By: Dennis Schiraldi
Last October my wife and I celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary where it all started, New York City. I believe it was her first time that she’d been back since we moved. I’d been back several times on business. Each time making sure to connect with old friends in Manhattan.
However on our first weekend away (without kids) in the the Big Apple, we visited the 9/11 Memorial Museum. If you’ve not been, you need to go. Just do me a favor try to avoid the urge to take a selfie in-front of the memorial waterfall. In any case it was on this visit and of course days like today, you pause and reflect.
This past week, for my wife, her family, our family are all to familiar with tragedy. Her sister and brother-in-law lost their lives way to soon in a plane accident that pre-dated 9/11 by 9 years. That accident often (besides with out family) is lost in the 9/11 incident, which impacted so many more people directly and around the globe, understandingly so…
It was on this visit to New York and the 9/11 Memorial Museum that brought back a lot of memories…As I toured, I vividly remember feeling helpless. Living in Ohio at the time. I was on my way in a new career to Bucyrus, Ohio to visit a hospital. It was on Route 30 just on the Stark and Wayne County lines that the news broke of all places on Howard Stern.
I did see one singular airplane in the sky around that time. I still wonder to this day if I witnessed seeing United Airlines Flight 93. Upon the breaking of the news I went home. Turned on the news and called home to check in on everyone. Soon after I watched in horror and heartbreaking devastation, that the world we lived in would no longer, ever be the same.
Sadly I watched people falling from buildings, death and destruction of ridiculous proportion. I remember feeling somewhat anxious that the rest of the country would soon be under attack. A guy in the neighborhood took the back off his Ford Bronco, raised the American Flag and blared the Jimmy Hendrix version of the National Anthem, and yes we all stood!
I’ve not shared this much, only in very private conversations…But my feeling of not being able to help with the immediate aftermath was the exact reason why I moved to New York City. I know it probably sounds crazy, but I have a belief that we have the ability to make an impact in the world on micro-levels. Not everyone is going to be Bill Gates, Steve Jobs or President Obama.
It just takes one to start a movement. In a very naive way, this was my way of going an helping to give back to what I firmly believe is the greatest city in the world. Youngstown a close second…I wanted to do my part. You think just because there’s 7 million people in Manhattan that you cannot make a difference. But in fact I went in with the mentality if I could just make 1 person’s life better after this incident I’ve done some good.
It was a very sobering time to be in NYC. I can still remember shortly after I moved to New York, going down to “Ground Zero.” It was a big smoldering hole in the ground. Wreckage all around to the other buildings in the area. And remnants of a war zone. There was blue board around the area, still pictures of loved ones who never returned home from work, created by children, parents, friends and partners in marriage.
That had a profound impact, something I’d never soon forget and think about from time to time. NYC was in a healing mode. As the rest of the world went back to being the world. Every firehouse and police station, with their makeshift memorials, still grieving from the event.
I remember the first St. Patrick’s Day parade, when the NYC’s Bravest and Finest carried a flag for each member of the police and fire departments that lost their lives. My best friends, all born and raised New Yorker’s shared stories of the horrific day. Of seeing paper falling from the sky or having to walk home over a bridge.
I got to experience walking home over a big bridge in the blackout in 2003. Again, feeling the shock and horror, thinking the city was under attack. The relief of knowing that the power was out, not even being able to imagine how those who lived through 9/11 must have felt that hot August day.
During the years after 9/11, I lived on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. I can remember various threats on that an attack would take place on the subway. The police task force would have show of force by populating the subway station at 77th and Lexington with wall-to-wall police, in full body armor, machine guns, ready for battle. Me, in a suit and tie. I can remember riding on the subway thinking, “is today going to be my day…” That’s a fact…more than one occasion as I entered the subway the thought would be in the back of my mind.
However, I was committed to the cause. I could have taken a cab (pre-Uber days). But if I didn’t ride the subway the bad guys win.
I’ve since moved from New York City. However I still have a soft spot in my heart and love that city immensely. I love the people, the energy and everything about it. As a closing thought….and after attacks on London, Paris, Orlando and the many others that have been on the wrong end of evil doings. Pray, love and live. Know that whatever you do, how big or how small you can make a difference. Don’t ever think for one second that I’m only one person. Because it only takes one to start a movement!!!