Of course, it wasn't, although if you say 9/11 to the average American, this is one of the images he or she may get - heroic first responders.
I don't minimize September 11, 2001, not at all. As someone who grew up in New York City, I know people who suffered terribly, from the loss of a son, to the loss of a best friend, to losses of neighbors, to two people from this area who responded to that area and provided services (my exercise instructor stayed for nearly a month to help out) and an elderly uncle in Brooklyn who may have had preexisting health problems aggravated by breathing in the fumes. But there is another September 11 that will also stay in my mind, side by side with the more famous one.
On September 8/9, 2011, massive flooding hit the Southern Tier of New York and caused extensive damage to many neighborhoods. An aerial photo of my neighborhood, Westover, near Johnson City, New York, became the iconic cover of a local book about the flood.
My neighborhood is still recovering, three years later.
On the morning of September 11, 2011, I wrote the below post from a motel room in Cortland, New York. What it doesn't mention is what we saw after we arrived in our neighborhood. We saw fire trucks from the Syracuse area and from parts of Pennsylvania. These first responders had come to help our neighbors who were seriously flooded. And, there was more. The Salvation Army set up a food tent several blocks from where we live so people without homes could get a hot meal.
In the coming days local business owners and their employees, some of whose businesses had had to close temporarily, helped the people of my neighborhood and other neighborhoods. One set up a food tent and cooked donated food. Others spearheaded a furniture drive.
Maureen McGovern even did a benefit concert for our area. The concert had already been scheduled, and Ms. McGovern donated her profits to flood relief. What class!
If you have never had to depend on the generosity of co workers and neighbors, hope you never have to.
Every one of those people was heroic in their own way. And, as much as I have a personal stake in the memories of September 11, 2001, I remember, just as vividly, a September 11, 10 years later.
Here's my post from that date.
September 11, 2011
According to 511NY, I-88 was open all the way. It wasn't. The detour cost us time. We got to our neighborhood at 7:40 pm, Main Street was closed and blocked, the emergency worker told us they had closed at 7:30. He would have "turned his back" if we parked in a certain place and walked in "just to take a look" but it was dark and it would have been too dangerous.
We quickly found all the area motels were full. We ended up in Cortland, NY, about 35 miles from where we live, totally exhausted. We will be leaving later this morning to go back to the Triple Cities.
I am watching the 9/11 ceremonies live as I blog this. I just finished chatting with the one neighbor who didn't evacuate and he advised there is traffic in the neighborhood once again. What a juxposition. 9/11 ceremonies and wondering what we will find in our devastated neighborhood. I saw a picture on the TV as I ate breakfast.
I want to note there are a lot of people in our area worse off than we are. Please do not feel sorry for us. Our house is still there.
During our brief visit to near our neighbhorhood there was an indescribable haze, a haze of dust being raised by people plowing the road (yes, they were plowing Main Street) The flood smell I can't even describe was there.
Remember the Michael Jackson song describing the "funk of 40 thousand years"?
It would not have been a pleasant night.
My heart goes out to all the emergency workers and rescuers on this special 9/11. You are at work once again. You are keeping my home and neighborhood safe. And my son's. I haven't even talked about my son's situation yet.
Wish us luck as we try to go back today.