My Mother remembers exactly what she was doing when JFK was assassinated. The time capsule in my head includes such hallmark memories as the nail-biting OJ verdict (“No WAY”!); Princess Diana’s elaborate funeral (I can still hear Elton John singing “Candle in the Wind”); President Obama’s momentous inauguration and of course, September 11th, 2001.
I was heading to work at Madison Square Garden that morning, congesting the streets of Manhattan with millions of other dutiful employees. It goes without saying that none of us could have predicted the darkness that evaded us that sunny day. News of the Twin Towers’ destruction spread through our offices – and the rest of the country – like an unstoppable virus. Phone lines were jammed, people panicked, and our department heads prepared for the worst. Although 4 miles stood between us and the World Trade Center, we were merely one BLOCK from the Empire State Building – another distinguishing structure in a city of celebrated landmarks.
I arrived to my small, cozy (“cozy” – a favored term used by NY real estate agents!) apartment around dusk. While engrossed in CNN for 48 consecutive hours, I was able to absorb the full extent of what transpired – and the monstrosity of it – mesmerized, frightened and appalled by the destruction of “my” city. New Yorkers can be very territorial; for as long as I can remember, the Yankees have been “our team”.
The whole city united to honor, mourn and celebrate the many heroes that emerged. I was a member of the Community Relations division, a department instrumental in coordinating the once-in-a-lifetime star-studded “Concert for New York City” – a “Who’s Who” in the entertainment world. Despite the abundance of A-listers packed into “The World’s Most Famous Arena”, all egos were put aside for this spectacular event. Working (in) the VIP Room, I stood among Bill Clinton, Mark Wahlberg, Paul McCartney and Michael J. Fox – all humbled and honored to be in the company of the men & women representing the NYPD, FDNY and EMT. For one night, the tables had turned and the celebrities were inspired by the “everyday folk”.
This is the first year that I will not be in NYC on September 11th, as I moved to the Tampa Bay area about 4 months ago. I’ve been part of the team here at KWN for less than 3 weeks and here, the term “hero” is implemented into our daily communication. Some children request trips to Disney, or tickets to see their favorite musician or ballplayer. Although they might be in awe of Mickey Mouse, Miley Cyrus or Derek Jeter, these children are the real heroes – the fighters and the relentless forces who we should be in awe of, just like the men & women who sacrificed, volunteered and assisted in an effort to reconstruct the broken pieces of their esteemed city. And so, on the anniversary of 9/11, I salute all the heroes – big and small!
HOTM Facility Coordinator