Emotional Journal Entry and Song

The following was written by Diane Riegal---

 

September 17, 2001 .. 6 days after the attack. (journal entry)

The mood on the Metro North train is quite somber. There's no need

to guess what is running through the minds of these concrete jungle

commuters. Our first footstep on the platform of the train station

brings us eye to eye with one of those desperate "missing persons"

signs. This one is for Carmen Rivera -- a bright and beautiful young

woman; one of America's "up and coming" working in the South Tower of the majestic Twin Towers. We didn't see just one poster of her ... it

would seem as far as your eye could see Carmen's smiling face was placed

with love and care on every available post. I could only imagine the

grieving relatives and friends who placed each poster up with a great

measure of hope, faith and prayer.

I've traveled to the city many times. This was my hometown. I've been a

concrete jungle commuter myself. I've elbowed with the best (and the

worst) of the straphanger crowd but this day is different. This is

the first day back to work for many after the attack ... the attack that

shook our very being. The mood is somber; the atmosphere grim.

Newspapers lay on empty seats with those graphic photos of the plane

making fiery impact. The pictures cause us to gasp, still we are

compelled to look. I wonder what we will encounter when we reach

our destination. I wonder what that first view of Manhattan will be

like from the New Jersey approach. I was 7 years old when the ground

was broken to build these symbols of American prosperity and ingenuity.

Now, 35 years later, the ground has been broken again but by the hands

of evil. We are headed for ground zero.

My eyes catch the first glimpse of the now changed skyline and my heart

sinks. A gaping hole; a void; a missing piece where once stood NYC's

mightiest of skyscrapers. Smoke still billows from what is now

effectively the final resting place for thousands of innocent people. It

all seems so surreal.

The streets are eerily quiet. This is not a typical NYC work day. No

throngs of people bustling on crowded sidewalks. I don't even hear a car horn blow on the street. We set off to try and minister

to families who are trying to deal with the probable loss of a loved

one. We want to hand out a stuffed bear with a message on it that

people are praying for them during this most difficult time. We want

to give out tapes with songs of encouragement on it, to offer a hug, and to offer some hope through faith in Jesus. That is what we originally set off to do but God has other plans. Doesn't He always?

It is difficult to find a place to meet up with the grieving families. It is

understandable the city was trying to shelter them from

a barrage of people. So we walk ... and walk.....closer to ground

zero where we meet up with police officers from all walks of life who

are guarding the streets. Ground zero is cordoned off to outsiders.

16 acres of prime NYC real estate roped off, barricaded, and chaotic --

it is all a crime scene.

Wherever we walk our eyes meet with a wall of missing persons

posters. They are the pleas and cries from grieving family members and

friends. I read as many as I can. These were all precious lives.

Mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles, grandmas, grandpas, sisters, brothers,

friends. This was America's best and brightest -- many of who were

reaching the pinnacle of their careers I'm sure. My eyes meet up with

Carmen Rivera's poster... the same poster that we encountered at the

train station at the beginning of the trip. I try to imagine how many

tears were shed with each poster that was hung. Five thousand lives.

Five thousand stories. This is real life as unreal as it might seem.

We never do meet up with those families that we so want to pray with

and lend some encouragement too. God has other plans for us. I believe

he wanted us to encounter the good despite the bad situation. He wanted

to place our eyes on the roses that were coming from the ashes.

We see NYC at its best. Brother helping brother. Stranger reaching out to stranger. People praying. Signs boldly proclaiming " In God We Trust" and meaning it. America seemingly was back on her knees looking upward.

While NYC was attacked by terrorists it is also being taken

over by an army of people with a need and desire to help out in any way

they can. The city that has long been criticized for being cold and

harsh is now softer and more compassionate. Throngs of people cheer

and clap for any of the fireman, policeman or rescue workers who would

drive by. These heroes receive their acknowledgment with humility. We

see the profound sadness and disbelief at what they had seen and

were dealing with at ground zero. We pass a few fire stations close to

the sight that are in mourning for their 300+ brothers that had perished

underneath the pile of concrete and twisted steel trying to save others.

It is a different place forever changed in a NY minute on that fateful

mid September day. We give our bears to rescue workers, firemen, and

ambulance drivers. Pastor even gives one to an elderly Asian woman who

is begging on the street. Anybody who looks like they need a small token of encouragement is a recipient. A NYC fireman says that he needs the encouragement as he takes one of our tapes and "good news bears".

Joshua, a 13 year old with us, gives his cherished stuffed animal to a woman waiting in the subway station. She is moved by his gesture. Joshua is equally moved. We give bears out at St. Vincent's Hospital where an appreciative hospital worker promises to give them to children on the ward. In our attempt to give to people, we meet up with so many who offer us drink and food, like Jose, a volunteer worker on Pier 50, who embraces us and our mission.

We visit America's oldest mission on Lafayette street which is in close proximity to ground zero. This is now a relief center for the hundreds of now weary rescue workers where they could take a shower and get something to eat.

There is evidence of Christ throughout this mission and I'm sure a lot

of rescue workers are receiving spiritual nourishment here as well.

The kind folks at the mission listen to our cause and offer directions, food and water to us as well. The generosity we experience is almost overwhelming .. after all, we had set out to give to others. Now they are giving to us. We meet up with a wonderful volunteer Red Cross staff stationed at a NYC school near the site.

They too embrace us and our cause as they receive our good news bears

and music tapes. They offer us directions, water, and even apples for

our journey..more strangers wanting to give to us. Can you imagine

that? New York is reaching out. America is reaching out. Buildings

might have been leveled and lives lost but the spirit of unity, love,

and concern was raised high.

Our journey ends at the Executive Headquarters for the Salvation Army.

We still have backpacks full of good news bears to distribute. As we

turn the corner the sight was amazing. Scores of volunteers are

emptying trucks and pallets of food, sheets, water, diapers .. you name

it .. it is there. The donations are clogging 14th street. There is

a sign on the building stating "Only Monetary Donations Taken". They

had reached capacity storage space for anything else. It is amazing. Our

eyes are fixed on a tractor trailer full of donations from Oklahoma

City -- a city that knows all too well the devastating effect of a

horrific occurrence such as this. We find a gentleman who receives

our good news bears on behalf of the Salvation Army saying that they

were not getting a lot of donations of kid's things. Our bears find a

home. That is good news.

We will never know what the final resting place for those bears were,

but I know my God ... and I know that He will use them and their message to reach the ones who need some encouragement during this time. It seems such a small thing as we look at the enormity of this situation but God often uses the ordinary to do the extraordinary. Just look at all those volunteers that we encountered. Ordinary men and women extending themselves in an extraordinary way.

I heard a lot of conversations on the street while making our journey.

All were related to the attack. Some had a political bent, some had a

religious slant, while most people just conversed to share their

disbelief and search for answers. I will say that one young man's

conversation will stay with me for a long time. He looked at the ruins

and at the change in attitude since this tragedy occurred. With an air

of negativity he then stated, "In a year from now everyone will forget

about this and things will be back to the way they were".

I don't think so. We've been forever changed. There is no turning

back. There is only turning upwards.

diane riegal

9/17/01

*After journaling some of my thoughts about that day, I sat down to write the song "Remember Us"
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xxHytCwb7bc&feature=related

 

Verse 1

I have seen the dark of evil

I have heard a distant storm

Felt a trembling in my spirit

As I faced the cold of dawn

What I once thought strong now crumbled

In an empty cloud of dust

Will we stand with the forgiven

Remember us

 

Verse 2

Hear the voices of Your children

As they cry out on the street

In the ruins and the ashes

Many miles upon their feet

Searching through the haze for answers

And on knees with eyes above

Will we stand with the forgiven

Remember us

 

Chorus 1

Remember us for we are weary

Living in a world of pain

Remember us each time we walk away

Come and take us home again

And every time we put our faith in things

We should not trust

Will we stand with the forgiven

Remember us

 

 

Verse 3

I see a child without a mother

I see a father with no son

I see a picture of a smiling face

Have you seen this missing one

And through every tear and broken heart

Oh how we need Your love

Will we stand with the forgiven

Remember us

 

Chorus 2

Remember us for we have wandered

Down a road so far from You

Remember us and open up our eyes

To Your mercy and Your truth

And every time we put our faith in things

We should not trust

Will we stand with the forgiven

Remember us

 

(BRIDGE)

It was on a tree You spoke these words of truth

Father please forgive they know not what they do

 

Verse 4

Do Your tears fall from the heavens

As You look down from above

I know all You ever want is just to show

Your grace and love

But I wonder how long will it be

Before You say enough

Will we stand with the forgiven

Remember us

 

 

CCLI Song No. 4095831

© 2001 East River Street Music

Diane Riegal