Suddenly, as the music permeates my office, I am overcome with enormous emotion. I know the woman behind ‘the big voice’; I know her very well. It is my friend, Yolanda... Yolanda Dowling.
Yolanda was a gifted opera singer that I genuinely respected and admired. Yolanda was also one of the 2996 casualties of the World Trade Center attack on September 11, 2001.
Unable to concentrate further on work, I become paralyzed with the heinous memories of that week. As though I am hypnotized, I turn away from my work and begin reading the scribbles within my journal.
Following are some unedited notes that I had jotted down the week of 9-11:
Tuesday, September 11, 2001:
While I am watching the morning news, the television screen suddenly changes to images of utter terror: A plane has just struck The World Trade Center! At first, I assume it is a preview for a movie but it doesn’t take long for my senses to accept that this is the real thing. Terror and despair grip everyone.
Then, about 20 minutes later, a second plane crashes into The World Trade Center’s South Tower. As the entire world witnesses the collapse of both towers, it is clear that this is an act of terrorism and this is reality, not fiction.
While transfixed in front of the television, the World Trade Center becomes a horrifying image of dense smoke and carnage right before my eyes. Terrified, I witness my beloved New York in flames and under attack. Within a short time, New York has become vulnerable and shattered. I sit in shock feeling helpless and frightened.
With no entrance into Manhattan for those of us waiting, the only thing to do is to watch and pray. Along with millions of others, my heart aches for every person in and near the towers as well as for their families and friends. Are they safe? Are they alive?
Piece by piece, information is relayed to us about friends and associates. A very good friend who works at Kemper Insurance on the 34th floor is relaying information from her cell phone to her husband who in turn calls each of us.
Friday, September 14, 2001:
As days pass, all eyes and ears are glued to TV’s and radios. Having no phone service. I begin feeling very isolated and pensive. On the forth day after the attack, I am anxious and know I need to see the ruins for myself. I call two friends, who are visiting from Kentucky, pack my 2-year-old daughter into the car and head for Manhattan. My friends accompanying me are under the assumption that I am taking them sightseeing, but I know better….
As I approach Manhattan, I shutter as I sight the financial district in a mass of smoke. I will forever remember the eerie feeling of seeing lower Manhattan in a smoky glow. My friends suddenly realize that this will be a tour of New York that they will never forget.
Somehow, someway, we manage to get right into lower Manhattan without being stopped or questioned. Fortunately, in this case, the familiar saying, ‘ignorance is bliss’ applies; I am on a mission and I drive blindly.
As we approach SoHo, we witness parts of the Trade Center already being carried away by vehicles. The city, which normally resounds with energy and vibrancy, is so quiet that you could literally hear a pin drop. Finally finding a parking space, we get out of the car. I grab the baby stroller and we walk in a complete daze.
My only description would be similar to walking on Holy Ground. Familiar sites are now covered in dust and ash. Destruction is everywhere, and there before us is the shattered Twin Towers in ruins. Red Cross tables are lined up everywhere, and familiar storefronts belied the fact that they are now temporary morgues.
As we walk and pray, yes, pray, we are a people united, a people who mourn together and are on a mission to find every missing person who is trapped within the Trade Center.
I can’t recall how long we stayed there but it was a very long, dark day. It is one thing reading about something but it is truly another thing being an eyewitness to the mass destruction.
As weeks pass, the pain never ceases as the death toll mounts, and many people I know are added to that list. An extremely painful loss is my dear friend Fran and her family and then there is Yolanda Dowling; Yolanda will never again sing on Christmas Eve at St. Patrick’s Cathedral.
In every way our lives will now never be the same….
Since that tragic day, my prayers have never ceased for our country and our world. I no longer recognize the world we live in, but I believe that if we are to see any changes in our world, it must begin within each of us, individually, and through God.
In closing, I think of Jill Jackson Miller's song, “Let There Be Peace On Earth, And Let It Begin With Me," May her lyrics touch everyone, one person at a time.
© 2007 Judi Lynn Lake. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.
Judi Lynn Lake has kept up with leading edge business trends throughout her varied and successful career. She had already had her "15 minutes of fame" over and over again before starting her family. Judi and her family now reside in South Carolina, but, having been born and raised on Long Island, NY, it is clearly evident that she will always be a "New Yorker." Today, she successfully runs her own advertising agency which handles everything from logos, branding and package design while she continues to work closely with self-published authors from design to promotion. For more information, visit judilake.com
The following video, Let There Be Peace On Earth, courtesy of You Tube.