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Hope Beyond Hope

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I moved to the USA in 1999 and settled in Ohio, where I worked as a project manager in the telecommunications industry. The USA seemed the same as Canada to me. There was little difference, except the money was all one color and it wasn’t home, until 9/11. On that day I learned what it felt like to have my country attacked.



I played those words in my head—My Country. They were true. I still felt Canadian, but on 9/11, the USA became my country. I lived here and “WE” were attacked.



I was at work when the news came to us. Everyone got on the internet to read what was happening. There were a lot of misconceptions and confusion before the country and the world realized we were under attack. Work stopped. People stood in their cubicles wondering what to do.



I had a client who had offices in Midtown Manhattan. I called them, “Janessa, we just heard a plane struck one of the towers. Is it true?”



“Yes! It’s true. We can see the tower burning from our windows.” A few minutes later, we learned another plane struck the second tower and a third plane slammed into the Pentagon. Several minutes later, as we watched people leaping to their death, the towers collapsed into a pile of rubble.



The towers were major communication centers for Manhattan. Across the street were the offices of Verizon, one of the largest telecommunication providers on the east coast. Their offices were so badly damaged, six years later, they still stand empty.



Most of our customers in Manhattan lost their communication lines. One client called me, “Mike,” she choked back tears, “Can you help us. We need to set up emergency network connections.”



I remembered their main office was located in one of the towers. “Are you OK?” I asked. “Have you heard anything from your staff.”



“No,” she began to cry. I felt helpless. There was nothing I could do but say I was sorry and would do what could to get their network up. They lost most of their employees that day.



Word came down from our head office, “This is an extreme emergency. All staff are to stay on duty until further notice.” Our managers called a meeting. We were told plans were underway to restore services to the New York area. Several hours later—hours I wanted to spend at home holding my wife—we were told to go home and keep our phones open in case our services were needed.



I stood in front of my house with my neighbors, wondering what would happen. We stared at the empty skies. Planes approached the Port Columbus over our homes. On 9/11 the skies were empty. The planes were grounded.



“I’m a Canadian,” I said to my neighbors, “Tonight, I’m American. I’m happy here. Whoever did this, took on a world of people who believe in freedom. If I’m called to service, I’ll go.”



A year later, I moved to New Jersey. My first weekend here, I visited the site, and stood at the edge of the hole where the towers once stood. Two years before I’d spent an evening on the 107th floor. Our client treated us to dinner at the “Windows of the World” restaurant. I looked up at the blue sky and remembered staring down at The Statue of Liberty. It looked like a tiny toy floating at the entrance to the Hudson River.



The towers were no more. Plywood walls still protected the area. Laminated flyers were still stapled to the rotting wood. The pictures of faded loved ones fluttered in the breeze. “Have you seen this person?” they asked—hope beyond hope.



I cried.



I entered the little church a half block away. Surprisingly, it was not damaged. It served as headquarters for the rescue operations. Inside were letters and cards to the firefighters and their families. They came from school children all over the world. My tears began to flow again. The pictures and letters grew blurry. I sat, waited until my emotions were under control, and weakly walked out.



A year later, I talked to a new co-worker. She lived in Manhattan on 9/11.



“Mike, I was walking my dog along the Hudson River and saw the second plane strike. I sat in the grass, held my dog and cried.



Mike, my boyfriend was a New York City fireman. He died in the towers.



For weeks, I refused to accept the fact he was dead. A close friend took my hand one day. He was working with the rescuers, clearing out debris. He gave me a safety suit and mask, and snuck me into the ruins where he worked.



He pointed to the buildings around us, ‘Ruth, look at those buildings. Picture one of them collapsing. Ruth, he’s dead.’ and then I cried. It took a friend to make me face reality, Mike.”



Ruth had been like those who posted pictures on the plywood walls. She didn’t want to believe her loved one was gone. There was no trace of them, so in their mind, they had to be alive somewhere.



Like all of us, there are times when we find it hard to believe what is happening in our lives. We hold on to hope—hope beyond hope.

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