Reflections on September 11th, 2001
Every day, as I walk into my office I pass the Twin Towers.
Not just once, but three times. The first is when I see a picture of them rising high above the skyline, as taken from the Staten Island Ferry. The second is a panorama skyline view from the water off lower east Manhattan. But the third image, and the most disturbing, is the towers, and the rest of the image, slightly blurred as the shot was taken while moving, and in the rain. Two out of three were shot by photographer Rudolph W. Giuliani, during his day job as Mayor.
Passing these pictures gives me a sense of purpose, a reason to be at work, a reminder of why I do what I do.
I then pass more reminders. As I enter my conference room, an American Flag that flew over the Ground Zero site hangs on our window. I pass a poster that has the 343 names and faces of firefighters killed that day. Then posters of flags with the names of all the rescue workers lost, and the names of all victims lost at the Trade Center, at Pentagon, and on the airplanes.
I turn on my computer, and it gives me access to the list of the families of the 436 rescue workers killed at the World Trade Center on September 11th. I also access the accounting system which has managed and paid out, under my simple points and clicks, over $100 million dollars to the families of these brave men and women, almost 1280 family members.
September 11th was very real to me on the day itself, since I was but 1 mile north of the towers, on the roof, watching when they fell.
It has since become more real. It is real in the faces of those 436 men and women, their faces on the prayer cards their families have given me. The day takes on another sense of reality the letters and thank you's we've gotten from the families, for helping them with the money we've given, or in programs we've done or events we've facilitated. It grows with the list of over 175,000 donors that I manage in several databases. That's an incredible outpouring of support from around the world.
It humbles me and disturbs me as well. Will it happen again, if there is another mass murder on American soil? Overseas? Should there be? Will there be other "Infamous Date" funds set up if there are other incidents?
Will people tire of giving? Will they ignore needs like they throw out the other junk mail in their lives? This is a question I ponder, but can't answer.
Lessons I hope the world can take to heart on September 11th, 2002 are:
- The events of 9/11/01 were a horrible, murderous act of cowardice, and the world will never forget it.
- People's charitable contributions made a difference. Victims families were helped, and continue to be helped.
- Lessons on the response to 9-11 have been compiled and may be useable in future disasters (link to Ford Foundation - follow the link to recent publications, or download the Word Document)
There is more to think about, and to say, of course. But I'm not ready to, yet.
Doc has some other good thoughts on "Ground Zero".
Tom is also quite eloquent in talking about a debt to be repaid.