It was a ‘normal’ day. Like a magnet, Manhattan called its workers, its movers and its shakers to its shores for another full day of business and hustle. I was in Boston getting ready to go for a run. Still in a dream-state, Victor, one of my housemates turned on the circa 1980’s television in our run-down college apartment showing that an airplane had smashed into one of the World Trade Center towers.
I had been to the bar at the top many times with my college friends, Windows of the World. We liked to go there overtime we made the trip to New York from Boston. I still remember the ambiance and music. I remember my conversations with my friends. We felt we were on top of the world. It was magical.
I went for my run through Boston’s streets off Commonwealth Avenue. Victor and I ran 3-4 miles. Upon our return, the guys and gals who we shared the house were glued to the television. Another plane hit.
This was big.
Smoke was billowing out. People were jumping from the building. The New York panorama was seen from a far-away camera. It looked like Manhattan was an ailing ship being bombarded and listing. There was a silence in the room in our Boston home and a state of commotion all at the same time in Manhattan.
Then the first tower imploded directly in on itself. A blessing in disguise, for it could have toppled over onto other buildings causing even more destruction and death. Everyone was awe-struck watching the events unfold. No one knew what was going on or if we were going to keep being hit. Other planes went down. Pennsylvania and the Pentagon in D.C. were apparently part of the chaos, with planes going down. One plane crashed onto the side of the Pentagon and the other went down in a Pennsylvania farm field.
There was a sense that more was to come. I was afraid. I had class that day and got on the long train ride from the Boston University ‘ghetto’ were I lived, all the way to Park Street and out onto the outskirts of the city at UMass-Boston. School had been canceled, of course. It was a harrowing train ride. I did not know if more attacks were to come. Nobody did. They were happening in multiple states. There was tremendous tension looming in the air.
Two or three days later, my good friend Jorge Molina took it upon himself to go to Manhattan to ground zero. We thought he was crazy. Everything was smoldering. Fine dust was in the air. Everything was still raw. We asked him what his plan was. He was emphatic that he needed to go.
Jorge came back with pictures. He had gone on reconnaissance to capture what was going on, including the grieving, the first responders at work and the missing person stations with hundreds of requests written on paper and notes asking people if they had seen their husband, their wife, their girlfriend.
It was all so sad.
After that, everything changed. It was as if we all got jaded and abruptly shaken from lethargy as a country. America was under attack. Things would never be the same again. It had not been since the time of the American revolution that a foreign threat of such magnitude had physically attacked us and in such an incredible way.
My girlfriend at the time, and the mother of my children had her family in Greenwich, Connecticut. That was another sad add-on to the attack. Days would go by and people’s cars would stay at the train station in Riverside. These cars belonged to people who had died in the attack. These were Daddy’s and Mommy’s. The reverberations of that day still continue to chime in my heart.
The battle is real and initiates as a spiritual battle first before manifesting into its outward realities. It is not a battle of religion against religion, but kingdom against kingdom. The forces of love against the forces of apathy and hate.
Surely, there are those who would like to pictorialize the battle line as between Christian and Muslim. But I know better. It is a war between going to sleep and waking up in our hearts. It was a wake-up call that the world’s balance could not continue as it was, and positive and negative elements within it would not allow to continue as such.
The call to serve was heroically met in the aftermath of the attacks with many first responders, including armies of firefighters giving there all, including their health in order to save people fro the wreckage. Night and day servants of love toiled away non-stop to free total strangers. These men and women put no thought to breathing the dust in the air or how they would manage in the years to come with their health. Parts of the building were still crumbling and fires raged below ground for weeks.
These same men and women who served their community are the real action-hero’s. They don’t
usually have six-pack abs, but they have hearts of gold and an ever-readiness to be there for you and for me. Servant leaders of this kind are selfless and put others before themselves.
The attacks of 911 serve as a reminder to me that freedom is not free. It is something that has to be fought for daily and exercised. Let’s #goforth for #eachother to make life better for our communities. Life is short and fleeting and we only have this one life to live. Let’s make the best of it by loving others in word and action.