As September makes its annual appearance my thoughts go to two events .
I often think back to the week of Sept. 11 and a trip I made to New York City with then-Walthourville Fire Chief Thomas Hines and several of his firefighters.
I tagged along to cover their journey to New York while they delivered donated items and provide support to fallen brothers.
After a good nights rest in a New Jersey hotel, we made our way to Lower Manhattan. The trek to the site where the towers and other buildings lay in ruins was daunting, to say the least. Many of the roads were blocked to vehicle traffic, so we made numerous detours. What should have taken roughly 20 minutes took hours.
When we finally made it into Lower Manhattan we walked between the canyon of buildings the city is famed for as workers used high pressure hoses to clean remnants of the dust off the buildings left after the World Trade Center collapsed a few days earlier.
New Yorkers, wearing masks to filter the dust in the air, went about their business.
When we finally made it to the site where the Towers lay in a rubble, I looked over to Hines and could see the pained expression on his face as I’m guessing he tried to make sense of what was before him.
My own thoughts went to bygone days when I delivered video tapes to the ABC broadcast facility on the floor beneath the roof, which gave an awesome view of the city.
That weekend, a nondenominational service was held in Yankee Stadium to remember those who perished at the hands of evil this nation had not seen since the attack on Pearl Harbor. Prayers were offered, and comments made by politicians. Once again, for the second time since we arrived, I watched as Hines and his firefighters wiped their eyes as tears flowed freely.
There will never be words to adequately describe the pain each of us felt for our fellow man, or the devastation this magnificent city faced at the time.
Contrast that with several weekends in September 2005, after Hurricane Katrina hit the gulf states. I tagged along with Sonya Campbell and Greg Kurth of the Bryan County News to deliver supplies and see first-hand the devastation in Katrina’s path of destruction. We made it to Gulfport, Mississippi. I don’t think any of us were prepared to confront what laid before us. My thoughts at first were war zones, but a hundred times worse.
Mind you I spent time in Kuwait after combat operations ceased and rode through the highway of death and the oil fields which had been set on fire.
What lay before me was beyond comprehension. Tractor trailers and cars were strewn about. A casino that was supposed to be docked on the water, lay in the middle of a major thoroughfare. Empty slabs marked where homes once housed families. On a pedestal in front of one slab sat photos of a family I guess lived there, and was found by someone who made the gesture to leave it for the family to find.
The following week I made it to New Orleans to visit my son Chris who was working for AFFES and was deployed to provide support to the soldiers in the city.
The weekend I was there, St. Bernard Parish was opened to the media to document. I drove into the parish not knowing what to expect. The first thing I noticed was the absence of people, there was not one single citizen who lived there that I encountered. I did encounter rescue teams going from house to house in search of bodies, and once the home was cleared a symbol was spray painted on the front of the home with the date indicating it had been cleared.
There was an eerie silence as I drove or walked from neighborhood to neighborhood. It was so silent I could actually hear the mud which had been left behind from the flood waters squish under my feet.
Cars were overturned, and some were jacked up, supported by fences. It was a scenario out of a horror film or Stephen King novel.
Now, as September once again descends upon, us our nation is again faced with a disaster of biblical proportions.
The water is receding in Texas, a state roughly 16 to 18 hours from Liberty County, but it doesn’t matter to us that they’re so far away, we’d help if they were next door through donations to the Red Cross or fund drives.
That’s because when the chips are down we put our petty differences aside, roll up our sleeves and drive on to help those in need. At the end of the day we do care for one another.
Levine is retired Army and a longtime correspondent for the Coastal Courier, primarily covering public safety.