Insights on business -- and life.
Memories of 9/11
A proud but humbling
by Gail Czech (September 17, 2012)
(Note: Gail flew to New York,
volunteering at a church that was an affiliate of her church back
I got to the airport about 1˝ hours early,
hoping to be upgraded to first class; I thought the lines would not
be too bad, especially at 4:30 AM! To my surprise, I was very wrong;
I waited in line for over an hour to get to the counter, then
another 40 minutes to get through security. Yes, they are certainly
tightening down. At security, they ask for not only your ticket, but
also your ID again.
They served breakfast and to my surprise, we
had all the china and silverware, except the knives were plastic.
Interesting, I thought.
When I transferred in Denver for a plane to
LaGuardia, the gates for every flight to NYC or Newark were at the
very end gates of the terminal, which struck me as unusual.
The flight was less than full. I was fortunate
enough to sit next to a gentleman who was the former CEO of Merrill
Lynch, now retired and consulting. We had a very interesting
conversation regarding the people of the city, the impact on the
country, and, very interestingly, where he felt the economy would be
going. He said he did not think the economy would be back to a high
state for at least five years, but had faith in it moving up and
down till it reaches that high.
When we started to discuss the tragedy, his
eyes just seemed to change and his voice lowered. He has lived in
Manhattan all his life, raised his family there, and was proud to be
a New Yorker; the pain was very much in evidence. He also felt they
would never re-build two such tall towers again. He said the average
building height in NYC is 50 stories and he felt they would probably
re-build 4- 50 story buildings instead. (Editor's comment:
Turns out he was wrong.)
As we were in the landing pattern we flew
directly over the WTC site, still smoldering. It is difficult to
imagine the immensity of the site.
The cab driver was from Pakistan; he has lived
in NYC for 20 years. I asked him where he was when it all happened;
he said he had just picked up a fare at the WTC and was on the way
to the airport. There were three of his friends (cabbies) who were
waiting at the WTC behind him when he left; they are now among the
For a Friday afternoon rush hour, the traffic
was much less than usual.
Arriving at the hotel, I found I was 1 of only
17 guests there for the weekend; all the hotels are nearly empty,
many hotel workers have been let go.
Each day I would leave a dollar for the maid;
she left me a note thanking me. Her husband had been a maintenance
worker at the WTC and is now missing; she is struggling to make ends
The unemployment rate in NYC is devastating
right now; that is a major concern of many people. I was told that
companies that lost their places of business are temporarily -- if
not permanently -- moving out of state to New Jersey or elsewhere.
American Express has decided to permanently move its entire
operation to Stanford, CT.
Very near my hotel were two separate churches.
I went in them at different times of day and watched, listened, and
prayed. There were businesspeople just coming to pray. There were
friends meeting there and holding each other. There were mothers and
their children praying together -- people of all races. It was very
One of the sights that had a huge emotional
impact on me were the fire stations. There were flowers, candles
burning, pictures of the missing, letters, poems, notes from school
children, and books to sign for all of us who are hurting. Amazing:
the firefighters were the ones consoling many of the others there,
instead of us consoling them. Amazing the courage and bravery, just
There are entire buildings and businesses that
have their windows posted with notes from children and people
everywhere. Notes of support, anger, hate, love and pain. One child
wrote, "Please Stop the Sirens."
The entire city had pictures of the missing,
letters and poems posted on lampposts, buildings, and phone kiosks;
wherever there was a highly visible spot, it was used. There was a
lovely impromptu memorial of flowers, candles and balloons, etc.,
right in the middle of Times Square.
Street vendors had more flags for sale than I
have ever seen. Flags were everywhere, on buildings, windows, cars,
vans -- all types of vehicles -- and on hats, clothing, and even on
a dog sweater! Patriotism and standing together was very much on
On to just a few of the people I spoke with or
listened to: I walked through a very empty Macy’s on Saturday
mid-morning. I bought a skirt. The clerk was a young man from the
Middle East. I asked him how he was and tears welled up in his eyes;
he held my hand and shared trembling words on how it has impacted
him and his family -- they were devastated. He was a student and
will possibly have to quit school.
Another woman I met was originally from Paris;
she shared how it affected her and her family in Paris as well as
Singapore. This disaster is so very worldwide in scope, touching so
many people. She stressed prayer and faith and she cried and we held
each other for a long time.
I did happen to meet several tourists from
Europe, who had previously booked trips and were determined to come.
Most were traveling on into New England to see the fall colors. They
had so many wonderful things to say about the support they offered
us as a country and people.
I was fortunate to get a couple of tickets for
the theatre. (Broadway is suffering terribly, too.). Many shows are
shutting down, putting more people out of work. The people I sat
next to were mainly local and had gotten tickets that day for the
performance. The house had sets of empty seats, but overall there
was a pretty good attendance. The Producers was completely
full. The people that attended decided to support the theatre as
much as possible, or had purchased their tickets previously.
Mayor Giuliani has been a strong, positive
influence on the city and the people. He is encouraging everyone to
come to NYC, support the arts, shop, and stay in the hotels. As a
matter of fact, he is one of the main reasons I decided to go at
this time. We need to think about not only the memorial funds being
so generously raised, but also how we can give financial and
emotional support to the people and New York City itself.
Starting my return journey home, I got to
LaGuardia, early considering it was Monday morning, a business day;
my flight was to leave at 8 am, so I got there by 6:30 am. To my
surprise, there were a total of only five people at all the
counters, I asked why; the agent simply said, no one is coming or
going in New York right now; my plane was almost empty, I guess he
I know I was the one who was touched and have
been given back much more than I thought I could give to the people
of New York.
Two things I did not do that I had planned on:
Go see "Ground Zero." I didn’t need to do that; saw it in the eyes
and faces of New Yorkers. I also did not take pictures; I almost
felt that would be an intrusion in their grief.
I came back with strong emotions, I am humbled,
but so very proud to be an American and live in this great country!