10 Years in the Making. Visiting Ground Zero for the First Time

This past weekend, I had the opportunity to travel to New York City. I have not been to NYC in somewhere around 15-20 years. My last trip was with my family and we stopped by the World Trade Center and went to the top. I remember St. Paul’s Church and the World Trade Center very well. The only other thing I remember about the trip was how pissed off my grandfather was that there was a gay and lesbian parade marching down the street. Man was he pissed.

This time, I was also traveling with family…my brothers Willie Wines Jr. and Zach Green. More on the entire trip later. I want to share something else here.

So there I was in NYC, we took the subway down to Manhattan and our destination was Ground Zero. The site was something I had only seen on tv, in books, and magazines. My recollection of the World Trade Center site was from years ago and I still realize that I cannot fathom what it looked like after the terrorist attacks. So many say that you would never understand it unless you saw it and I believe them.

Ten years later and I finally get my chance to visit the site where 343 of my brothers were murdered along with so many civilians. To say that I have been awaiting this day is a huge understatement. I have read books, stories, and watched videos about the events. I was working the day it happened. I remember it like it was yesterday…and I have climbed in memory of these Brothers.

We were on the subway on our way to Ground Zero and I had no clue where we were getting off. We got off the subway and emerged to ground level right in the shadow of the Freedom Tower, my first site was St. Paul’s Chapel. When I saw that I knew exactly where I was.

What happened next is hard to explain. I am not an emotional guy, but the feeling I got was not like anything I had experienced before.

I couldn’t breathe. I was not suffocating, but I could not exhale. It was like the feeling when you jump into cold water. I felt like I inhaled for minutes.

I couldn’t cry. I teared up but didn’t cry, I felt like I was involuntarily holding back a river of tears. A good cry would work wonders for me. I have not cried in years…not because I hold it back, but because I simply cannot. I do tear up…typically at funerals.

I felt the wind around me. It was a cool wind on a beautiful night in Manhattan. The wind was swirling and I toned everything else out.

People were walking around me, they were used to the site, they lived there. This was not their first moment being there. They had more than likely lived it for the past 10 years…

I was living everything I had read, felt, saw, or understood in that moment and I had no time to prepare.

I held on to the railing at St. Paul’s and said a little prayer. I wasn’t there to make a difference. I was there to complete my understanding of an event that has changed my life and I was not alone.

Willie put it best:

“Rhett and I made eye contact and without saying knew… “THIS” has been our destination for the past 10 years.”

 Read his thoughts here