Mr. Grooism

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December 04, 2003 - 12:28 a.m.

Part 1: A Fresh Start!

OK, now where was I?

My last "column" entry on my old web site was a little over two years ago. At the time I had never heard the word "weblog", and "SheikSpeak" was the title of my weekly rambling.

I did a pretty damned good job of maintaining my weekly column for a few solid months there. I wrote my entry for Wednesday, September 12, 2001 on the previous Monday Night, but...

*sigh*

At the time my online persona was "The Sheik of Entropy" - damn I liked that name- but the events of that Fateful Tuesday shaped a firm resolve that a cutesy Faux-Arabic name about Chaos and Disorder was suddenly not very funny, if it ever truly was.

Although the intent now (as it was then) is to be humorous, entertaining and informative, there really is no way for me to FINALLY get this puppy barking without the first post being kind of a downer. Those who know me well know that That Day surely left its mark on me, although my losses weren't as personal as many who have since recovered with greater strength of will and character.

I must, however, dedicate this my first post to the loving memory of Susan Ruggiero, wife of my Soul Brother and Cousin Frank Ruggiero. Two funnier, friendlier and simply more wonderful folks have never before or since graced this planet, and I love you both.

Susan worked at Marsh & McClellan on the 96th (if memory serves) floor of WTC Tower One, and will always be sadly missed by all whose lives she touched. Frank lost a soul mate like no other whom he will always honor and never forget, but I am thrilled beyond words that he has since found another special soulmate in Jenn, who also suffered tremendous personal loss That Day. I wish you both all the happiness you so richly deserve.

The following is my post to my good friends at The Groo List (more on them another time) dated Wednesday, September 12, 2001:

...I'll try to keep this brief for now, but working in the Corporate Tower of the Macy's Herald Square Building on 34th Street & 7th Ave., I was far enough from harm's way personally, but close enough to view some of the tragedy from my office window. Thankfully the Twin Towers themselves were blocked from my immediate view, but the smoke was everywhere. I don't know if I could have handled the sight of the towers going down.

From the unbelievable to the unspeakable to the impossible; how could they just be gone!!! I look on them every day as I wander the city and they're just GONE!!!

When I saw my first F-15 Fighter patrolling the skies of Manhattan, it went beyond the impossible to the Hollywood-ludicrous. It still doesn't seem real.

What a sight, seeing the streets of Midtown as crowded as the height of the Holiday Season, yet everyone headed NORTH (uptown), and almost no vehicular traffic! I saw people walking along with no shoes, and realized these were people who had made it from downtown to midtown and had literally run out of their shoes to escape the collapsing buildings. Eerie!!!

By around noon I had made it to around Columbus Circle when I heard what I knew to be the loud roar of an F-15 somewhere overhead but out of sight. A couple of people started to panic a bit, and say stuff like "I thought there're no planes allowed in the sky!!!" I assured them that it was a US Air Force jet, a woman asked how I knew, and I said I saw them earlier from my window, and that seemed to settle people down. But the tension was enormous, and every jet roar caused EVERYONE to scan the sky nervously.

I've now spent the last 2 days in a semi-haze, going from hospital to hospital, shelter to shelter trying to find my cousin Susan, who is among the missing. It doesn't look good. She worked on the 96th floor of the North Tower, for Marsh (an insurance firm). At this writing they have over 700 employees missing.

Her father and brother both worked a couple of blocks from the WTC. Both were on the streets when the first plane hit (but not together), and knew it hit very near to the floor where Susan worked. Her brother watched dumbfounded as the second plane hit. I forget which one told me he witnessed people falling from the tower.

A friend of my sister's was running late for work and was on the steps leading up to the Trade Center when the first plane hit. She told my sister that she saw flaming chunks of debris the size of cars land on people around her as she was running away.

One universal positive, small comfort though it is, is that people really did pull together. I tried to donate blood that afternoon, and they were so overwhelmed with volunteers they were turning us away, telling us to come back in 6 hours, or tomorrow, or in a few days.

Everyone I talked to, from cops to hospital workers to Red Cross personnel to city officials were SUPER-compassionate, I'm not talking that phony, condescending compassion people in authority sometimes use to settle down those undergoing trauma, this was real concern, real warmth.

I think it's because this wasn't something happening to ME that they were helping ME deal with, this is something we are all suffering through together, and we all keenly feel it.

Anyway, I'm rambling more than I intended to, thanks again for all your concern, you guys are the best!!!

And from September 19, 2001:

It's amazing the sheer variety of emergency workersI've seen in this city. On that fateful Tuesday, while searching for word on my (still missing) cousin, I was wandering in a bit of a daze when I was passed by this huge convoy of fire trucks, sirens blaring and heading downtown towards what we now call Ground Zero, with names like MERRICK, BELLMORE, MASSAPEQUA. LEVITTOWN - a real Who's Who of Long Island communities (I know, Where's Where doesn't have the same ring to it). Since Susan was from Long Island, I got relly choked up by this sight and started crying, it was like the cavalry riding in!

Later I spied cops from Nassau County, Suffolk County, The Jersey Shore and Connecticut. The next day, I saw Fire Trucks from North Carolina and Police Cars from South Miami, Florida! By the end of the week, a guy on the street said he saw a Fire Truck from California!!! How could they have gotten here so quick? Imagine, driving across the entire country, FOR DAYS, just to risk their lives and help out!

We've had tens of thousands of people attempting to volunteer for a handful of positions, everyone feels this driving need to do something, anything to help, and it can be frustrating to be turned away.

I was lucky enough to get to volunteer my time Saturday at the Jacob Javitz Center, one of the places from which they were distributing collected supplies to the myriad emergency workers (aka Heroes of New York). I basically just collected donations that were dropped off to the cops at the barricade and sorted through them, making sure the medical supplies got inside first and everything else was sorted by type.

We had mountains of flashlights, batteries, packages of brand new socks, underwear, t-shirts, jackets, a basketball, sweatshirts, dog food for the search dogs...

Yeah, the basketball kind of threw me too.

Anyway, the thing is, there were thousands of people who desperately wanted to, NEEDED to help out, and they got turned away; I got really lucky- it was good therapy for me, even if I was just a glorified stock boy.

And we weren't allowed inside the building for security reasons. There were properly registered and vetted Red Cross or Salvation Army (my guess) volunteers handling the REAL distribution inside. There were NY State Troopers on the doors closely checking everything that went inside; when I left around 7:30 pm, most of the mountains of supplies (except medical and stuff like respirators, flashlights and batteries) we sorted were still stacked up outside; they couldn't get clearance to bring it inside from the kahunas running the show.

My guess is the bulk of that stuff donated will be (or already was) redistributed to the homeless, elderly or other deserving charities.

I wonder who got the basketball?


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