A Day of Prayer & Remembrance

On Thursday, September 13, 2001, I traveled by foot and bus--along with thousands of other New Yorkers--to Union Square, a well-known park on 14th St. in the heart of Manhattan. It is situated about 30 blocks from "Ground Zero'. This historic gathering place--long consecrated throughout the last century with protests and spontaneous demonstrations--sits at the border beyond which no civilian could any longer travel to lower Manhattan.

Not surprisingly it became a natural magnet for New Yorkers seeking to communicate, commiserate and console one another after the attack on the World Trade Center.

I entered the park from the uptown end. Anxiously I looked around initially fearful that it had been a wild goose chase. Then I picked out a milling, eerily quiet gathering of people at the opposite or downtown end of the park. A woman I had met on the bus--like myself another turned-away blood donor and volunteer--was also going to `the memorial', and she cradled a blood red bouquet of roses for those killed.

I had no flowers, but I brought a notebook. In times of crises we return to what we know. I have been a news reporter for at least half my life.

The two of us didn't really know much, only that some NYU students--also frustrated volunteers-- late the day before, Wednesday, had taped long rectangles of butcher paper on the ground, and that people in the park had begun writing on them.

I had brought a pen. So had my new acquaintance.

As the two of us joined the hushed and milling throng we shook hands and said, `Goodbye.' Without saying it we both understood that privacy was part of our need.

I knelt down with those squatting or sitting in front of a 12-ft. high plaster pillar, naked wire resembling a torch flowing out of its top.

On its front in silver glitter someone had glued the letters:
To The Victims of Terrorist Attacks.

No one seemed to know when, but sometime later an unknown person had wired to it, a long rectangular piece of World Trade Tower Two.

In front of this pillar floated a sea of candles, small US flags, bouquets of roses by the dozens, many still in their cellophane wrappers, and single flowers of every kind. Spreading out from these were messages. They were Bold like headlines or artfully drawn like Murals. There were also notes--some short, some long--printed or scrawled in every color pen, ranging from sentences to headlines to poems to long rambling outpourings. Many included quotations of every kind and they were written in all the languages of all the people who comprise this American melting pot: Chinese, Hebrew, Japanese, Arabic, Russian, Spanish, and many more.

It would be awhile before I realized that these messages spread out from this
Center in a hodge podge in every direction and that they numbered in the thousands.

All around me people were crying.  They were young and old, Black and White and Asian. A young girl with wicker wings tied to her back asked if I needed a hug. I did. But I said I didn't. Hours later, at the end of my travel through this many chambered heart of the city's collective wound, I hugged  a compete stranger. It was the only thing to do.

As I walked around I jotted down, at random, some of the notes inscribed there. It is my great honor to share them with you. When they are signed I have included those names.

"Gentlemen may cry `Peace, Peace'--but there is no peace."
                            Patrick Henry

Dear NYC,
    I've lived here for a year, and I didn't think I was from here till this week. With  Love and Remembrance to All.

ROB TIPALDI
RICH CAGGIANO
JUDI SAFI

Together in School
Together in Work
Together in Heaven

Capt. Brown of Ladder Co.3.
Pray for him and his men.
            YLF 9-13-2001

UNFORGIVABLE

This is just too much grief for my mind to process.
Robert Wagner Garden and All the things I love are gone and thousands of people died while I watched.
Why was I spared?
How can I go on?
                Janet Wolfman
                Sept. 12, 2001

Love Bears All Things
Endures Forever
God Is Love

This Won't Stop New York!

Fear the Evil Within
Before Evil Without

Bomb the Taliban Now!!!!!!

If you hate, they've Won!

God Bless America
Land That I Love
Stand Beside Her
And Guide Her

THEY FAILED

Make Their Countries Parking Lots.
                      Vietnam Vet

What would the DaliLama say?

Towers are small
Love is Infinite
No Day But Today

[Drawing of a Dog]
Spot, Protector of All New Yorkers, sez:
New York will bounce
Back stronger than ever
Arf Arf Arf

[As I watched, a father read this to
his 7-year-old son]

My Heart Will Hurt Forever
            Joe

WE WILL NOT BE MOVED

Peace is the God's One Love

To ALL Americans
Russia Feel Your Pain
        Igor, Alina, Olga, Oleg

There can be no world peace without YOU

"Live" is a verb

Bible quotes, "And God shall wipe away
All tears from their eyes..."
                Rev. 21:4

Let us not into Temptation
And fall in the hands of
The Greatest Enemy
HATE

Don't Give Up People,
Still life down there
        Signed with a Chinese Ideogram

[Enclosed inside  a heart]
USA  all the Way and a cross

We Must Love Each Other or Die

As I watched those buildings fall,
 A part of me died with you.
New York is my home and you--though I
did not know you personally--were
My brothers and sisters. We have
been dealt a serious blow, but we
are not defeated.
God Bless You Families.
                Reggie Liu

I believe in the American Liberty
            Camilla Wasclay

We all lost thousand of relatives

[As I watch a woman kneels and writes]
Scotty you are in our thought and prayers

This is the first time in my life I prayed
For people I didn't know.
                Nash

[Red & White Roses and Bluebells lie
Across a  long butcher paper sheet of
Messages]

Light a candle in your heart but do not
Fuel the anger

Today My Heart Has Been Touched
 By The Spirit Of A Nation

WHY?

Arab & Jew
Catholic & Protestant
EveryFucking Body!
Let's stop fighting and
Sit down and have a pint
            XOX

I'm not ready to kill
I'm not ready to die
To Be Honest, I'm hardly
Ready to Live
And I'm running out of time

[An origami bird with print on
the wings]
Not one More life Should be taken [on the left wing]
[on the right wing] Say it Again

We Shall Overcome

Shanti Shanti Shanti

[Scattered among the message papers
were Red Cross Flyers: Advice For Stress]

They will not stop us
They are cowards
And must pay
For what they have done
            FR

Don't blame the entire Arab world
They were born into this mess.
Just like everyone else.

Heroes are created
Everyday when ordinary people
Risk their lives for others.
In remembrance for all that risked

They All must pay
They All must die

[Hebrew script by one writer;
then another writer's
English translation]

Peace will yet come to Us
and to
Everyone

[white roses lay on this]

My Name is BRIANNA
MIGNaNO and I am 6 years old.
I would like to tell all the
Mommies not to cry.
We will pray for
your missing children.

I feel as Blue as this piece of paper

To All Victim's Families
I am deeply sorry.
I was shocked when I heard what
happened.
It's shocking!
In school no one told us
what was wrong.
That made it scarier.
When we finally found out that the twin towers
were gone it was shocking.
It turns out we knew someone on the plane.
My Mom was friends with her and her husband.
He wasn't on the plane.
They also have a dog.
The day it happened there were roses
and candles outside their apartment building.
They lived near us so we saw it before we
knew she was on the plane.
Again, I am truly sorry for all your losses.
            Sincerely,
            Sabrina
            11 years old

Lehman Brothers
1 WTC, 38th to 40th Floor
Programmers. Call us and let
us know you got out too. I
Love you guys.
            Pamela

Tears of Blood Fall On Our City
            Katheryn Winnick

[a large mural with columns of
colorful stick figures of many races
except for two columns in the middle
which are  empty and white]

We are Still Standing

Our Hearts Mourn and Our Souls Weep

For Heather HO, Windows on the World
Pastry chef, Fred and Family.
We are with
You wherever you are.
                Love, LG 9/13/01

ALOHA

[On a pillar by the subway tunnel,
people taped  pictures of missing friends
and relatives]

Letter to Margaret Echterman:
We will see you again on Earth or in Heaven

I ended my time in the memorial by sitting
off  to one side on a construction lumber pile and
listening to a lone bagpipe.
The woman who played wore shorts and a black
Ghostbusters T-shirt . Somewhat like the shrine,
she at first appeared a most motley mourner.
But as I watched her pace and listened to her mournful piping,
 I realized No one much cared what she looked like.
 The tears wept in response to her music were all that mattered.

This is my offering to America's Day of  Prayer and Remembrance
Please pass it along.

**I wrote this 3 days after the attack on my hometown and it has traveled around the world several times over.

Tags: 9/11, Manhattan, People's Memorial, September 2001, Union Square (all tags)

Comments

27 Comments

Beautiful Lin!

by psychodrew 2008-09-11 07:15AM | 0 recs
Re: Beautiful Lin!

thanks drew :) miss yu

by linfar 2008-09-11 07:55AM | 0 recs
Our leadership has failed us.

I just watched the coverage of that day as it was rerun on MSNBC.  I had not done that since then, and it put me through the whole experience over again.

On September 11, 2001 I was in Toronto, Canada getting ready to catch a flight home to Utah.  Donna was at home with the kids and managed to get me on the phone and tell me what was going on, just before 10:30 ET.  As I turned on the TV, the second World Trade Center tower collapsed.  Before Donna and I got off the phone I spoke to my five year old son, reassuring him that Mommy and Daddy and the big people around him would make sure he was safe.  

As the day went on, I managed to get ahold of a friend in Manhattan and began to track down the other friends and family who live and work in downtown New York, my cousins who fly for American Airlines and United.  By the following day I had found them all safe with the exception of my coworker Suzanne Calley - a person I only knew as a bright and ironic voice on the phone - who had been on the plane that struck the Pentagon.  I would later find out that she had spent the flight calling her friends and family saying goodbye.  Sitting next to her that day was a five year old girl.

I had been dismayed at the end of 2000 when George Bush was elected.  He seemed like a charicature of a presidential candidate.  That day seven years ago, I, like most Americans, seethed and sobbed and stared at the sky in bewilderment and inasmuch as I gave him thought I placed my trust in George Bush to do whatever was necessary to address this.  To step up and lead us.

As President Bush spoke to us in the days after September 11, 2001, I listened and I nodded and I believed in him.  As our military took the battle to Al Qaeda and the pathetic "government" that provided support to them, I willed them to succeed.  When President Bush made it clear that we would be taking on Saddam Hussein I hung my head, got a grip on the fact that it was unstoppable, and willed myself to provide what verbal and intellectual support for that action that I could.  After enormous angst and indecision, I extended my trust in George Bush in 2004, hoping that the path that we had set ourselves on could still come to something that could be called a positive end.

In the years following 2001 many of my thoughts for how we would succeed in these two efforts have been eroded away against the sands of events.  We did not, as I had hoped, follow up the initial destruction of the Taliban with a massive effort to make that country a stable counter-example for what it had become.  We did not, as I had hoped, follow up the initial invasion of Iraq with a massive effort to stabilize that country and demonstrate to its people that theirs could be a better future.

We did not capture Osama Bin Laden.  

We are still at war in Iraq.

I place these failures at the feet of George W. Bush.  I looked to him to guide us from the days following September 11, 2001 to a time when we could feel safe, when we could be proud of our nation, when we could stand tall in the world as something other than the pariah the animals who flew those planes and their supporters thought us to be.

He has failed us.  

He has failed me, he has failed my son, he has failed my daughters.  He has failed Suzanne Calley.  He has failed the children who stood at Ground Zero today and talked about the parents they remember only as abstract figures from their earliest memories.  He has failed the people who wrote the notes that you found.

Enough.

-chris

by chrisblask 2008-09-11 07:15AM | 0 recs
Seven years ago today...

I was at school. It seemed like a normal day... Until first period began, and the teacher turned on the radio and told us all what had happened in New York and Arlington, VA. Later on, we found out about the plane crash in Pennsylvania. And from then on, there was shock & panic dominating over all of us at school all day. Even though we were over 3,000 miles away in Orange County, CA, some of us had family in these areas... So everyone was on edge.

Oddly enough, 9/11 began my political awakening. Before then, I was taught by my parents & my church (the high school I was at was religious, and part of this church) to be a good far-right Republican. But in the days after 9/11 when everyone was calling for "REVENGE!!", I remember the Afghan feminists urging us NOT to bomb their country just so one group of tyrants (Taliban) could be replaced with another (the northern rebels). I remember Barbara Lee being the ONLY voice of reason in Congress, asking her colleagues and our nation not to rush to war & forsake the values we were supposed to be fighting for. I remember seeing a group of victims in New York gather for a peace vigil & beg us not to kill innocent people in their name.

At first, I thought I was crazy for not seeking revenge the way so many others seemed to want. Then, I was perplexed when we all forgot Afghanistan as the drumbeats for war in Iraq began. And later on, I became angry when I found out about the July & August 2001 memos warning about al-Qaeda's plans to attack, President Clinton's outgoing national security team BEGGING Bush's incoming team in late 2000 to take al-Qaeda's threat seriously, and the EPA not warning New Yorkers about the health hazards of the pollution caused by the debris shortly after 9/11. When it occurred to me that the GOP was using 9/11 to scare Americans into submission, I turned away... And in 2005 became the first member of my family to register to vote as a DEMOCRAT.

by atdleft 2008-09-11 07:51AM | 0 recs
Re: Seven years ago today...

Hi Andrew,

it changed a lot of lives. I left Manhattan which I had been threatening to do for years. So many of us just woke up on that day. whatever yu want to do, do it. there are no guarantees how long yu will be around. Keep up the good work...

by linfar 2008-09-11 07:57AM | 0 recs
I understand your perspective

and in many many ways time has proven you right.

I don't know that the evil of war in Afghanistan had to outweigh the evil of the Taliban, but it certainly did not need to turn out as it has.

Iraq was the ultimate failure in leadership.  The moment Bush spoke the words it was clear to me that there was no turning back, but he is the one who chose to set that course.  Having set that course, he doomed all three nations (and more) to failure.

by chrisblask 2008-09-11 08:04AM | 0 recs
Re: Our leadership has failed us.

Hi chris,

One of the things that was so memorable to me about that day and that week--is it was not politicized. We were all just americans struggling to deal with the greatest loss of life on American soil ever. New Yorkers reached out to each other in ways I would never have expected or even hoped. The Republicans eventually politicized it mercilessly and I will never forgive '9/11' Guiliani and 'get all the mileage yu can out of it' Bush.

by linfar 2008-09-11 08:02AM | 0 recs
Absolutely

There was a moment - as you say, a week - when all of that was forgotten.  Literally all of the world  came together (except for Saddam, who held celebrations - just want to dig him up and smack him silly...).  

In the earliest actions and words of the President that week were the seeds of the failure that has followed.  He has wasted so much more than can be put into words.

-best

-chris

by chrisblask 2008-09-11 08:10AM | 0 recs
Re: Absolutely

Yes, Chris--that was what was so completely unforgiveable about the cynical and murderous Bush response--he turned the world, and rightly so, against us.

by linfar 2008-09-11 08:12AM | 0 recs
Re: Our leadership has failed us.

man chris your last paragraph is powerful.

Bush has failed us. When we were at our most vulnerable we trusted him to lead.

He betrayed that trust.

by alyssa chaos 2008-09-11 08:36AM | 0 recs
I know life is hard, I know leadership is

tough.  I cut people a shitload of slack, I don't expect perfection.

But for the love of little yellow duckies, I've had it with this guy and his cronies.

"Sen. McCain, would you have Dick Cheney in your cabinet?"

Sen. McCain: "Hell, yeah!"

It isn't a metaphorical "same thing", it's the Same Damn Thing!

by chrisblask 2008-09-11 03:22PM | 0 recs
Re: A Day of Prayer & Remembrance

Very moving diary Lin.  Thanks for helping us remember.

by Steve M 2008-09-11 08:08AM | 0 recs
Re: A Day of Prayer & Remembrance

thanks for commenting Steve. Love your sig line. My Mom is dying and it has put this electioneering in a whole new light. Yuck!!

by linfar 2008-09-11 08:10AM | 0 recs
Re: A Day of Prayer & Remembrance

I cant remember alot of things but after 7 years I can still remember the exact place I was when I saw the towers go down.

Ms. Bell's 2nd period English class.

For alot of millenials this was really the first major event that we were old enough to understand and even then I couldn't understand how this could happen.

At the time of the attacks I lived on what felt like the other side of the world. We didnt know what any of this meant. Hardly anybody knew what the WTCs were used for or that they existed before that point.

We sat in silence that day. We weren't expected to do any class work. We tried to understand the gravity of it all. We just watched. We watched our teachers cry, which only scared us even more. We thought we could be next. What? Paranoia. Fear. Sadness. We sat in silence.


my heart goes out to all those who were lost and to those who lost someone.

I remember.

by alyssa chaos 2008-09-11 08:23AM | 0 recs
Re: A Day of Prayer & Remembrance

Hi Alyssa,

Yes. it is important to remember--and without all the politicizing that now wraps that horrific time in its partisan aims. For a little while that catastrophe brought out the best that is in us as humans.

by linfar 2008-09-11 08:34AM | 0 recs
Fighting the war on terror since that day

Don't let the terror that the 9/11 attackers introduced into our lives become even bigger than the horrific events of that day.

Don't let our legal rights be jeopardized as part of a backlash over terrorists' cowardly actions.

Don't let our personal privacy be unnecessarily invaded by agents of our own government citing the need to prevent further attacks.

Don't let Big Oil manipulate our desire for revenge to divert attention from Bin Laden to Iraq's oil fields.

Don't let America's respected status around the world be lost through a foreign policy increasingly dependent on military suppression.

The explosions, collapses, crashes, deaths, heartbreaks, injuries and national violation that transpired on that cruelly crisp fall morning were only part of the attack envisioned by the terrorists. Terrorists aim to plant terror in the hearts of their victims, to eat away at them for years to come. The more insidious aspects of the extremists' plot are the doubt, fear and suspicion that still course through this country's veins.

Every time we surrender to our fears and accept another loss of liberty, justify another irrelevant act of aggression, or condone injustice in the name of revenge, we are only prolonging the attacks that started on this morning eight years ago.

by greenvtster 2008-09-11 08:23AM | 0 recs
Re: A Day of Prayer & Remembrance

New Yorkers themselves were not fearful. the people there responded with a gallantry and heroism that lasted for days. It was for new Yorkers the worst of times and PARADOXICALLY the best because we became a village of lovers and helpers.

by linfar 2008-09-11 08:37AM | 0 recs
that's America for you...

always strongest in moments where most fear.

Rereading this a month later, I don't think those WTC programmers have their jobs anymore...

unintentional irony, I know...

by RisingTide 2008-10-15 09:34AM | 0 recs
Thank you Lin

I was born in New York, Queens to be exact.  This is where my Mother's family came to America to make their lives better.  It has a history.

We cannot forget and we will not forget.  I will never get those images out of my mind as I sat in amazement and watched the events unfold, live, on my TV.  Surreal.  It can't be happening.  It did.

by Ellinorianne 2008-09-11 09:52AM | 0 recs
Re: Thank you Lin

Yes. it did. And it will.

by linfar 2008-09-11 11:09AM | 0 recs
A fine sentiment

On the anniversary of a very somber day indeed.

by Reaper0Bot0 2008-09-11 10:09AM | 0 recs
Re: A Day of Prayer & Remembrance

Thanks reaper. Hard to believe it has been seven years...

by linfar 2008-09-11 11:08AM | 0 recs
Re: A Day of Prayer & Remembrance

Remembering September 11, 2001 (+)
by: Hollede
Thu Sep 11, 2008 at 15:32:17 PM EDT
[edit diary]

Lin, thank you for bringing us to the real. I cannot watch the news on this day, and have not been able since 2001. Anything they do seems to cheapen the memory.
I was at a training in Duluth that day (four days actually), learning how to conduct forensic interviews with children who may have been sexually molested. This was very early in my career as a CP investigator.

During our midmorning break, many of us started getting phone calls. None of us knew what was going on, and as we wondered if we were at war, our trainers finally called us back in to continue. We got bits and pieces throughout the day, and we all  tried to call family and friends when able. We finished early that day, and I rushed back to my hotel to watch the news for the rest of the evening. I remember thinking how the inconceivable had been happening with greater frequency, as of late.

Hollede :: Remembering September 11, 2001

The pain I felt for all of those people who died, and the fear I felt for our nation and world that day, was only intensified by the response from our government. bush seemed small, frightened, and ridiculous. When he sat for so long with that child after he knew what had happened, and looked like a blinking deer in the headlights when he finally spoke to the nation; the full force of the tragedy that had befallen our country, hit me hard.
Not just the horrors of that day, but the horrors of a nation robbed of it's actual President. I am convinced that this catastrophe would never have happened under a Gore Administration. And if it had, I am even more certain President Gore would have led us through the past seven years, in a wholly different direction than we have all had to endure.

My rage at this buffoon that currently occupies the White House is beyond words. He has taken all of us to the brink of destruction. bush had a lot of help of course. Twelve years of republican control of the House of Representatives and eight years of a Senate too close to be effective. The result? Madness.

Madness that will only continue if we allow John McCain and Sarah Palin near the White House. Have we not yet learned our lesson?  

Crossposted as a diary at Motley Moose

by Hollede 2008-09-11 11:37AM | 0 recs
Re: A Day of Prayer & Remembrance

Thanks for your comment hollede. So hard to remember now what it was like that day. I thought it would stay with me forever.  I recall now standing about 8 pm at the corner of Houston and 6th Ave and looking uptown. I could not see one car or one pedestrian. It was like one of those movies about the end of the world.
by linfar 2008-09-11 12:59PM | 0 recs
Re: A Day of Prayer & Remembrance

I cannot imagine what you must have been going through, it was hard enough half-way across the country.

by Hollede 2008-09-11 01:30PM | 0 recs
Re: A Day of Prayer & Remembrance

Thank you for this diary. My thoughts to you folks, especially those who lived in the NYC/Penn/WashDC areas immediately after the attack.

The thing I remember about this day 7 years ago was the sureal nature of it. I could look out of the window to a beautiful September day. The only worries that I had that morning were finding and feeding the chickens and what to fix for lunch. My son was with me and okay. I could see outside the window as the images from NewYork were being broadcast on the tv screen. For a moment it was just so unreal what I was seeing on the television.

Unthinkable.

I'm sorry that the America that was unified after September 11th has in someway left and been replaced with anger and fatigue.

Even so. I am proud to be American.

I know that some folks seem to think that one political party or the other owns that phrase but they don't. If you're a citizen of the United States, you are an American. TrueBlue.

We can all be proud to be American regardless of our opinions on taxes, the war, healthcare, etc.

We are all Americans.

by 12 dogs and a blog 2008-09-11 07:01PM | 0 recs
I had a friend

He made it out by walking all the way to New Jersey.  He said he just couldn't seem to make himself stop.  After - he dropped all his old friends, moved halfway across the country.  I guess he didn't want anything that reminded him.

Beautiful remembrance, Linfar.    

by The Fat Lady Sings 2008-09-11 08:28PM | 0 recs

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