Thoughts on September 11th was written and placed on the Spartan Performance/CrossFit Suffolk blog back in 2008. We’ve re-posted it every September 11th since. It was written to help those too young to understand and it was written to help remember. Mostly, it was written to help me never forget. I think about the things described below often, but not all at once. Memories are fractured, but they still live in my mind. On this day every year I stop and reflect on it all, everything I can remember about that day.—George
THOUGHTS ON SEPTEMBER 11TH
by George Demetriou
On September 11th my thoughts, like the the thoughts of millions of Americans, are on the attack from thirteen years ago and on the people who lost their lives.
I think of my brother and sister NYPD officers who were not obligated to enter the Twin Towers, but did so selflessly anyway because of a sense of duty and of those who never came out.
I think of Detective Viggiano who was an Academy mate, winner of 3 close range gun fights with drug dealers, but was killed by enemies from afar, murderers who were already in hell by the time Viggiano lost his life.
I think about Sgt. Gillis, a childhood friend of my wife, who was on his way home, off-duty, when the attack occurred. Rodney went to the Towers anyway. All that was recovered was some of his equipment.
I think of the horrible images of seeing people jumping from the Towers and the one documentary where you could hear bodies hitting the building or the ground.
I think of standing before the “Pile”, awestruck, looking for something that resembled a piece of office furniture, or anything that would connect the destruction to the fact that people worked here days before and seeing nothing, but smashed steel and concrete, trying to deal with the fact that the “pile” was once the World Trade Center.
I think of my wife, working in NYPD headquarters for her regular shift then walking down to the “Pile” because she had to “find my friends”. She never did. She was diagnosed with something called RADS (Reactive Airway Dysfunction) shortly after working at Ground Zero.
I think of the people who paid the ultimate price just for showing up at work on a beautiful September day.
I think of the children who had their mother or father taken from them.
I think of Tommy from my hometown. We went to the Academy together, but Tommy left the Police Department and went to the Fire Department. He entered the Towers and like over 300 of his fellow firefighters, never made it out.
I think of the Port Authority Police Officers and the Court Officers, many who came from other locations or from home and paid the ultimate price.
But I also think of the way the people of New York came together to help others.
I think of the groups of people on the West Side Highway who would just stand there for hours cheering us on and thanking us whenever cops went by them.
I think of the response by volunteers from the suburbs, other states and Canada. They brought food, medical equipment, search equipment, search dogs, but mostly they brought love of their fellow human beings.
I think of volunteers, David Karnes and Jason Thomas, two retired Marine Corps Sgts., who continued to search after night fall and found trapped and injured Port Authority Police Officers.
I think of the response by our military, especially the work done by our Special Operations Command and the work they are still doing.
I think of the fantastic work done by my former co-workers of the NY office of the Joint Terrorist task Force, an awesome collection of NYPD Detectives, State Troopers, FBI Special Agents, Customs Enforcement Agents, Immigration Enforcement Agents, Port Authority Police Detectives, CIA Officers, NSA Officers, US Marshals, Coast Guard Officers and some I’m probably forgetting. I truly got to serve in the company of heroes and am honored to have done so.
I think of Rick Rescorla. Rescorla was the VP of Security for Morgan Stanley/Dean Witter, the largest tenant of the World Trade Center. Rescorla served in the Army and fought in the Battle of Ia Drang, Viet Nam in 1965…the battle depicted in the book, We Were Soldiers Once…And Young by General Hal Moore and Joseph Galloway. Rescorla’s photo graces the cover of the book. Rescorla was proactive as a security official. He would have the people he was responsible for practice evacuating the building. Thirteen years ago today he effectively evacuated nearly three thousand employees of Morgan Stanley/Dean Witter out of the World Trade Center. He saved the entire company except for himself and some of his staff who stayed behind to make sure they didn’t leave anyone “on the field of battle”. The entire time of the evacuation Rescorla kept everyone calm and moving along, while singing and stating, “Today is a day to be proud to be an American” through his bullhorn.
Mostly I think that Rescorla’s last words to the employees of Morgan Stanley/Dean Witter are so true today as they were thirteen years ago.
“Hill could hear Rescorla issuing orders through the bullhorn. He was calm and collected, never raising his voice. Then Hill heard him break into song:
Men of Cornwall stop your dreaming;
Can’t you see their spearpoints gleaming?
See their warriors’ pennants streaming
To this battlefield.
Men of Cornwall stand ye steady;
It cannot be ever said ye
for the battle were not ready;
Stand and never yield!
Rescorla came back on the phone. “Pack a bag and get up here,” he said. “You can be my consultant again.” He added that the Port Authority was telling him not to evacuate and to order people to stay at their desks.
”What’d you say?” Hill asked.
”I said, ‘Piss off, you son of a bitch,’ “ Rescorla replied. “Everything above where that plane hit is going to collapse, and it’s going to take the whole building with it. I’m getting my people the fuck out of here.” Then he said, “I got to go. Get your shit in one basket and get ready to come up.”
Hill turned back to the TV and, within minutes, saw the second plane execute a sharp left turn and plunge into the south tower. Susan saw it, too, and frantically phoned her husband’s office. No one answered.
About fifteen minutes later, the phone rang. It was Rick. She burst into tears and couldn’t talk.
”Stop crying,” he told her. “I have to get these people out safely. If something should happen to me, I want you to know I’ve never been happier. You made my life.”
Susan cried even harder, gasping for breath. She felt a stab of fear, because the words sounded like those of someone who wasn’t coming back. “No!” she cried, but then he said he had to go. Cell-phone use was being curtailed so as not to interfere with emergency communications.”—James B. Stewart, The New Yorker, February 11, 2002
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