The Haunting Time Is Coming Near!

The Ghoullog - Mountaintop Haunt at Cranmore, North Conway, NH

Never Forget.

3 Firemen Raising American Flag at Ground Zero. Image from
Yesterday, it really bothered me what our current "president" was discussing in his over an hour-long press conference. Aside from not really answering questions asked in any way, shape or form, and instead reiterating his agenda, how great his policies are, how his administration is changing things drastically, blah blah, blah... It really stung when I heard, yet again, what he is trying to make today. Attempting to declare September 11 a day of "national service" devoted to cleaning up parks, roadways, neighborhoods- volunteer for the bettering of our communities.

Photo by Michael Macor. Image from Chronicle,

I'm sorry- but this "national service day" should not be reserved for a day 2,977 American Citizens were murdered by extremists. (I do not count the hijackers in amongst the victims) Volunteer work should be done year-round, not just on 9/11. Today is a day to honor those who died. For the fathers, brothers, mothers, daughters, aunts & uncles, children, grandchildren, cousins and friends of ours who died. A day to mourn the brave rescue teams- both the Police and Fire Departments, and other rescue crews who arrived on scene- who tried to save as many people as they could- many of them losing their lives to do so. Today is a day to remember, never to be forgotten. It seems to me that many already have. While I think the first few anniversaries of 9/11 were a little over-exposed by the media weeks in advance... Now, it's like they've saved it all only to be mentioned today. The actual day. I was horrified and disgusted in D.C. last year- that while I observed a minute of silence at the four times:
8:46 for Flight 11
9:03 for Flight 175
9:38 for Flight 77
10:10 for Flight 93

Nobody around me observed the same as I did. I know I can't force anyone to, but I suppose I'm old fashioned and expected people to show respect for 4 minutes out of their day. Is it really too much to ask? It sickens me to think that some of the people out there think of this as just another day of the year. It happened 9 years ago, what's the big deal? Well... The big deal is that over three thousand of our fellow American brothers and sisters were murdered.

Do you think their families will ever forget? Parents, siblings, spouses, cousins never coming home. Pictures, memorials set up in a sign of respect for those that died. Reminding us to never forget. I don't think, in my personal opinion, it's right to desecrate their memory by acknowledging this "day of service". A mother, raising a child that never knew its father. A father, raising a child on his own that was too young to remember its mother. Holiday events, where family comes together... Missing someone, forever. A gathering of friends to celebrate an event- missing one or more people. Tears are cried each year, I'm sure... The same way I imagine that people share the best stories about their absent loved ones in an attempt to at least smile and appreciate the good times they shared. To reminisce about the time, albeit short, they had together.

That morning, I had just poured my Mother and I a cup of coffee, and my Dad had literally just left for work 10 minutes prior. They had gone to a football game over the weekend and in Pennsylvania, coming back through New York on Monday, the 10th. Of course, they came straight home even though it was a long ride. They joked about how one of these days they'd have to visit NYC and take time going through the city. Coffees in hand, Mom and I sat down in front of the TV watching Good Morning America, with me listening to her telling me the funny stories that arose out of being Patriots fans down in Philly Eagles territory. All in good fun, of course.

In between bouts of laughter, and sipping coffee, we then heard Matt Lauer stutter, and announce a breaking story. It was then the cameras cut to the first tower. Mom and I immediately turned to the TV and watched- like statues- the burning building. What happened? What could have caused that fire, that gaping hole in the side... No, sides of the building. There were fluttering things coming down from all three sides- paper? It must have been. We watched. Matt then said there were unconfirmed reports that a plane had hit the tower, but it was thought to be a small aircraft. No commercial breaks at this point, the cameras were fixated on the tower that was burning away so furiously. White papers still fluttering to the ground, almost like it was slow motion. Then the reports came in that it was indeed a plane, but not a small one like originally thought- it was a commercial airliner jet full of passengers that were aboard.

While we were listening to Matt and Katie Couric trying to sift through the papers and notes which were being passed to them, with their occasional comments... I couldn't help but think this was a sick, sick joke. It had to be. The building couldn't actually be burning- it just wasn't possible. I was trying to convince myself that it was just a movie effect, and someone was pulling a cruel prank. And then, as Mom and I continued to watch, the second plane hit. We watched in horror as it came out of the sky, and deliberately hit the second tower and explode. Matt and Katie were silent. The person on the other end of their news feed cussed. We started crying.

Second hit. Image from

We watched it as the fireball erupted from where the plane crashed into the building, spewing papers and office materials out of the broken windows. I remember hoping that the people on those floors didn't have time to see what happened... And I hoped that they died quickly so that they wouldn't feel pain. Matt and Katie both tried to speak, their words stuck in their throats, and then started to tear up. I think, collectively, anyone that was watching TV at this point, or there in NYC, were already starting to mourn. It was that moment I realized this wasn't a joke- the towers were burning because two planes were purposely flown into them. What will be next? Boston? San Fransisco? D.C.? Houston? Chicago? What's next?

Lady Liberty Mourns. Photo from

Glued to the TV, and I was the only one with a cell phone at that point. My Dad hated them, and he was on his 2 hour trip to work... No way to get ahold of him until he arrived to his office. Maybe the radio had broken to make a special announcement, and maybe it hadn't. Then it hit me. My parents had been in NYC yesterday- the 10th. I cried even harder. My coffee was cold. I didn't want to get up and heat it up- I was glued to the television. A phone call, an architect friend. He was crying too... Mom and him talked for a while, and through the tears I heard her catch her breath. "If they're lucky, they'll have an hour, they're going to fall" the friend said.

"No, really? They look so... Permanent. I thought they built those to protect from fire?" Mom started...

"With a normal fire, yes. But this is jet engine fuel, and the way it's burning it's going to super-heat and melt the core of the building and they're both going to fall... They don't have long." our friend said.

I tuned out at that point, not wanting to hear this. It was bad enough the planes hit the buildings, they can't disappear. They're what makes the skyline of NYC just that- unique. Mom finished the conversation, and I got us some more coffee. We were glued to the TV. Then we see dark things falling down from the buildings, papers flying out the sides of the towers had stopped. What, are they dumping office equipment out? Then shapes... Oh my god. People are jumping out of the windows, to escape the flames. There's nothing below to catch them... To escape the fire they're jumping out of the windows... I broke down. These people were trapped- the lack of stairs to get down from the upper floors, the smoke and lack of oxygen, and fire in the building were blocking access for rescue teams from below, and the flames and smoke were making it impossible to rescue by extraction on those upper levels- the doors to access the rooftops were locked. Those people were in an oven. I didn't know tears could flow out of my eyes at the rate they were going.

Pentagon. Image from

Matt started talking again- a report of another plane being hijacked, this one had crashed into the Pentagon. Who could orchestrate this kind of attack?! What the hell is going on?? Then crumbling.... The first tower hit, WTC 2, was simply gone. It crumbled down, like an accordion.Our friend was right. 56 minutes, the building was decimated. The other one would go soon. 

Shanksville, PA crash site. Image from

Reports came through again, a fourth plane crashed into a field in Pennsylvania. Speculation that it was headed for somewhere in DC- the White House, The Capitol Building, someplace important. I sat there, close to my Mom. Both of us crying, flipping the channels, same news on every station. Not even a half hour later- the second tower, WTC 1, collapses.

Emerging from the Ash. Image from

What few media personnel, and civilians, that were inside that zone... Watching as the building fell and the tidal wave of dust and debris overtook everyone on the street. Everyone was the same gray color, walking around in complete shock or hysteria, trying to get out, get away. Those people in the buildings... Are gone. The people in the streets are covered in ash from what burned inside the building, compounds, chemicals. They were covered in the ashes of the people that were burned alive. I wished this wasn't true, I was having a nightmare and I'd wake up. It couldn't have happened like this... Everyone ducking for cover, in a doorway, beside or under a vehicle, running like hell down the streets. Crying. Screaming. Silent. Lost. Bloodied. The cameras overcome by the dust blotted out and only saw specks of ash and debris. We could hear people crying, screaming, running away. Alarms the firefighters wear to locate one another- but we couldn't see them even though the camera was still rolling.

The news stations simultaneously showed the enormous ash cloud of where the Towers had stood this morning, just hours ago, and the burning wreck in the side The Pentagon that was hit. Nothing broadcast about the plane in Pennsylvania... They weren't sure if there were survivors there yet. They quickly confirmed that none had survived.

The following morning, I remember seeing the rescue crews set up just a few blocks away from the Trade Centers in NY, beds, medical equipment, and personnel there ready to help injured people inside tents, in an effort to keep the dust and debris out. Then seeing them again, in shock that hardly anyone was brought to them- just those people that had managed to get out of the buildings, or into the streets. My Mom said "They don't need them... Not that many, there won't be enough bodies. This is going to be a search for remains... If they find anyone alive, they'll be very lucky." I knew she was right... But I hoped. Like millions of other people, I hoped some of those people would be ok. As a nation we all did.

WTC September 16, 2001. Taken by USGS field crew members.Todd Hoefen & Greg Swayze

The air was dusty for weeks on end. Lights lit up the area, and it was absolutely haunting. It's a graveyard. The site where the World Trade Centers sat. The wing of The Pentagon which was hit. The field where the fourth plane crashed. They're graveyards. I watched as this unfolded. As I realized many of my friends lost family, and friends, to these attacks. I know not everyone remembers this day- especially the younger children and those born since then... But it's still my opinion that this not be declared a day of service.

It is a day of remembrance.
It is a day to honor all those who died.
It is a day to honor the families and friends of the people murdered.
It is a day to mourn.

Image from

During the Christmas Season that year, I volunteered for the Polar Express at the time. The guy that runs the event extended an invitation to all the families that had lost a member to come stay at a hotel which was complimentary donated, and tickets to the event were also free. Only about 40 families showed up. Most of them were Mothers with small children. Since we volunteered to be Chefs on the train that night, my Mom and I took the car that most of these strangers were on. The children were excited, but there was an undercurrent of sadness so strong- I nearly cried. The parents- a few Dads with children, but mostly Mothers, and in a few cases Grandparents only- were emotional, choking back tears. Single parents on a train ride. Grandparents who had lost their own children, now raising their grandchildren.

We served the hot chocolate, and gave the nougat candy... Nearly every child said thank you to us for serving both. They were so quiet, reserved... Afraid to let the magic of Christmas get too close, I think, for fear that something else would go wrong. So I started being silly, making funny faces at the kids. Mom and I started singing, and dancing as best we could on the train that was rocking back and forth on the tracks. We were finally getting them to start to open up... They helped us sing, they watched outside as we went through the woods to the "North Pole", even the adults joined us. These children were too young to be so sad- but suffering through a trauma such as they had, I didn't blame them. We wanted to make them forget for a little while. We kept rushing from side to side of the train- asking if the kids were seeing signs that we were almost to the North Pole, look a wolf! Collective "Woooooowwwww's", sighs, they were getting antsy. Finally opening up to the excitement of the evening, the magic we were trying to create...

Myself, two sisters, brother and Mom are in this photo. This was not taken in 2001.

"Look! Look! Look! What's that?" Mom and I shouted all of a sudden... The kids pressed their noses to the windows of the train car- and a few of them yelled "ELVES!!!!!!!! They have lights!!!!!!! I see Santa's sleigh!!!!!!!" We had some of the kids from one side of the train come over with others in the row across so they could see. We helped a few stand up on the seats and look. "Look! There's MILLIONS of them! Do I get one of my own?" We answered yes- each family gets an Elf of their own to walk them on up... They hurriedly scrambled for their boots, jackets, hats and mittens. They all wore their PJ's (of course, that's tradition!) and were quite warm. They were all chitter-chatter and excitement... They literally couldn't get dressed fast enough- and were trying to drag their families off the train as quick as they could.

We did it. We managed to turn these sad kids into delighted and excited little ones chomping at the bit to get up and see Santa. Out of respect, they were the first ones allowed to disembark from the train. The elves led them up the path to "Santa's Barn" with little white lanterns. They threw snowballs to some of the elves playing out in front. They all got front row seating to the stage. Nearly everyone that volunteered on the train walked up to see the performance that night. The children were finally forgetting, for just a little while, the pain they had been (and will forever be) living with. The adults were emotional- eyes brimming with tears that threatened to spill over... And most of their children/grandchildren telling them not to cry, it will be alright- Santa's going to visit. Which of course- made them cry. Made most of us "Chefs" cry too. Many of the Elves teared up.

Not the 2001 performance. My Dad was Santa for a year.

The performance went off without a hitch- and when Santa came out... The kids were in absolute awe. Stunned that he actually showed up- right there in front of them. Of course- a little boy was picked from the crowd, as with every performance, and when asked what he wanted for Christmas he replied "Well, I'd like a bell from your sleigh for everyone."

Voices and excited squeals of delight immediately erupted from the NYC children... "We're getting bells!" was almost everything we heard. At this point, the show was nearly done, so we had to get back to the train. We prepared the bags, with the bells, and greeted our guests as they boarded the train for the ride back to the train station. I held the bag, as Mom reached in and pulled out the silver bells and handed them to everyone- kids and parents alike. I've never received so many hugs as I did that night I volunteered. What broke my heart is we had extras... And each family was given an extra bell for the loved one they lost. The parents cried, and the children held on extra tight to that bell so they could give it to their gone mother/father/family member. We sang some more, I rubbed my cheeks against some of the children who wanted "magic sparkles" from the glitter I had worn- of course with permission from Mom or Dad or Grandparents. During the ride back, some of the older kids continued singing with us. The younger ones, however, were starting to peter out and quickly fell asleep- curled up in the arms of their guardian, or against an older sibling. They still had the bells clutched in their little hands... One was theirs, one was for the Mom or Dad they lost. A few families, both. We made absolutely sure every person that wasn't able to be with their children that night still had a bell given to them. Looking at their sleeping faces, and the mixed emotions on the faces of the adults and children that were still awake, I realized then what this night meant to them. What we did for them.

They had forgotten for a night the pain and loss they would forever suffer through.

We did our job.

This is why I refuse to recognize this day as one of "National Service".

God Bless America. I will never, ever forget.

Faces of the Victims. Image from


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