Jerry Gervase Central Coasting
Posted: 09/11/2011 01:28:26 AM PDT
Updated: 09/11/2011 01:28:27 AM PDT
September 11, 2001:
Thick black smoke billowing from an inferno that melted steel began to block the sun. The wind carried it into the harbor where it burned my eyes. Soot came then, and ashes, and then the cries of my people. They were calling out in agony and fear. They were crying out their pain and their loss. Their anguish brought an ache that cleft my heart like the crater where the twin towers lay gasping their last breaths.
For 115 years I have stood in New York Harbor welcoming the millions of refugees seeking the promise of Liberty and the self-evident truth that they were born equal, that their Creator had bestowed rights upon them no one could ever take away. And they came by the millions, the poorest, the most destitute of a continent that had oppressed them for centuries. They came, with nothing to sustain them but hope. They crossed the ocean to touch the folds of my iron skirts as I stood at the sea-washed, sun-blessed gates of a new land. They came to embrace the freedom I represented.
Now, through the acrid smoke, I saw that my own children had become the tired, poor, huddled masses, frightened and homeless — the tempest-tossed, the wretched refuse of my teeming shores.
I stood as always, frozen in time, as a cruel, brazen enemy using the very freedoms I personify moved openly among us and thrust a dagger of hatred into the heart of a great city whose vitality reverberates throughout the world.
I watched in horror as the aristocratic twin towers of the World Trade Center tumbled to the ground, the remnants of their elegance becoming instruments of death and destruction. Oh Lord, what tragic irony that so many would perish trying to preserve life.
Later, the wind brought more sounds. The sounds of a great people digging deep within themselves to dig themselves out of the rubble of hatred that had attacked them. The wind carried their indomitable spirit across the entire land, and a great people once more understood that their greatness is based in unity. I listened as the pulse of this great city and the unity of a great people spread in all directions borne on amber waves of grain and echoed in the craggy canyons of our majestic mountains.
The next day I saw that the smoke had not cleared, but my people’s mission was clear. They would mourn their lost loved ones, they would rebuild what had been torn down, and reaffirm the resolution that the price of freedom is eternal vigilance. Our leaders warn it will be a long and arduous campaign. So I remind my people when they grow weary, when they feel discouraged, to look across the harbor and see how my lamp still shines brightly.
September 11, 2011: Ten years later I remain at my post. The debris has been cleaned from ground zero and the area is buzzing with activity, teeming with life. My lamp still shines brightly. It is a beacon that sends of message that America is still here, strong and steadfast in our resolve. It is a light to remind the world that a nation of the people, by the people and for the people shall not perish from this earth.
Jerry Gervase is a columnist for The Herald.
He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.