Monday, September 11, 2006

After 9-11

Walk with me in Brooklyn after midnight

to the intersection of Old Fulton and Water streets

directly beneath the Brooklyn Bridge

walk with me half a block from the disaster relief kitchen

to Fulton's Ferry Landing

to look out across the East River

the smouldering Manhattan skyline

radiating the eerie stark white glare of
thousands of emergency lights

the remaining buildings silhouetted, standing
as silent sentinels around their fallen comrades

...

Our team is working the second shift - 6:PM to 6:AM

The midnight snack, hot hamburgers, have been cooked,
packaged, and shipped to the rescue workers

the night air is soft

with our chores done until breakfast a group
of us decide to go have a look at
ground zero

the silence of the Brooklyn Bridge is almost
deafening - the bridge is still closed - pedestrians only

from the height of the bridge span - there is a wonderful panoramic
view of New York City

bridge is closed because there is nowhere to
go on the Manhattan side - emergency vehicles only

but there are people out - walking, standing, red-eyed policemen,
exhausted national guard, fire men and women, rescue personnel,
red cross volunteers, news crews
spectators

and the displaced - New Yorkers, heart broken, hopeless and lost,
just wandering around...

...

Hastily erected cyclone fences keep all but
the authorized a full block away from
ground zero

everywhere there is a dull gray layer of
concrete dust - covering everything, plants,
window sills, cars, streets

I've never been to a war zone, but I have been to
ground zero

from our vantage point - a block away we
can see across an empty lot directly into the
smouldering remains of the World Trade
center

I've never been to a war zone, but I have been to
ground zero

I spent a number of years working the
ambulance as an emergency medical
technician - responding to horrendous
automobile accidents and all manner of
human insults and injuries

my heart has been broken many times

... and then I went to ground zero

with disaster relief I have responded to numerous
floods and tornadoes

my heart has been broken many times

...and then I went to ground zero

...

we returned to the disaster relief kitchen,
shaken and feeling empty

we sat silently on the sidewalk, outside the
kitchen compound in a semi-circle of street
light

she appeared out of the darkness, like an
apparition, standing just at the edge of the
light, smoking a cigarette

she was trying to decide if she would
approach or not

she sat stiffly, quietly chain smoking -
offering one and two word answers to our
initial questions

She said, "I've been having trouble sleeping..."

then she said

My land lady had called me from the
apartment downstairs, said something was
going on, something about the World Trade
Center, she said go down to the street - Old
Fulton street, to see

stepping from her apartment door and
turning right gave her a full view of both
towers - one already involved from the
impact of the first plane

then as if in a dream she watched the second
plane approach and slam into the
second tower

her description becomes vague - I assume that
she stood and watched in shock as the
situation unfolded before her very eyes

retreating to her apartment only when the
huge dust cloud crossed the East River and
swept into Brooklyn right past her door

...

sitting with us is the shell of a woman, a
woman who's heart is broken, a woman who is
lost, a woman with no hope

a woman who needs to tell and retell her
story - and we must listen

because listening is our only real ministry
listening is the only christian act of charity
available to us in the immediacy of this
catastrophe

. . .