102 Minutes-Part I

I love to read just as much as I love to write.  Writing for me conveys  emotions that are sometimes difficult to express out loud. But once it is on paper and you can see the unspeakable come to life, it puts many of your emotions into perspective. I learn when I read and I learn when I write.

In the writing workshops I’ve been involved in, each professor has told me that I am a binge writer. That just means that I don’t write the usual way a writer does; I write for hours, days and weeks at a time and then I retreat, and when I do write, I get it all out first and then worry about sentence structure, grammar and spell check. The fact that different professors and writing coaches all came to that same conclusion was for me a great validation. I no longer felt as if I needed a degree to state I was a writer.

Why am I sharing this with you before I get to the title of this blog? I am almost at the end of this book that for years I have avoided reading. It takes me a long time to read/watch/or listen to anything related to September 11th, 2001. How is that possible, one might ask, when I volunteer to give walking tours on a weekly basis for The Tribute Center and share with many visitors my personal story as well as the September 11th story?

I can’t explain it.

The tours for me are one of the many ways I can honor all those that never came home on that horrible day. The tours are a way for me to share the message of hope, love, peace, tolerance, respect and acceptance. On the days that I do my volunteer work, I wake up with a sense of purpose and I go to sleep knowing I’ve accomplished that. If what I do on any tour touches someone’s life, then for me, my mission has been accomplished;I have made a difference and I know then that the message has been received and will be passed on. Reading about that day or watching a movie, a documentary, etc. however is just hard. I can’t explain it any other way. I can tell you however that the many fellow volunteers that I have had the honor to meet and work with, “get it.” They understand just what I mean and that gives me great comfort. I have been truly blessed by having every one of them in my life even though I have not met them all. It’s a connection that was made on September 11th without any of us knowing we’d one day meet and meeting docents for the first time just makes the connection solid.

There was something about this book however, that kept calling out to me and yet each time I went to the gift shop to buy it, I left empty handed. I knew that eventually something would happen one day that would get me to read this book and that day came last week when I met one of the brave people mentioned in the “102 Minutes.” Now there was a face to this story and it was compelling me to buy the book. I began reading it the minute I got home that day. I found myself taking the steps of each person that was mentioned. I relived that day in a way I had never thought I would or could. I saw that day through the eyes of each person whose story was very much a part of the 102 minutes that changed our world on September 11th.

I tried to put the book down but I felt I couldn’t leave the people walking through corridors, stuck in elevators, climbing down stairs or helping others alone. These things already happened but for me, reading this book put me right there-front and center. I now had another perspective about September 11th;approximately 350 other perspectives.

I knew this story affected me because today as I walked into a building that I have been to at least a dozen times, I didn’t see the building and the beautiful lobby and all the work that went into making it pleasing to all those that visit, instead, I thought about the height, the steel, the open spaces, the elevators and the offices. I thought about the people that worked in this building and wondered if they knew each other well or if they just walked by each other day in and day out like those that went through the World Trade Center towers. I felt nervous. I was edgy and my husband sensed it. He knew about the book as I would stop every few pages to tell him about yet one more thing I didn’t know. Some he knew as he was there and was one of many rescue workers, some he didn’t. But today, as I walked into the building and as I walked out later, he knew. He knew something had affected me and all he said was, “It’s the book, isn’t it?” I could only shake my head in agreement.

He said he’d like to read it one day which was surprising to me as he does not like to deal with anything September 11th related. That is until I encouraged him to become a volunteer docent at The Tribute Center. Now he talks more about that day through the tours and now we actually have conversations about his experiences that day, something he has never done before. Almost eleven years later and September 11th still changes us.

I have about one hundred more pages to go but I felt compelled to write what has been on my mind these past few days. I started to write a review of sorts but felt I couldn’t. How could I “review” other people’s experiences? But I didn’t want this to be a review, I wanted it to be about ….

And this is where I retreat… The binge writer is left speechless with many emotions bottled up inside, unable to find the words that would do this book justice. I can only say for now that while I only knew a few of the people mentioned in this book, I feel as if I knew all of them. I can tell you that my heart is heavy. I can tell you that the people I did know that were murdered that day have come back into my life via this book and I am left wondering…..

I know in a few days I will complete Part II of this blog. For now, if you haven’t read this book, I encourage you to do so.

Until we read again….

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