Guest Spot: Amid desperation and despair in NYC


When I think of September 11, 2001, the first thing I remember is how beautiful the sky was on that ill-fated day as I left for school. Little did I know the crystal-clear azure blue sky above me would become crimson with the blood of approximately three-thousand innocent souls just two hours later.

I couldn’t contain my tears as I began to watch on television the horrific turn of events of what would turn out to be the worst tragedy I have ever witnessed in my life. Fear and frustration quickly turned to anger. A feeling of extreme hopelessness overcame me. As the terrible events began to unfold before my eyes, I felt an urgent need to do something about the situation. When the second plane crashed into the south tower, I pleaded with my senses to tell me what I was seeing was nothing more than a bad dream. But there was no awakening in a pool of sweat, only the nauseous realization that this, in fact, was reality — in its worst form.

My disbelief and horror only intensified when the south tower collapsed. My heart felt heavy beyond comprehension, and my fear reached unprecedented levels when I tried to estimate how many people were dying. I now had the daunting task of trying to make sense of the situation to my students while dealing with my own insecurities. I failed miserably. Nothing in my life prepared me to deal with such a cataclysmic situation.

For the next three days, I agonized over the loss of so many people, their family members, and our country. I was awakened in the night by the now indelible images of death and destruction that had become permanently seared into the deepest sinews of my mind. Something told me I had to do something. It was now Friday. I made up mind to help in any way I could. My respect for those lost, along with my sense of duty and patriotism, fueled my resolve.

I remember how eerily silent everyone was as I boarded the train from Ronkonkoma to Penn Station the following morning. As I walked across town to the Javits Center, my vision sharpened and my hearing became acute. I absorbed all of the emotions around me and became part of a massive sea of desperation and anxiety. I suddenly found myself inside a Salvation Army canteen truck serving disaster relief workers coffee and donuts. Hours passed by like minutes. After eight successive weekends, I decided to return to my family. My heart was no less heavy, and the images no less intense. The losses did not diminish, nor did the pain all Americans experienced.

My heart now goes out to the courageous and valiant rescue workers that have been denied medical treatment for a host of life-threatening diseases. I will never take for granted their selfless acts of bravery and dedication, along with our servicemen and women currently fighting the war against terrorism on two fronts. I will always honor the memory of the three-thousand lives lost on that terrible day, and remain steadfast in my belief that we all live in the greatest country on earth.

Mr. DeCaro is a retired English teacher who lives in Wading River.