( I wrote this note to a few friends late on the evening of 5/23, after a business trip to NYC )
While it's fresh in my mind, I want to share something. It's late, I'm tired, but I can't sleep because I'm still struck emotionally by what I'm about to talk about.
You all know me, and you know how 'unlike me' this kind of seriousness and emotion is. Take that into consideration as you read this, let it add weight to what I say here. It comes from my heart. Here goes, as best I can .
I spent all day today ( 5/23 ) in a meeting room in a building at 1 Broadway, Manhattan, on the 10th floor, on a consulting job. This is down in Battery Park, at the base of the Financial District, right at the very lowest ( southern ) point of Manhattan, at the very edge of the water.
From my chair in the meeting, I looked directly out the window over the bay ( totally clear line of sight, not a single building in the way ). Clear view across the bay, edge to edge, on a beautiful clear mild sunny breezy day. Squarely, proudly standing, in the middle of the bay - the Statue of Liberty. I stared at it all day, from that incredible vantage point. This alone was stunning enough, bar all else.
This building is about 400 - 500 yards from 'Ground Zero', of 9/11 infamy. The World Trade Centers.
Some people I met with today literally watched the planes fly in over head on that day. They could not see the impact because of other buildings, but they heard and saw the planes immediately prior to the footage that the rest of us saw on TV, heard the impact, lost friends and co-workers and loved ones and homes and families, lived through the aftermath, etc.
After the meetings, I had a few hours to walk around NYC before heading back to the airport. I walked just a few blocks uptown to the World Trade Center site. I simply could not 'not do this', not after looking at The Statue of Liberty all day. I had to go see for myself, while I had the chance. I want to share what I saw, for those who do not have the opportunity.
Of course, there's nothing to see now but a square city block of construction work, all fenced off and mainly hidden from view. Several of the buildings around it are boarded up, wrapped in construction cloth while they are repaired, etc.
What I want to tell you is this.
I stood on the sidewalk, behind a barrier, silently contemplating. Around me was an ever changing ebb and flow of all kinds of people, both NYC natives, representatives in uniform of all the branches of our armed services, tourists from all over the world, etc.
At first I was struck by the overall scene, and the thoughts that go with it.
In my silent contemplation, at some point it dawned on me that I heard no human voices, only traffic and construction noises, although I was standing in a crowd of people. I realized that this is because everyone around me, no matter where they were from or what brought them there, was in the same private silent contemplation.
I watched as planes flew in the distance. It was easy, almost unavoidable, to allow distance and light to distort my spacial perception so as to make it appear as if they, too, were going to fly into the buildings on the other side of 'the hole'.
I watched them ' fly behind one building ' and then re-appear, seemingly headed towards the other matching tall building, just as we all watched the second plane that hit the WTC. There were times when I shuddered involuntarily. There were moments when I almost wanted to run and hide.
There is a little cemetery right behind the place where I was standing. There are two large trees in it. The cemetery is covered for blocks with tokens of caring from around the world - flags, placards, momentos, notes of caring, etc.
Then I heard something else, right in the heart of the incredible, stunningly loud, 'silence in the middle of chaos'. In the trees, there were birds.
I heard the birds singing. Too many to count. A continuous chorus, a cacophony and a veritable din, a symphony and a wall of carefully orchestrated music, of such complexity and simplicity and beauty that only Nature itself can create, and that Man can only feebly attempt to appreciate.
As my mind focused on this, the symphony of the birds seemingly grew louder and louder, so loud that it seemed at that moment almost to drown out all other sound.
The birds, of all kinds, were all around - in the trees, flying down to the street and the sidewalk in between the people, pecking for food, filling the air, and 'just being birds', as is their nature.
I could only stand in awe, and let it flow over me, and through me, and be overwhelmed by the joyous natural expression of life, renewing itself and growing and living, as it always does.
Life. Renewal. Hope. Nature restoring itself. Healing. These thoughts were overwhelming, stunning, palpable, inescapable.
This is what I heard there today. I heard the seedling of the future as it grows among the ruins, growing even now as I write this. I heard the indomitable spirit of this country.
I want to tell you that today I saw, heard, and felt in my heart, the healing, the hope, the determination that 'nothing is going to stop us', that is driving NYC, and America, ahead today.
Those of you who were sitting near me that day on 9/11, that watched it with me, all recall how devastated we all were.
I wanted to tell you that I have now personally been there, and seen not only the result of 9/11 ( in it's current state ), but I truly believe I have seen the future in progress. We as a people, represented by the incredible people of NYC ( my ex-home town ), have already started the process of 'moving on towards the future', of renewal and rebuilding.
I am not the crying type, generally, but I admit that on 9/11, I shed a few. I tell you now that I have done it again today, not because of the tragedy of 9/11, but because of the beauty of the hope, the determination, the fortitude, the invincible belief and utter conviction that ' we shall overcome even this' that I witnessed today, that I was enveloped by and swallowed up by today.
How out of character is this letter for me ? You tell me. Then think about how deeply I must have been touched by what I saw today, and felt in my heart today, and saw in our future today, how real it must have been, how overpoweringly true, for someone like me to write something like this.
If you disbelieve the power of it, then take a little time, take a couple of dollars ( it's really not that much - $ 200 round trip from here in Raleigh ), and go find out. It only takes a day and $ 200.
Thanks for reading this. I felt I had to share it.
I shall now return to being my normal curmudgeonly self -)
Please feel free to pass this on to anyone you might care to. I do not care if you put my name on it or not. I hereby place this in the public domain for anyone who might care to share it with others.