First published by New York Newsday, September 18, 2001
The assault on America has left us horrified: the grieving faces, missing-person signs, footage of our imploding towers. E-mailed news of a candlelight vigil spread as quickly as the fired burned up a once great landmark.
We can no longer doubt the human spirit when we see volunteers working through exhaustion, and people everywhere giving blood, donating money, or calling to see where they can be of service.
Perhaps I have the luxury to feel this spirit because my father is alive. He could not contact any of us until after 7 pm that evening, and I experienced a trembling fear for five hours that I cannot possibly put into words.
He witnessed the first and second attacks. He watched people on top of the towers hold hands and jump. He said the roar that filled the city when the towers imploded is a sound he will never forget. He walked from the trade center to the 59th Street Bridge into Queens. Store owners along the way offered water, food, and toilet facilities. Firehouses offered treatment for smoke inhalation. New Yorkers offered showers, rest, free clothes. Someone gave him a ride home to Rockville Centre. While this is a story of unspeakable tragedy, it is also a story that demonstrates the very best New York and people everywhere have to offer.
I am grateful my father lives to tell the tale; I am horrified because like everyone, I know firefighters, police officers, and business people who are missing.
Perhaps the human kindness to which we are all witness will outweigh the confusion, anger, and rage, and we may be able to come to terms with this tragedy someday.