a flight back from New York City a months after 9/11. I know there are some typos, bad grammar, etc. But I wrote it with raw emotion and initially only shared it with friends, colleagues, and family. Last year I published it on my Facebook page. Ten years later, I share it with you. Always remember. Never forget. Live a life of love and gratitude.

GROUND ZERO

We truly are lucky. I am not speaking in terms of the fact that we were not in the trade towers, or aboard one of the planes that went down on that fateful September morning, now etched in the mind of us all forever. I am speaking of the fact that we live amongst such great people, who will not allow the monsters of the world to win. I recently had the opportunity to visit “Ground Zero. While it was from a distance, it was still a site that I will never forget. Though we have all seen the photos on TV and in the papers and magazines, nothing compares to the site in person. How devastating. Some friends and I were in New York for training. We had a free night and decided to go and pay our respects. We exited the subway tunnel at City Hall and the Brooklyn Bridge. Like lost sheep we wandered the streets of downtown Manhattan. Desperately looking for a familiar street to take us to the twin towers, we accidentally stumbled onto what was to be the most surreal site we had ever laid eyes on. If any of you have ever been to Manhattan, you know that literally everywhere you look, you see buildings, cutting into the sky like a dagger. However, we saw something different. The most empty space in downtown New York City. Its strange you know, before the tragedy, any subway tunnel in downtown Manhattan was in the shadow of the powerful towers. We emerged from the tunnel like sailors with no map. No north star to guide us to our destination. We walked the streets of downtown Manhattan asking the locals for directions to streets that we were familiar with. Nobody could tell us where these streets were. We finally decided to ask people where the site was, when all of the sudden we looked up, and what we were looking for was right in front of our eyes. There we could see the memorials laid out on the fence of St. Paul’s Cathedral. This building in its self is amazing. It has not only withstood the tests of time, but the many wars it has seen, not to mention that amongst the ruble and dust of the WTC towers, there is not even a speck of dust on its virgin white pillars. We quickly walked past the memorials against the sturdy, rot-iron fence. A man wielding Sharpie markers greeted us. He was handing them out, inviting us all to scribe something on a piece of canvass in memory to the fallen. My buddy Todd and I stand there speechless. You can hear the clicking of the pen lids, as we struggle for any profound statement. Todd handed his pen back to the man, and said, “I’ll come back, I can’t think of anything right now.” I simply wrote, “Peace and Love from Texas”. You know it’s amazing; I can talk about it all day long from Texas. I can express my feeling for the fallen, but in the phantom shadows of the fallen towers, I am literally speechless. We then proceeded to the blockades were you can see the fallen buildings. NYC finest immediately greets us, two members of the NYPD. Flashbulbs clicking everywhere, video cameras rolling, as the people there to pay their respects hoped to take some kind of memento home with them. The blinding flood lights now shine on the leaning facades of the WTC as the heavy equipment pick up the gigantic steel girders to load up the trucks that will carry the debris away. A friendly bystander approaches the two men dressed in blue with a tray full of coffee. He simply says, “Thought you guys could use some coffee.” The two officers thanked him emphatically as the sipped their coffee. The man then expressed, “No thank you, for all you do to keep this world a safe place.” Amazing!!! The warmth of the hearts at the site is simply amazing. My friend Lawrence then shared stories with us about his memories of WTC. He had been at the trade center only seven short days before the tragedy. He spoke repeatedly about a fountain that was between the Towers and how there was a huge rock there that had been carved into a beautiful geometric shape. He spoke of how he had just run his hands through the water so leisurely. He then wondered what had become of the fountain. We then moved back to the memorials left by the victim’s family and friends and people from all over the world. At first I had been afraid to read any of them. I finally found the strength from within to peruse them. I was immediately touched. The tears became harder to hold back. As my cheeks became more and more damp, I decided to kneel and pray. As I knelt, the only words that came to me was, “Dear Heavenly Father….” That is all I could muster. Dear Heavenly Father. Why is it that something that touched me so deeply could not warrant more than that? The truth is simply this; God knew what I was praying about. Later I realized that it says in the Bible that God answers your prayers before you can even get the words out. As we left the site, we all had mixed feelings. A once jocular group of friends now somber and almost catatonic. I could almost envision what it must have been like to be trapped in all of the dust and smoke of the fallen towers. I could picture the thousands of people walking across the Brooklyn Bridge, trying to get to safety. What a site. I hope that we never have to see anything else like that as long as we shall live. I hope our children and our children’s children never have to see such a site ever again. I hope…

I am glad that I got to visit the site. I am glad that I am still free to tell the tale and share it all with you. I am glad that I got to pay my respects. Closure? I am not sure anyone can truly get closure from something this catastrophic. I do know this. None of us should ever take life for granted. This life is a blur. It is easy to get caught up in all of the hustle and bustle of the world. Just remember that life is fragile, and you should live every day as it were your last. Love as if you may never love again.

The friends you have today, may you always keep them in your prayers. May you always keep your family in your prayers and never let petty differences come between you and loved ones.

It is easy to think of friends and family when you pray, but this is my challenge to you. The next time you pray, please remember the victims of the September 11th tragedy. Remember the mothers, the fathers, sisters, brothers, the sons and the daughters, the cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents, and friends of the victims. Remember the troops over seas that are fighting for our freedom from terror. Remember the men and women who risk their lives for the safety of yours in your hometown wherever that may be. Remember to pray for our country’s leaders as they make policy to keep us free.

But most importantly, remember to pray. Even if all you can muster is “Dear Heavenly Father…”, God will know what you are praying for.

Cale Hawley

Amarillo, TX

November 28, 2001

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