Yesterday, I blogged about The Falling Man and my recollections of 9/11. Today, I stumbled across a blog written about the massive outpouring of support after the attack. As Senator Rob Portman was recalling his wife's trip back to Ohio and the Search and Rescue Team she passed on their way to Ground Zero, I remembered the many volunteers who went to New York from Florida in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attack.
Yesterday, I told my story of watching the horror unfold on television and how I was working for the government in Tallahassee. Well, fast forward just a couple of months and I had been rehired by the Florida Division of Emergency Management to serve as their spokesperson. I had the privilege of speaking with many a volunteer who had just returned from the devastation at Ground Zero. Some of them had served in the Salvation Army tent kitchens, ensuring that volunteers and first responders had a hot meal after long, laborious hours of combing the wreckage.
While I don't recall offhand the total number of volunteers we sent from Florida, I do know that Search and Rescue was another group of willing volunteers. The urban S&R teams would painstakingly navigate twisted steel and dig through feet of ash and rubble just to search for survivors and recover barely recognizable remains with the help of specially-trained canines. Those volunteers were just as much heroes as the first responders who gave all to save their neighbor.
I remember wishing I could go with one of the Florida teams, if just to serve a few meals or hand out bottled water. I had so much respect for my colleagues in Tallahassee who dropped everything and went for weeks on end to serve in New York City. Alas, I had a four-month-old baby at home and a wife who couldn't sleep. There was no way I was leaving them for 6-8 weeks.
Still, the memories of the days, weeks and months after 9/11 are vivid for me. I'll admit that I had grown complacent, choosing not to reflect on the horrible images that had bombarded me through television and online news outlets in 2001. But since yesterday, I cannot get them out of my head, so I designed the collage at the top of this blog post. It reminds of the phrase that was our nation's mantra in the waning months of that year. Let us never forget.