Bay Reflections
Vol. 9, No. 42
October 18-24, 2001
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When We Suffered from Fear, We Took Action
by Coni Townshend Halkovich

Like many of you, in the days following September 11, 2001, I found myself glued to my TV or radio; at vigils, praying for the victims and their families, our country and leaders, our own families; unable to think of much else than the future of our beloved country

Rather than dwell on the fear and the horror, My family and I decided to do something. We saw on television that supplies were needed at the command center in New York City. On Friday, September 14, we loaded our vehicle with as many supplies as it would hold: eye goggles, alcohol swabs, rubber gloves, flashlights and batteries.

When we got near the city, we saw the horrendous smoke. Roadblocks were all over, so we drove to our hotel to make arrangements to get the supplies to where they were needed most. The hotel was helpful, and our bellboy refused a tip, saying it was an honor to help us.

Even in such times, Saturday night’s images were wonderful:

Times Square was active, peaceful and patriotic as electronic billboards flashed signs with hope. St. Patrick’s Cathedral was a shining beacon of light. Central Park — where we passed a Chinese man playing beautiful, haunting oriental classical music — was peaceful and surreal. People were praying everywhere on Fifth Avenue. Sirens went off all night, signaling police and rescue workers taken to and from the World Trade Center site.

Sunday, we walked near as we could get to the site of the tragedy, realizing the devastation as we walked past the many checkpoints. In lower Manhattan, buildings were destroyed or badly damaged. Workers leaving the tragic site after 12-hour shifts wore vacant stares on their faces. In front of city hall and all along the streets, refrigerated trucks stood waiting for bodies.

Yet all around the surrounding area, feelings of love, camaraderie and community overflowed. Makeshift prayer vigil spots held flags, candles, photos of the victims with stories recounting their lives. Fences were lined with yellow ribbons attached to notes of hope, love, beautiful poetry.

A little girl named Amanda and her mother rushed up to see our little dog, Maggie. Amanda, I learned, had an inoperable brain tumor on her optic nerve. This sent chills down my spine, for my own little granddaughter, Erin, has been battling a malignant brain tumor since she was four years old.

No strangers were in this crowd. People from all around the country and the world, united in one cause, gathered at the security checkpoints to see the smoke from the ruins. They said they had to come pray and to share their grief, love of country and hope.

We all came together in common bond, bowing our heads in prayer for peace and an end to the terror, asking for help to face the difficulties ahead. With tears in my eyes, I found myself reaching out and touching the ‘Ground Heroes’ — policemen, firemen, rescue workers, military personnel — thanking them for their courage, bravery, faith, goodness and beauty they showed us out of this tragedy.

I am glad we went to New York; happy we were able to help in some small way. When we suffered from fear, we took action. Now we will long remember what we saw —

Miami firemen at our hotel, tired, worn out but proud and brave … weary workmen with shell-shocked stares … policemen proudly standing guard at checkpoints and at each and every street corner … motorcyclists bearing American flags at the checkpoints …

Young and old gathered to observe, honor, pray and cheer for the rescue workers, each American’s voice was loud and clear as they shouted “God Bless America — and God bless you.”

These beautiful memories will remain with me always, strong moving and positive from these horrible times.

Coni Townshend Halkovich reflects from Shady Side.

Copyright 2001
Bay Weekly