Today, September 11th, 2012, at 6:00 a.m. I had a very rare and distinct honor. I was asked to be a part of a very special sunrise tribute at Ground Zero to those who fell on 9/11/2001 and to those who continue to die from the illnesses inflicted on them during their selfless acts of rescue and recovery. It was a small gathering of fire fighters, veterans and first responders who embarked on a very special mission on this very special day.
Starting at dawn’s early light, twenty flags bearing the names of those who died, and the first responders who sacrificed their lives, were consecrated at the base of the new World Trade Center. Then this small entourage headed for a waiting plane at JFK. In 10 and half hours they will land in Oahu, Hawaii and at 6 p.m. local Hawaiian time they will again consecrate those flags at a sunset ceremony at Pearl Harbor.
On both days, 12/7/1941 and 9/11/2001 there were acts of bravery, humanity and selflessness, known and never to be known, performed by military, first-responders and civilians alike, against a backdrop of fire, smoke, death and destruction. Through those dark clouds over Pearl Harbor and the choking dust in lower Manhattan, the silver lining of the human spirit, and the uniquely American glow surrounding it, is what we paid tribute to from today’s sunrise to sunset.
This event was organized by the Gear Up Foundation, itself born on the pile at Ground Zero and dedicated to helping those who served there as well as spreading American good will around the world, one fire company at a time. They accomplish this with their programs that recycle surplus fire trucks, firefighting equipment and instruction from America to other places in the world where it is sorely needed.
When you stand at Ground Zero, or The Arizona Memorial at Pearl, on any day, but more so on this day, the spirit of the thousands who perished here overcomes you. The echoes of the bombs and torpedoes and the reverberation of collapsing buildings surround you. Yet at the same time, the rise of the human spirit, displayed on these days, energizes you. It’s cliché, but America’s worst days, brought out the best of the American spirit.