Sunday, September 11, 2011

Bearing Witness

Here's a post I wrote on 9/11/08. I can't believe ten years have passed:

On a crystal clear morning eight years ago today, my husband and I were sitting in our car at a beach in Greens Farms, Connecticut, watching the Twin Towers burn. We couldn’t see the flames, but from across Long Island Sound we could see plumes of smoke blackening the sky. Minutes earlier on television we'd watched in horror as the towers came down, the debris cascading through the canyons of lower Manhattan.

At one time my husband had an office at the World Trade Center, but I only knew one person who was there that day—a friend who was working at her desk on the 83rd floor when the second plane hit. She made it out. I didn't know a single soul who died.

Even so, I cried every day for months. The New York Times ran a regular feature titled "Portraits of Grief" to commemorate the victims of the attack. Perhaps I would have been less emotional had I not been a regular reader of the section. In all, 140 reporters spent more than a year writing brief portraits of more than 2,400 of that day’s roughly 2,800 victims, bearing witness to their lives.

The stories are heartstopping. Each one beckons us, the living, to be braver with our dreams.

I went back to that same Greens Farms beach this afternoon. A storm is blowing through. It's 63 degrees out, but feels 50. A very different day from that one eight years ago. A very different world.

The voices of the victims are no more than a whisper now, but from beyond the grave they still call out to us, urging us to remember.

Note: The photo at the top of this post was taken two days ago by Phyllis Groner for at a 9/11 commemorative ceremony at Sherwood Island State Park in Westport, CT. The other photo was taken yesterday afternoon by Larry Untermeyer at Compo Beach, also in Westport. Both places are within a mile or so of the beach where I sat and watched the towers burn.


  1. You eloquently captured what many people felt today, Prill. I woke up today and said a little prayer of thanks that there was rain, not sun. In a strange way it made it a little bit easier.

  2. I, too, was thankful for the rain.

  3. Two young men I had coached in soccer died in the World Trade Center. They were brothers. Today the soccer team I coach plays in an annual tournament in Wethersfield, Connecticut, that commemorates them and other players lost on 9/11. We play every year in their memory -- yet thankful that life goes on, and that we are able to appreciate all that we have.

  4. I don't think anyone will forget that day.
    We are reminded that every life is precious and every individual carries a million thoughts, dreams, and experiences...

    L. Diane Wolfe “Spunk On A Stick”

  5. A very beautiful post on such a tragic event. Eloquently written and true - this is such a different world now. More and more of us are stepping out and becoming braver with are dreams, just as you suggest.

  6. Wow, this post made me cry. My husband John and I were just in NY at the World Trade Center site this past Feb. I could feel the souls of those left behind. It is an unbelievable feeling to just be there... even though it was 8 years ago. I stood on the stairs of one of the buildings facing where the towers were and an overwhelming feeling of grief overcame me. And yes, we need to always remember, and grieve yet even today... then grab hold and stand tall and live our truth. Thanks for sharing your poignant thoughts.

    ~Barbara Techel

  7. I went to services this morning at our synagogue where about 50 people gathered to pray, share recollections and read out loud a prayer written by a group of clergy here in Westport. This interdenominational group of priests, ministers and rabbis composed a perfect plea for peace and healing. I was warmed thinking that it was recited throughout our precious homes of worship this morning.

  8. Thanks, Liz, for emailing me a copy. Here's the prayer:

    9/11 Prayer of Remembrance and Hope

    Dear God, we remember before you today those whose lives were lost in the catastrophic events of September 11, 2001, and for all those whom we love but no longer see. We give thanks to you for the selfless courage of those brave souls who ran into burning buildings and who labored in the rubble; may their courage be to us a witness of what is possible when we are guided by love and dedication to our fellow human beings.

    We pray today for the continued healing of all those suffering emotional and physical scars. May your spirit breathe new breath into clouded lungs, new life into troubled minds, and new warmth into broken hearts, so that all may feel wrapped in your loving embrace. May we move from suffering to hope, from brokenness to wholeness, from anxiety to courage, from death to life, from fear to love, and from despair to hope.

    Guide our feet into the way of peace. Inspire us with hope in the gift of shalom and salaam. May we receive this gift, so that we might become instruments of your peace in this world, knowing all people as equally loved, lovingly created, children of God.

    Cantor Laura Berman, The Conservative Synagogue
    Reverend John Branson, Christ & Holy Trinity Church
    Reverend Dr. John G. Brown III, United Methodist Church
    Reverend Faith Carmichael, Saugatuck Congregational Church
    Father Michael Dunn, St. Francis of Assisi
    Rabbi Alysa Mendelson Graf, Temple Israel
    Reverend Debra Haffner, Unitarian Church in Westport
    Reverend Kerith Harding, Christ & Holy Trinity Church
    Reverend Edward Horne, United Methodist Church of Westport and Weston
    Judy Olson, First Church of the Christ Scientist
    Rabbi Robert Orkand, Temple Israel
    Rabbi Yossi Pollak, Beit Chaverim Synagogue of Westport/Norwalk
    Reverend Pete Powell
    Reverend Thomas Thorne, Church of the Assumption
    Reverend Howie Tobak, Saugatuck Congregational Church
    Monsignor Andrew G. Varga, Saint Luke Church
    Rabbi Jeremy Wiederhorn, The Conservative Synagogue