Memories of gratitude abide

When the second plane hit the south tower of the World Trade Center, I had just stepped out of an elevator onto the 44th floor.

We had started walking down from our offices on the 68th floor after the first plane hit the north tower. Upon hearing an announcement that everything was OK and we could or should stay inside, however, I began to make my way back by elevator. I decided it would be faster to take an elevator down to the 44th floor, then catch one going up.

Just after I stepped out onto the 44th floor, dust and rubble burst out of the elevator shafts and stairways as the second jetliner hit. There was a lot of panic. I clung to the need to see and feel God's love.

The descent down the stairwells was orderly and efficient. So many people were actively expressing love for one another: helping others, calming their fears, embracing and comforting them, getting them out of the building. Wherever possible, many people were staying with friends and colleagues as they made their way outside, to make sure that everyone was safe.

When we got to the bottom, security guards, police, and firefighters were everywhere, keeping us to a safe path. They were suppressing our fear, and expressing such courage and love.

It sounds strange, but one of my abiding impressions was how much there was to be grateful for, and how many people to be grateful to. Half an hour, even 15 minutes later, there would have been a lot more people in the building. Many in my office were on vacation or late for work that day. There were so many people helping, actively combating the fear and horror, and witnessing courage and love.

Things got worse for a time, when the towers collapsed. I was a block away by then, and out of danger. But throughout that period, I was able to keep somewhat focused on the need to love and forgive.

Since the event, I have avoided watching the news. To me, focusing my efforts on forgiving is the most important thing.

I asked myself the next day if this event has shaken my faith in God. No. It has shaken my faith in matter. It has proved that location, distance, material comfort, and isolation are not enough to destroy hate or to insulate us from it. We need God.

I am grateful for the prayers and thoughts of so many who have helped me, and all those involved.

The author is a technology consultant for an investment company in New York.

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