The cross found in what was left of the WTC structural steel.

This Cardinal taking time to Never Forget

My memories and thoughts from time time serving in New York after the attacks on the World Trade Center on Sept 11th, 2001.

The view of the WTC site from the roof of Gateway Plaza, a 35 story apt. building.

The view of the WTC site from the roof of Gateway Plaza, a 35 story apt. building.

I went to New York as nothing more than someone who could no longer sit there and watch the tragedy unfold on TV. I was no longer paralyzed by the fear that had gripped a Nation. Like many of the other people there, regardless of their capacity, I was there to do something about it. I wanted to try make this better for my family, for my friends, neighbors, and even more the people that were hurt by what the terrorist had done. This is something that has changed me to an extent that I still do not yet understand. I think this experience effects me more today than it did 12 years ago. I will always be haunted by what I saw, what I heard, and what I know but am always reminded of the goodness and courage that I witnessed. It was the days following the attacks that mean the most to me because it was in our country’s darkest hour that its citizens, its common people, shined the brightest.

There are things I will never forget. The noise of all the equipment operating at the site around the clock and then the deafening sound of the silent tribute each time a firefighter or police officer was recovered. Listening to a group of firefighters cry and console each other while eating lunch together. The constant concrete snot. The grit I could never get out of my mouth. The dust I could never clean myself of. Listening to the stories of tragedy, loss, and those of courage, and heroism of the everyday people that I met.

They all started like this:
The plane was right there, in my window…
I tried to get everyone inside the building but there was too much falling debris…
We all tried jumping in boats as they were leaving the slips…
My partner is still missing; they haven’t found his remains…
My father was supposed to be off duty…

These things eat at me still to this day in ways I cannot explain. I believe when someone gives of themselves they leave that part of them behind. I believe that there is a part of me still left with those people and at that site. But what was given was replaced by all  the people I met and what they shared with me -hope, faith, and love.

Jon Hile at the WTC site.

Jon Hile at the WTC site.

Maybe we should use this day to remember we all have a purpose in this world and that more importantly we need each other. That there are things more important than careers, money, status, and possessions… That life is so much bigger that just you… That every moment not shared with family, a loved one, or someone close to your heart is a moment lost forever.

Every day this world seems to be a little darker and more corrupt each day and we have to realize that we each need to do a little more, to do something good, something better and far nobler because the world needs it. We need it. To lift up the fallen spirit, to help heal the broken soul… To give hope and to show that there is still goodness in each of us. That we may show that the one Sacrifice made for all of us, and the many sacrifices made upon the alter of freedom were not in vain.

I am glad that I was there because I saw the best of humanity and I hope to somehow carry that on every day of my life. It is a gift to all of us. I am by no means perfect but I know that you don’t have to be anyone special, holy, or have great power to make a difference. You just have to be willing and God will do the rest. I promise! I know!

Rubble, still smoldering being prepared to be removed from the site.

Rubble, still smoldering being prepared to be removed from the site.

At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter where you are, where you come from, who your favorite team is, or what sport you play – these are all thing that actually bring us closer together than most realize. It gives us something, however different, in common with one other. Its a wonderful distraction, its something to talk about, and even more – something to look forward to. Remember we are all just trying to do the best we can, where we can, with what time we have left. The best way we can use it is helping one another.

The following is a video of all the pictures from my initial trip and my return trip on the 2nd anniversary.

“What we do for ourselves alone dies with us. What we do for others and the world remains, and is immortal.” Sen. Ed P. Warinner – My grandfather!

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Tags: 9/11 Firefighter Memories September 11 Video Volunteer World Trade Center

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