Out of respect for the victims of 9/11 and the impact that tragedy had on the lives of so many Americans FoS will be silent today beyond this single solitary post. While our passionate devotion to Cleveland Sports and the Ohio State Buckeyes is ever present and obvious, it is days like today and the frightful day 12 years ago that put things in perspective that we too often lack. Following the Browns defeat last week for many their minds were focused on replacing Brandon Weeden or O’Neill Cousins. As the Indians play jump rope with the “in contention/out of contention line” we spend time talking about attendance, payroll and bullpen usage as if we are talking about our children. As the Cavalier’s season is just around the corner we pontificate on the health of Andrew Bynum’s knees, Kyrie Irving’s dedication to defense Tristan Thompson switching shoot hands and Dion Waiters shot selection, and form, as central issues in life. (No need to mention the possible prodigal son story line this up coming off-season with one Lebron James.) These are all understandable, as sports is designed to entertain us, distract us and give us something to root for. Even the original comedy sketch “Factory of Sadness” by Mike Polk Jr. points out that sports aren’t the most important thing but are useful in our lives as distraction. Today’s article will be about the real heartache and pain, and the hope that follows. If you have read FoS since I took over hopefully you have noted an air of hope and optimism in our presentation, that will continue here.
(If you are only interested in sports related content you will want to navigate yourself elsewhere at this point.)
I was a college student the morning of Sept. 11th preparing for my first classes of my senior year. My roommates mother called us early that morning and asked if we had been watching TV. As we turned it on we sat in shock for about an hour. For the next hour or so I processed a feeling I had that I should go to New York immediately, even as events were unfolding, to provide whatever assistance I could. Looking back I feel I should of taken that opportunity, but also realize how limited I may have been at that time with no experience and very young. Later in life this feeling would drive the disaster relief teams that I now help lead to places like Henreyville, IN, Staten Island after Sandy and Oklahoma just a few months prior. The desire to assist never left and about 2 months later I went with a team of people from the college to NYC to help with relief efforts. Below you will read the stories I experienced and heard while there.
Upon our arrival we checked in with the larger NY based group that we were going to partner with. After checking in and putting our stuff in our rooms we headed down to ground zero. We walked around dumbfounded at the memorials, the people and the smell. There I found myself looking down an alley towards the site of the rubble. There was a small group of people at that area, maybe 20 or so, some taking pictures, some talking to each other and some in silence. While standing there a lady came up next to me crying. She spoke broken English when I asked her if she was okay. She was able to communicate that she was still unsure of what happened to her son who was in the New York area. She wept greatly and I did what I could to comfort her. I then directed her where she could go to find out about her son and got her in that direction.
A Nut and Bolt
I have a picture that I took down that alley. You can see a large amount of debris from a building that is hanging over the street and walkways. Speaking to some of the workers one explained to me that the tons of weight that was hanging over the street is only being held up by one nut and bolt combination in the building. The workers were trying to figure out how to get rid of the debris without causing more damage. The worker noted that the nut/bolt combination should not be able to hold that much weight but because it did the street was accessible for people to go down to escape.
A Teddy Bear
One of the most meaningful memorials was a little park and the walk up to it. As we turned a corner we started to see teddy bears lined up on the wall next to the sidewalk. We walked along looking at all the different bears and words written on them or things connected to them. The amount of bears built until you turn the corner to a huge gathering of bears. One bear caught my attention for some reason. The bear had a picture attached to it. I stopped to look at the picture of a lady in a hospital with her husband standing next to the bed and their just delivered child in her arms. I instinctively turned the picture over to find this written “Mom this is (child’s name).” The picture was dated 9/13/13. This father or mother used this teddy bear as their way of introducing their mother, who we can assume passed in the 9/11 attacks, to their newborn child and their mother’s grandchild.
A Child and a Firefighter
The last story from the memorials was at the fire fighter’s memorial. A card was placed on the memorial with a few pictures of kids. The writing from the kid states “Happy Birthday Dad. Even though you are dead we still celebrate you.” That a child was able to focus on the positive and celebrate his dad is the kind of positivity and hope that I needed.
A Construction Worker and a Can of Pepsi
Near the end of our time in NY we stopped to talk to a few of the construction workers who were sitting having lunch. We attempted to share food with them but they turned us down. They talked about the smell really effecting their desire to eat, which we experienced as well. One of the guys talked about honoring those who perished and those who had not yet been found. As a semi truck drove by with a twisted steel beem that was still steaming, he said that they understood that each shovel of dirt could be someone’s loved one and they were going to respect that. He stated they made sure to not even spit. He offered me a can of Pepsi, they had been given plenty, that was specially made with New York written around the top. I accepted but could not allow myself to drink it. Instead it rode all the way back to Ohio with me. Since then that can of Pepsi has moved from my college apartment, to a friends house, to the first house I bought and now resides in my wife and I’s first home together. The can has not exploded, dissolved or otherwise been impacted. It sits in a glass on the shelf in my office. It is my little sign of hope, of enduring, of perseverance. It is a representation of the heart of New York, the heart of America.
It is with this can, with this hope and with these stories we today at FoS remember 9/11.