Managing Editor of the Tocquevillian Magazine, Mr. Kid is also a
newspaper columnist and police sergeant on Long Island.
Brief Respite From Hell
September 13, 2001
spent last night and most of today digging through twisted
steel, cement chunks, airplane parts and occasional personal
belongings. I'm now home until either tonight or tomorrow
when I will again return to hell.
First, my sincere thanks. It's heartwarming, particularly
right now, to know that so many of you are there and thinking
of us here in NY.
The writer in me wishes he could put some words here to give
you some idea of what truly happened--some clear word picture
of the horrific devastation that was visited on the WTC. I'm
sorry, I simply cannot.
The best I can do is offer some of my feelings as I arrived
at ground zero. I got there after dark, although, even in
daylight, it is somewhat dark due to the smoke and dust that
are ever-present in the awful-smelling air. My first thought
was that I was seeing a Universal Studios movie set. Then,
my mind flashed to one of the Batman movies, with its eerie,
gothic, dark view of Gotham City. It is also a construction
site--with heavy equipment beep-beeping and roaring, and hard-hatted
workers everywhere--, like one of those excavations in the
city with the windows cut out of the plywood that surrounds
them so you can watch the crews at work. Why is that always
so fascinating, I wonder?
I and my 5 men joined in with others who were already removing
debris and seeking survivors or bodies. It is this group of
men and women I want to tell you about.
In addition to Police Officers and Firefighters and Emergency
Medical Crews and military personnel, there were also civilians--union
men and women--carpenters, engineers, plumbers, steel workers,
electricians, construction workers and more. Teens who volunteered
to bring food and water and fruit and candy to the rest of
us. Salvation Army. All of them working together in impromptu
teams to seek both the living and the dead. Each of them desperate
to find someone.
At one point last night, a Firefighter began screaming frantically.
He and two US Marines were sure they saw a hand waving from
inside a partially toppled building. Immediately, fire apparatus
was brought up and Firefighters went up in a bucket to the
floor where there was a possible survivor. This one Firefighter
kept screaming obscenities to them to get to that survivor.
He was in tears and frantic. The Fire Fighters got out of
their bucket and walked into the very precarious, still-burning
building. After a careful search, it was determined that the
"waving hand" was actually only a bit of insulation
that was blowing in the occasional breeze. We all moved on,
How is it possible that it's so difficult to find anyone?
The ambulances sit on a nearby side street, their trundles
made up and ready. They're covered with dust and their presence
is somewhat unnerving.
This morning, we lined up in numerous bucket brigades, removing
debris to waiting back-hoes and dump-trucks. From the top
of a mountain of what was once the Twin Towers, a construction
worker cried out, "We have one!" My God! The roar
of the crowd of workers would easily have rivalled the sound
of the jets hitting the buildings!
"Water!" Bottles flew up toward the workers. "Back
boards!" They, too, made their way up the line. "We
need a canine unit!" The Labs were brought up immediately.
Medical personnel followed. Then the cry, "We have two!"
The feeling was indescribable. The cheers, deafening.
It took nearly an hour before two, bright orange body bags
came out to almost total silence. I can't begin to describe
the disappointment. The stokes stretchers with the bags were
passed hand to hand down the same line as the equipment had
gone up. They were passed as tenderly and carefully as if
each was holding a living soul.
Then, before my day was over, we got 5 Firefighters out from
under the rubble. Two walked out on their own. I also can't
describe that feeling. I'm hoping against hope for more.
My heart goes out to anyone who has relatives or friends who
worked in the WTC and who have not yet checked in. Please
don't lose hope. Through all this, hundreds upon hundreds
of men and women are doing everything humanly possible (and,
sometimes, it seems, beyond that) to find everyone possible.
They are all working together with no recognition of difference
in occupation, race, color, sex or creed. More often than
not, they addresses each other as "brother" or "sister."
They smile at one another and offer a hand to help one another.
No one sees anyone as other than a fellow human being who
is dealing with an unthinkable tragedy. And, each and every
one of them will keep going until the job is done. Know that.
These men and woman are true heros and I'm so very proud to
have met them and to have stood near them.
I'm tired and dirty and cranky and my right eye is badly irritated
from dust. I'm going to go shower off the mud and dust and
get some sleep. I'll be back as soon as I can. I really want
a whole bunch of normal. Play nice, 'k?
Kid was able to take photographs of the devestation while
engaged in his rescue efforts. He has graciously agreed to
allow them to be published here.
2003 Tocqevillian Magazine