Thoughts at Ground Zero, NY

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, September 14, 2004

I stood at Ground Zero last week with a police officer who stood there on 9-11. He shared with me actual stories – his account of all that happened that dreadful day.

He is a police officer at New York’s first precinct and he wrote to me regarding a patriotic speech I had written in the aftermath of 9-11.

As a result, I entered an excerpt from his letter in a book that I later wrote presenting the details of the speech and the thousands of emails I received from veterans, public safety officials, survivors and their families.

He had later written to me and offered to take me to Ground Zero in a private area designated only for family members and public safety officials. He more than qualified for that, as he was one of many who was there.

It was an up-close-and-personal account of what actually happened. There were no color photos or eloquent words describing the tragedy, only an empty hole in the ground fenced in with an iron cross monument erected in memory of those who had died and in honor of those who had survived.

As we were standing in the designated area, I saw a family approach the makeshift memorial where many people have left keepsakes and tangible items belonging to their loved ones.

The family members were obvious first-time visitors and they stood together, said a prayer, made the sign of the cross and wiped away their tears.

Later, we were told that the gentleman was a retired fireman and had lost his son in the line of duty on 9-11.

It was his and his families’ first visit there to pay their respects since the incident occurred.

It was a somber moment watching other people experience what we can only talk and write about and thankfully don’t have to live each day.

It was a further awakening of connecting names, faces, broken hearts and empty souls of people so astoundingly impacted by the event.

While 9-11 has come and gone, as it has for the past three years, let us never forget the people whose lives have truly been affected by the tragedy.

For many have laid wreaths at the monument and many have laid their lives on the line and continue to serve in the same capacity, but hopefully, never in the same type of tragedy ever again.

Hopefully Ground Zero will be the last physical reminder of such.

Beth Chapman serves as Alabama state auditor. She resides with her family in north Shelby County