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New York City: Ground Zero MAG
"What time does thetrain leave?" I asked my dad excitedly. It was the night before I was goingto Ground Zero.
Ever since September 11th, I had wanted to work there. Itseemed like everyone except me was helping in some way. I kept hearing about theneed for assistance and knew there must be something I could do. I thought Iwouldn't be able to because of all the security, but still there had to be a way.My uncle, a paramedic, was in New York City that terrible Tuesday morning. Evenin all the chaos he, along with friends who were also paramedics, immediately setup a relief center in an abandoned Burger King near the World Trade Center. Sincethat day, he had been volunteering wherever he could. I knew he would be able tohelp me find a way to contribute to the relief efforts.
He gave us thename of a restaurant, Nino's, which serves meals 24/7 to the relief workers. Mydad called and signed us up for the 10 a.m. to the 2 p.m. shift on the Sundaybefore Christmas.
At 10 o'clock we arrived at the volunteer trailer forNino's and signed in. As a minor, I had to show my passport and schoolidentification. The first thing I noticed were the walls of the restaurant.Outside, there were five tabletop-sized murals. Inside, the walls were coveredwith hundreds of thank-you notes to the relief workers. I saw letters from allover Canada, placemats made by kids in Alaska, and pictures painted by kids inFlorida.
My dad and I were assigned to the shrimp peeling station. Therewere four others with us: a man from the city, a couple from Alabama, and a manfrom Japan.
We were to peel and de-vein shrimp. It's not as bad as itsounds once you get past the fact that you're peeling shrimp. We set up a systemin which two people de-veined and the rest peeled. For the first ten minutes myhands were freezing, but then I didn't notice. We talked as we did our jobs andtime passed quickly. Whenever our shrimp supply dwindled, the man from Alabamawould get more to defrost. It seemed like we peeled hundreds of pounds of shrimp.Sometimes, if you weren't careful, the shrimp would squirt you. They were beingprepared for the relief workers' Christmas Eve dinner, shrimp scampi.
By2 o'clock, we were all sick of shrimp and our backs were starting to hurt afterstanding for four hours, but none of us wanted to leave. When the next shift ofvolunteers came, we explained what to do. It was a messy and tedious job, but Ienjoyed doing it.
After the shrimp, I worked on the line serving food.There was a choice of sesame chicken, striped bass, brisket, and sausage andpeppers with sides of pasta, rice, salad and vegetables. It was slow because itwas too late for lunch and too early for dinner.
My uncle was able to getus to Ground Zero. On the way I saw some signs of the devastation, includingtrucks loaded with rubble, which my uncle explained had to be shipped away to besorted. The trucks were washed after each load because of the dust. Large piecesof twisted steel and broken concrete, which had once been part of the World TradeCenter, were barricaded off to one side.
Nearby buildings were boardedup and some were starting to reopen. We had to wait to get onto the platform toview the scene because there were so many people. Security was very tight. Wewere allowed access because of my uncle's firefighter identification. On thewalls around the platform were memorials to victims, messages to the nation,angels, candles, badges and other mementos.
Ground Zero itself is a biggaping hole. It looks like a construction site. It is similar to the images ontelevision, only much larger, more vivid and more emotional. The feeling is sadand somber and memorable. I will never forget the sights I saw or the feelings Iexperienced.