Sept. 11 attacks inspired firefighter to join ministry
This is one in a series of essays that will run throughout the week in which readers reflect on the events of 9/11 and how that day changed their lives. Today's essay is written by the Rev. Diane Carter, of Weston.
Like many people, my life was forever changed 10 years ago on Sept. 11. I was the captain of the Hook & Ladder Company of the Pleasantville, N.Y., Volunteer Fire Department, and I was called upon to serve in several capacities following the events of that day; first with my truck, Tower Ladder 5, covering for Truck 49 in the Bronx; then out in Queens at FDNY's Tech Services, and finally downtown at the World Trade Center site, working with FDNY. Later, I also worked with AmeriCares out at the Freshkills Landfill in Staten Island, building structures used in the continuing recovery efforts.
Now, all these years later, the memories are still very present and, while there has been healing, the wounds are still painful. I've been able to go forward with my life, not in spite of my experiences at ground zero and Freshkills, but because of them.
You see, in addition to the tragedy, the grief and the horror that I witnessed, I also witnessed numerous acts of love, compassion and caring.
I saw bins full of batteries and clothing of every style, size and color, all donated by people from the tri-state area, including Connecticut.
I saw crowds lining the sides of the street with signs, and cheers, and Gatorade for the responders as they drove past.
I saw New York City firemen who refused to leave until their work was completed, and other firemen from around the country who had traveled to New York, on their own time and expense, to stand beside and help their brothers.
I saw Red Cross volunteers taking care of weary firefighters by covering them with blankets as they caught a quick nap against a fence before returning to the pile.
I saw gourmet food served to dusty, dirty firefighters, police and construction workers in a shattered storefront amid broken glass and concrete debris.
I saw notes and cards and drawings from children across the country taped up anywhere the volunteers would rest, or gather, or eat.
I saw strangers united as family, differences that no longer mattered, and human beings simply reaching out to other human beings to offer help and support and love.
And, it was because of these experiences that I found something I hadn't expected to find. As a result of these acts of caring and compassion, I found hope in the midst of the ashes of ground zero. You see, I believe that in a tragedy, people will respond according to their most fundamental beliefs and instincts. In this tragedy, people responded with love, and that gives me tremendous hope.
So, while I still have many difficult memories, I also have these and other beautiful memories. While I still have pain, I also have hope, and that hope has transformed my life and precipitated my call to the ministry. Any good I have ever done, or will ever do as a minister, regardless of where I am, or in what capacity I serve, will forever be rooted in the love and the hope I found 10 years ago in the ashes of ground zero.