Ting ting rang the tiny bell above the door of the small wine store as I held the door for our crew to enter.
It was September of 2011, the week leading up to the 10th anniversary of the horrible terror attacks of 9/11. I was leading a team to New York to do a series of broadcasts all week which culminated in a 2 hour special on September 11, 2011 from Ground Zero.
It was our first day in NYC, and our crew was tired from travel and filming in Manhattan all day so we stopped to grab a bottle of wine before heading back to our hotel to sleep for a couple of hours.
As the team looked for a bottle I struck up a conversation with the man behind the register.
“Excuse me, sir,”
He looked up only briefly then right back down at the papers on the small counter.
“Were you here on 9/11?”
He was very cordial and nothing about his demeanor gave me the impression I should not engage him in conversation.
“With all respect,” I continued, “we are a broadcast team from Texas doing a series of radio broadcasts and videos about the attacks and life in New York since.”
He looked up from his papers long enough to say, “That’s good. Welcome to New York.”
I smiled as he continued.
“I hope you like it here. New York is my home. I grew not far from this store.”
“My name is Trey Ware, and I was wondering if you would be willing to talk with me on camera about the attacks, and how life has changed in New York since that terrible day.”
“No thanks,” he answered with a smile.
“I understand. No problem.”
“I’m not sure you do…understand that is.”
I was curious about what he meant by that, but I didn’t want to press the issue too much.
I was ready to pay for the wine and head to the hotel when the owner continued the conversation.
“You see, my friend, the store you are in is a only a few blocks from where the Twin Towers once stood. I was here on the day we were attacked.”
I looked intently into his eyes. I could see the pain was still there 10 years later.
“When those buildings came down we breathed in the steel, the papers, the phones, the fax machines, the computer screens… all of it.”
“Everything was burned up.”
I and my crew stood there in stunned silence.
Then he said, “And we breathed in everyone who was incinerated in those buildings.”
My mouth was dry, and tears were streaming down my cheeks.
I glanced at our team. Not one dry eye.
“My brothers and sisters who were in those building that day are inside me. They are a part of who I am now.”
He stopped to look into the faces of each of us.
He pointed to his chest, “They always will be right here.”
“And here,” with a point to his head.
“Here,” as he pointed to his arms.
Same as he pointed to his legs.
“They will always be inside of me.”
“They are me.”
“I am them.”
All of us were, and still are, blown away.
To honor the fallen, President Trump has issued this proclamation:
“Throughout history, everyday Americans and first responders have done the extraordinary through selfless acts of patriotism, compassion, and uncommon courage. Not just in New York, Virginia, and Pennsylvania, but across our great Nation, Americans on September 11, 2001, bound themselves together for the common good, saying with one voice that we will be neither scared nor defeated. The enemy attempted to tear at the fabric of our society by destroying our buildings and murdering our innocent, but our strength has not and will not waiver. Americans today remain steadfast in our commitment to liberty, to human dignity, and to one another,” Mr. Trump says in his proclamation recognizing Patriot’s Day — the official title for the anniversary, determined by a joint resolution of Congress approved weeks after the attacks.
“It has been 16 years since the tragedy of September 11. Children who lost their parents on that day are now parents of their own, while many teenagers currently in high school learn about September 11th only from their history books. Yet all Americans are imbued with the same commitment to cause and love of their fellow citizens as everyone who lived through that dark day. We will never forget. The events of September 11, 2001, did not defeat us. They did not rattle us. They, instead, have rallied us, as leaders of the civilized world, to defeat an evil ideology that preys on innocents and knows nothing but violence and destruction. On this anniversary, I invite all Americans to thank our nation’s incredible service members and first responders, who are on the front lines of our fight against terrorism,” notes Mr. Trump.
May we never forget.