On December 6, 2011, I traveled to lower Manhattan. My mission was to share gifts, books and music with the students of area elementary schools directly impacted by the World Trade Center tragedy.
I invited my dear friend and singer-songwriter Eric Gnezda to join me and with his late cousin Tony and my pal Hugh, our two vehicles headed for New York like two sleighs in the blinding snowfall. We were carrying gifts made by local schools here, books to donate for school libraries and special greetings created by Stevenson Elementary of Heath and artwork, along with a flag of peace designed by Trevitt Elementary of Columbus, Ohio.
We arrived in 12 hours, met by the principal of Mary Help of Christians School to load in the night before our concert. Every step, ledge and table were still lightly covered with dust that hadn't ceased to sift down from the air since 9/11.
The next morning, we presented two concerts for the students, sharing songs about heroes and singing Christmas carols together. As we all stood holding hands in a giant circle at the end of the last show, we sang "Silent Night". It was very difficult to say good-bye. Packing up our gear and loading out to our vans, a truck had just arrived filled with Christmas trees that the school was selling to raise money. The powerful scent of the pines overwhelmed the dank, sooty air like a blessed veil.
Our next stop was Ladder 13, dropping off breads and fruit baskets for the firefighters. They asked us to sign their guest book and I will never forget the look in their eyes. It was December and people were still coming to bring gifts and offer assistance.
Now, ten years later, I wonder where those students and firefighters are and how they're doing. We will never forget them and hope they are all well.
Our prayers are also with the families of those lost in Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C.
One more year has passed, 2,606 bells will ring at Ground Zero tomorrow, September 11, 2011.