Tomorrow is the 9th anniversary of the 9/11 tragedy. That day nearly 3,000 people perished in coordinated terrorist attacks on both the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon in Washington, DC. The events of that day changed the lives of almost everyone I know in some way.
Last night about 7 pm, my mobile phone rang just as I was entering my apartment. The call was from a very old and dear friend of mine. It is always good to see her name appear on my cell phone as it rings and I answered the phone excitedly.
"Hey Leslie...how’s it going?", I said as I answered to her call.
"Jimmy...are you watching the news right now?" she responded.
"No, I’m just walking into my apartment...why?"
Fighting back tears, she went on "My mom’s house is gone...there was an explosion and our house is in flames...I think she got out...but I don’t know where she is...can you help me by calling some of our friends to help find her?"
"Of course...let me make some calls and I’ll call you right back"
I hung up the phone and immediately called our close friend Bob, who currently lives in the area and who might be in the position to help Leslie.
He told me that he believed that there was an evacuation area set up for the people whose homes were on fire and that he would drive there right away to see if he could find Leslie’s mom.
A few minutes later I received a follow-up call from Leslie saying that her mom was located and she was still in a state of shock but safe.
I spent the rest of the evening viewing live video on the Internet of a raging fire in San Bruno, CA. The live camera shots showed flames soaring several hundred feet in the air with so many homes on fire. The winds were howling (which is typical for this area) causing the fires to spread rapidly to more homes.
For those of you who are regular readers of the blog, you might remember that I grew up in San Bruno and although I don’t have any family remaining there, I still have many good friends (like Bob), families of friends (like Leslie), and a multitude of acquaintances and school mates who still call San Bruno home. I have a great affinity and wonderful memories for my childhood home and the neighborhoods where I spent the days of my youth.
I watched in horror as many of the homes that I have actually been in as a child were now reduced to ashes. Last October, Leslie and I drove back to San Bruno together to attend our high school class reunion, staying several nights in her mother’s home...the one that was now a pile of ashes. From the helicopter views, I saw my own, one-time family home on the perimeter of the fires that were still raging and wondered if those homes would soon be engulfed in flames.
I woke this morning with the events of the previous evening still freshly etched in my mind. I logged on to several news sites looking for any additional information and witnessed the devastation that the fires had left behind. I called Leslie to get an update and perhaps some more details.
It appears that a gas main had exploded just outside her family’s home. It was a miracle that her mother happened to be in the basement at the time of the explosion as portions of the upper stories of the home were ripped off the foundation due to the initial blast. Somehow her elderly mother managed to escape the flames and get herself to a safe spot up the street away from the intense flames.
Natural disasters, war, epidemics and famines kill hundreds of people each and every day around the world to a point where we have become so immune to the effects of such catastrophes. We are numbed by these events due to the sheer number of significant events and by the fact that most of us don’t have any personal connection to the victims.
Shortly after 9/11, I decided to go to NYC to visit ground zero and pay my respects to those who lost their lives that fateful day. As I stood in front of the impromptu 9/11 memorial in front of the gates of St. Paul Church in lower Manhattan that cold December day, I thought about those people who went to work that September day, never to return home to loved ones.
While others around me cried for the victims of that day, I felt nothing more than I had when I stood surveying the battle ground of Gettysburg several years before. It was a great loss of innocent American lives but not only did I not personally know any of the victims, in fact I didn’t even know anyone who knew anyone. My feeling was that of emptiness and sorrow not necessarily of connection (other than this was an attack upon United States).
Last evening was different for me as I fought back tears watching the homes of loved ones consumed by flames. This touched home...this was home...
There are at least 4 people who are confirmed dead as of this morning due to the San Bruno fire...a very small fraction of those who lost their lives 9 years ago...but none the less tragic...
Please keep those who are suffering today in your prayers...
Thank you so much for all your support of OptiFuse...enough said today.
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