Tuesday, September 11, 2007

A Tale of Two Men....

Today is the 6th anniversary of the terrorist attacks that have become known simply by the date 9/11.
I remember walking out to feed the horses that horrific morning only to be surprised by clouds and the distant smell of rain. Curious if the weather forecast had been revised, I turned on the television to witness a living nightmare. Television cameras were focused on the Tower One of the World Trade Center as billowing smoke poured from the raw wound where the plane had hit. I watched in confusion as the news man tried to explain what he was witnessing – and could not find the words to describe it. Then, without warning, a second huge jet came out of the blue sky and slammed into the other Tower and a fireball exploded from the facade. Then came the Pentagon.....the collapse of Tower Two....the collapse of Tower One, and word of the end of Flight 93 in that Pennsylvania field.
Throughout the remainder of that terrible day, my staff and I witnessed the continuous broadcasts and endless re-plays of the planes appearing out of nowhere, the slow crumbling of the towers, the raging fire at the pentagon, and the numbed faces of the survivors. Yet, despite seeing it over and over again, it was impossible to truly comprehend.
At the same time as I was watching the news on television, far away in New York City, one of my clients, a man named John was actually living the nightmare. John worked for Morgan Stanley and had been sent to New York City for a training seminar to be held on the 72nd floor of Tower Two. John had arrived in New York the day before and checked into the hotel across the street. He was issued a security key card to access the building and arrived bright and early on September 11th. John was standing at the window with another employee looking at Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty when a dull bang reverberated through the building. Minutes later, papers and other debris began to drift down in front of the window. Neither John nor his companion knew what had happened. They were soon joined by other employees who wondered aloud if they shouldn't leave the building. Because Tower One was behind Tower Two neither John, nor the other employees could see the gaping hole and the billowing smoke. As the employees wondered what to do, loudspeakers in the building began to advise them to remain calm and stay where they were – Tower Two was not affected. However, John’s companion remained nervous and ultimately decided he would rather be on the street than in the building. John and he made their way to a stairwell and started down. It was a decision that saved his life.
As they reached the landing of the 50th floor, the building was suddenly rocked and the smell of jet fuel assailed their senses. At that point they realized they had to get out and hurried down the stairs, all the while being joined by more and more people all seeking the way out. After nearly thirty minutes of steadily moving downward, they reached the street, pushed their way onto the street, and raced toward the plaza. As he walked onto the plaza, John was confused by a large reddish spray across the concrete and what looked to be a bundle of paint covered rags. Slowly his brain deciphered what he was seeing and he turned and ran. As he neared a side street, a low rumble filled the air, distant at first, then building until his entire world was a defining roar. He turned and watched as Tower Two crumbled in slow motion. And as the building fell, a choking cloud of plaster rushed toward him faster than he could run. Blackness covered him and he fought to breath in the thick plaster. When the light slowly returned, John started to walk. He heard Tower One fall, but his mind was too shocked to totally comprehend it. He started to go back to the hotel, but it, too, was gone. John wandered for the next ten hours. He had no cell phone (it was back at the hotel) and no way to let his wife and son know he was alive. When he finally was able to place a call, he had no words to tell them what he had witnessed.
Three thousand miles away, in Clovis, California, Dave McDonald, the CEO of Pelco, Inc. (Pelco makes all those surveillance cameras we see everywhere) was deeply affected by the overwhelming loss of firefighters, law enforcement officers, soldiers, and the innocent passengers of the fated air craft. He resolved to help in any way he could. His company supplied the cameras that where initially used in the search of the rubble.
But Dave wanted to do more. He decided to build a memorial to those who sacrificed their lives. But he wanted to let the friends and families of the victims know that California cared about their lost loved ones and he wanted to honor those victims be remembering their families. So he invited survivors their families, and the families of those who had been lost, to attend the dedication ceremony at his expense. Dave ultimately paid the way for 1,150 New York Police Officers, Firefighters, Port Authority Officers and others to fly to Fresno via a chartered Boeing 747 and other commercial flights. A huge dedication ceremony was planned with California Highway Patrol, Fresno Sheriff and Fresno Police officers, Clovis Police officers and various California government officials and celebrities. The general public was invited. The ceremony on March 13th was a time for remembrance. Pelco continues to maintain a museum on site of artifacts and photos from the terrorist attacks.
Today it was only fitting that Kenny and I went to the Pelco Memorial and witnessed the laying of a wreath to honor those who lived through that day and those who died that day, never knowing why or who was behind it. My prayers are with them all.


Yarnhog said...

What a moving post. It seems everyone knows someone who was directly affected.

Suzanne said...

Wow, what a wonderful post. It brought tears to my eyes. Its so hard to comprehend what happened. All those innocent people.

CatBookMom said...

My heart is hurting right now, after reading your lovely post about John's experience. Thank you for writing it. It was truly a miracle that so many of the people in the Towers survived.