Comment on this article

Ground Zero
Reported by Leslie Fuller

you know the frequent dream you have where you're being chased, a big monstrous disaster is running you down and you have to flee madly? in my dream, i never make it.

in reality tonight, i did. stephen westfall and i volunteered (there were only 4 of us who did) to go down to ground zero in a salvation army van to get water and supplies to the rescue workers on the front lines.

stephen and i got off at the site of the former world trade center as they were bringing up three airplane seats. our salvation army truck moved on, lost, toward another site while stephen and i stayed on alone and got cold water and snacks from coolers to the exhausted firefighters and cops on their way off their 4 hour shift. they'd all been there about 40 hours straight.

the place is flooded with heavy light and crawling, crawling with rescue workers. like an ashen, too brightly lit human anthill. ALL the buildings in sight are deeply damaged. skeletons of the two world trade center towers stand - about five stories left out of 110. the remaining 105 stories imploded into the ground. hundreds of feet of rubble and ash and corpses way below even the subway level. it's all down there. they'll never be able to bring all the bodies up.

like ants, the rescue workers clamored in the grossly subterranean pits filled with rubble and markers for body parts. we had to wear asbestos masks but the rescue workers had gas masks. layers of asbestos ash covered us within minutes. the fragments of the world trade center facades remained standing like a 3-dimensional frank stella painting. it looked like pictures i've seen of hiroshima, if you want to know the truth.

stephen and i know these buildings and these streets so intimately that we knew exactly where we were and what everything used to look like and we could still feel, amidst the shattering transformation, 'at home.' that was an unexpected feeling.

concentrating on getting supplies to these heroes keeps your mind busy, as service is meant to do. but suddenly, about 150 cops and firefighters came running at us at high speed, because the skyscraper on the block we were standing on was presumed to be collapsing. the yelled and dragged us with them


and i think both stephen and i felt that this was probably 'it' but also that it was the right way to go. one of the two endangered buildings believed to be unstable was starting to crumble, as was the remaining structure of one of the towers. i'm asthmatic and it's a miracle i'm okay breathing wise but i am and that's a miracle i decided to rely on.

i couldn't run anymore and the cops ran past me and we were a few blocks away and safe. then a crowd of firefighters ran the other direction, toward the presumed collapse. we said 'it's falling'. they said 'they've been saying that for three days" and ran back into the fray. later, we heard reports of rescue workers taken to emergency rooms because of this.

Somehow we escaped. we wanted to go back. we were interviewed on tv.

all i can say about ground zero is that it makes the movie "escape from new york" look like "you've got mail."

we've been to the belly of hell. and there are hundreds of angels working there, fully "delivered from the bondage of self. " the word 'hero' feels like a big understatement.

we got back and tried to shower off all the asbestos.. the salvation army captain said we aren't supposed to eat till we've taken at least three showers.

we're going back tomorrow at 8 a.m. the landscape of hell has the content of home. too much true heroism is going on there, round the clock, for those of us who can be of some small use to stay away. serving these heroes is an honor.

this damage is a lot worse than it appears on tv. the financial district is in devastation. stephen said he didn't think the attackers knew they'd cause this much destruction. it's indescribable. i had no idea till i saw it in person.

pray for the firefighters cops and rescue workers. they're finding new and creative places to post the american flag in the middle of hades.



Return to

[New] [Archives] [Join] [Contact Us] [Poetry in Motion] [Store] [Staff] [Guidelines]