Wednesday was Information Meeting night for NAMI NYC Staten Island, and I introduced the guest speaker. Her name was Kerry Symon, Doctor of Clinical Psychology, and she was a great speaker. She spoke about post-disaster distress, and how Cognitive Behavior Therapy Post-Disaster Distress treatment can be used to help people suffering from the trauma of catastrophic events like 9/11 and Hurricane Sandy, both events which effected all Staten Islanders, and which continue to have an impact still felt today. The turnout was pretty good, and it attracted new people to NAMI, which is always a good thing.
Wednesday was a hot day, and the evening was very warm and muggy, typical for summer in NYC.
I witnessed the events of 9/11/2001 first-hand, since I was on an express bus going into the city on the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway at the time the second plane struck the South Tower. I was working in midtown Manhattan at the time, and I was late for work. When we saw the second plane fly into the building, we all knew it was an act of terrorism, and the single thought of everyone on the bus was "We're going to war." Some people said it aloud, and there was no argument. Which doesn't necessarily imply agreement, but it was pretty clear that it called for some serious action to be taken. I don't think anyone on the bus thought the wars that followed those acts of terrorism would last as long as they have, or that they would encompass multiple countries.
Anyway, for me, this is the first year that I've been able to watch any of the documentaries or news stories about 9/11. Yesterday my nephew posted to his Facebook page a segment of a show that had been created by two of his colleagues called, "The Red Bandanna," about a young man who worked at one of the brokerage firms in the World Trade Center.
He always carried with him a red bandanna. After college graduation, he went to work at the brokerage firm in the WTC, and just before 9/11, he had told his father that he wanted to switch careers and become a firefighter, which was his life-long dream. On 9/11, he was at work. He saved 12 people, though he himself died, because he kept going back to find more people to save. His parents didn't know what happened until they read a news story from one of the survivors that mentioned a young man in a red bandanna who worked to get people out of the building. Then they realized that was their son. More people came forward to talk about the mysterious young man in the red bandanna. That confirmed to his parents that it was their son. Then red bandannas started popping up in different places, because people heard the story and wanted to remember the young man who saved so many people, though he lost his life.
The FDNY made him an honorary firefighter. The firehouse in his hometown of Nyack, NY, has a picture of him, which is the last thing the firefighters see before they leave on a call.
I thought that was a great story of courage and selflessness.
Last night I watched a documentary on the History Channel (which has remarkably little history on it these days) about "The Man Who Predicted 9/11." It was about Rick Rescorla, who was the security officer for the brokerage firm Dean Witter-Morgan Stanley, which occupied floors 44-74 of one of the towers. He was actually a native of Great Britain, but he fell in love with the USA when he was a little boy and he met the American soldiers in war-time Britain (WW II). He served in Viet Nam and became an American citizen.
He was very conscientious about the security of the people in offices where he was security officer, particularly the WTC, because he always thought it would be a prime target for terrorists, and particularly vulnerable to attack from the air, because of its symbolism, its logistics and structure, and its location. When the bombing occurred in the garage in 1993, because his security advice went unheeded, he took steps to make sure that the staff of DWMS was prepared in the event of an attack on the building. They had drills every three months, and no one was exempt. Whatever they were doing, whether they were on the phone or in a meeting, they had to drop everything and participate in the drill.
On 9/11, it is estimated that his security measures saved 2700 people who worked in the offices of Dean Witter-Morgan Stanley, even though he didn't make it out alive.
9/11 was a tragic event, but it restores my faith in humanity that some people still act with grace, courage and selflessness in the face of unbearable horror and terror.