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  • Crisis Institute, Washington, D.C.: "Get there if you can."

    Next day... "I'll go with the firemen." Fire Chief: "No one is getting into the city. The firefighters can't get in!"

    Drive to New York City myself. Park my car at Aunt's house in Bayside. Take the train to Penn Station. Walk to the Armory. So many people in shock. Look like the walking dead. So many people with so many questions that can't be answered. At the Armory, a huge screen covering news from ground zero. The Red Cross: "help people fill out their forms. Help people any way you can." Hours later I start the walk to ground zero.

    First barricade. Show my Police I.D. - Policeman: "Just keep walking from one barricade to the next. Show your I.D."

    Quiet, so quiet. No one around. Not one person. Every telephone pole, every inch of wall space, covered with pictures of missing people. So many missing people. Jets flying low and loud overhead.

    Another guarded barricade. Then another. Just keep walking. I see people ahead... inside a building. It's a hospital, just down the street from ground zero. It seems deserted except for a few people talking here and there. A Nurse: "Crisis Intervention? Yes, we will need crisis intervention. We lost many of our own emergency people who went out to help. No one will be back to work until next week. Please come back. We're going to need help."

    Keep walking. Flat bed truck drives by, piled high with crushed, flattened, cars. Parking garages filled with cars covered in four inch layer of dust... gray ash. Keep walking. Two shoes lying together but mismatched. An expensive woman's high heel lying on it's side. Untouched, looks brand new. Next to it, an expensive man's black wing-tip shoe. The back of the shoe is flattened like someone was running on it and finally just ran right out of it. Something about these shoes lying there together in the middle of the side walk brings a lump to my throat and tears. Just keep walking.

    Something...something...something wrong...everything wrong...something...no glass!
    No glass anywhere! Paper, papers... blowing around, but not one little piece of glass...no glass. Just powder...ash.

    The building where the firefighters and work crews come to rest. Cots lined up for sleep. Sheets tied on lines to keep the light out. People standing behind food trays ready to serve. No one in the line for food. Tired men. Sad and tired firefighters.
    Firefighter: "we will stay here until we find our friends. Our brothers. We found people alive yesterday. That gives us hope. We'll find more. We have to!"

    Walk to ground zero. A solemn place, only yards away... across the road. City Police and Security Police on radios take my I.D., all identification I am carrying. Police officers: "you are clear to go, but the President just arrived, and he's at the site. We'll have to wait until they give the signal to go. It's about to get really busy here." "I don't think I'll stay. I didn't know the President was coming today." Police officer: "are you sure? It won't be long. You can go while the President is still there, I'm only waiting for the signal." "No, I think I'll go before it gets dark."

    Strange decision. Why didn't I stay and walk to ground zero? I was only yards away.
    News crews coming in as I walk out. Clusters of News reporters...journalists, from all over the world, talking in different languages. Taking pictures. Asking me in foreign accents, for directions to ground zero. A sacred spot...made into a news station. "The President visits Ground Zero." I didn't want to see it that way. I'm walking, walking. Turning down this street and that, trying to avoid the news people. Trying to maintain that sacred feeling in my heart.

    I'm lost. So many lost. Lost... Crying...crying. So many pictures. More and more pictures. Handsome, smiling firefighters with their families. I'm in a maze. I'm trapped. No one here but me. Turned around, exhausted, confused. It's dusk. I look up and more jets fly overhead. So low...so loud. And then... a Monarch butterfly. Huge, beautiful, orange Monarch butterfly, flying right over my head in the middle of New York City. It flutters here and then zig-zags there, like it's not decided where it wants to go. The butterfly...the symbol of Hope. It chooses to go in the direction I've just come from. I watch it and say a silent prayer as it flies out of sight. Down the street there's a police officer. He's telling me that Penn station is not far. An announcement of my train just as I walk into the station. No waiting. I'm going home.
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