By Stanley N. Kanzaki
(First published in The Rafu Shimpo on September 29, 2010.)
9/11/2001. I turn on the radio to listen to the weather report for my morning run. Breaking news, a plane crashes into the World Trade Center North Tower. I ask myself now how could this accident have happened? Then seventeen minutes later another plane crashes into the WTC South Tower. It came to me then that this all was no ways an accident. It had to be something diabolical. I live about eight miles north of this site. I keep listening to the radio and there are updates and all kinds of excited explanations as to what actually happened.
After a while I decide to go on my run. Upon arriving at Riverside Park my run is canceled. I see hundreds of men and women in business attire, some with attaché cases walking silently with stunned shocked sad faces through the park. Some have dust all over them. There are those crying, sitting on benches holding each other for comfort. All public transportation is shut down. Only official vehicles are allowed entrance into Manhattan. A side note. Bottled water is the first item that is sold out. Unsure when the next delivery of bottled water will be made to the super markets.
The city seems to have shut down but life goes on. And the people keep on. There are many mini shrines quickly made all over the city streets and buildings with flowers, candles, photos of loved ones lost and messages with names written asking hopefully to notify the writer if they are found. There are many candle light services and memorials held all over the city and in the various neighborhood communities. In the entire city there is a sense of togetherness out of the tragedy.
Then there are the heroes. There were many of them. I will never forget the scene on the TV screen to see men and women of the NYPD, FDNY, EMT, NY-NJ Port of Authority Police and others who kept on returning to the Towers to rescue people. I’m sure many of them knew that their chances of coming out alive weren’t that good. Still they went bound to duty above and beyond the call. And then there are the surviving heroes who became ill due to exposure from the dust and the debris working at the site. It is now over nine years and the government has not provided funds to help those who are sick, unable to work and in need. What price heroism?
The years have passed. It is tough at times to live in New York and New Yorkers are tough people. Yet deep in their hearts they remember every year on 9/11 to hold a memorial for the fallen at “Ground Zero.”
9/11/2010. It is now the ninth year since the destruction of the twin WTC Towers. I arrive a little early for the ninth annual 9/11 memorial service at Ground Zero. I walk around and noticed a special entrance for the people who lost their loved ones to enter. Some have framed photos of their lost loved ones, T-shirts with pictures of their hero’s, people in various uniforms all with sad faces, some crying. Truly it was a sad scene to observe. As I began walking to the area where the general public was to observe I noticed about twenty women in native dresses with head covers standing together. It was obvious that they were Muslim women and their men standing nearby. It came to me that they were the advocates for building a mosque right near Ground Zero. I was impressed by their dignity of how they conducted themselves. Going through a group of NYPD officers on the other side was the anti-mosque group. They were somewhat vocal and holding protest signs. And the stupidity and insensitivity of those who threatened to burn the Koran. Others thought it was not the Muslim religion but the work of the Al-Qaeda terrorists who destroyed the WTC. Many more thought too that this was not the time or the place for demonstration of this sort since it was the day to honor and memorialize those who have fallen. The commonality and spirit of the first eight memorials seemed to have sadly gone.
And there is the story of the cross. Going through the debris construction workers found a cross formed from steel girders. When this steel cross was set up on site a ceremony was held with the bag pipes piping “Amazing Grace.” A Franciscan friar declared the cross as a symbol of hope, faith and healing.
Then at exactly 8:46 a.m. when the first plane hit the WTC North Tower the bells tolled and a moment of silence observed. This continued seventeen minutes later when the WTC South Tower was hit. Finally, at 9:59 a.m. and at 10:28 a.m. as when the South and the North Tower collapsed straight down. There is the mournful sound of the bagpipes. Then the roll call of the 2,982 victims of the tragedy began. The names of the victims were of different ethnicities, religions, all walks of life in togetherness and to hear the different voices and various accents. It was rather haunting to hear the roll call as if the fallen were calling out their names from their graves.
And of the 2,982 there were 1,123 known victims whose remains were not recovered. But then there is the other sad statistic of who are the unaccounted unknowns among them. It is believed that they are mostly the undocumented immigrants who worked in the various nearby restaurants making food deliveries to the WTC offices at the times when the planes struck. Sadly it is not known how many, who they were or where they came from. And unbelievably, this all happened to all the victims in the space of one hour and 42 minutes.
I left a little early to avoid the huge crowd leaving the ceremony. As I left, a feeling of sadness remained. I headed for the Chambers Street subway station when I noticed some people looking up in the sky. I turned and noticed the skeletal steel beams of One WTC building at 36 floors that over 2,000 construction workers labor daily to build it even higher. I read too that there will not be as before two towers but five towers that will go up. One WTC will rise to 1,776 feet rising towards the Heavens to be completed in 2013. I want to be there then and hope that all the controversies are peacefully resolved and the commonality and the spirit returned. Finally I say unto you the Towers may have fallen but not for the count. It will rise up from the dust of Ground Zero for the world to see. The Towers symbolizes America for there is nothing in the world that will ever destroy us. .
The opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.