Dona Nobis Pacem

What You've Got is What You've Got to Give

On 9/11, Mr. O'Kitten was moments away from getting on the World Trade Center train from Hoboken to go to school when the first plane hit, and watched the second plane strike from the Hudson River's edge--a distance of perhaps a mile.

Then he walked the four blocks home to me, and we spent much of the day on the riverbank, watching the completely horrific and unreal events unfold right before our eyes. We went the hopsital to give blood, but they weren't set up to take donors yet. We put our names on a list. We wanted to go into the city and help, but we couldn't get across the river. We called family and friends and told them we were okay. I fed and walked my friends' dog; I knew they both worked close to Ground Zero. I wondered how and when (and if) they'd make it home.

Everyone wanted to do something--anything. Many people gathered, impromptu, in downtown parks and began building stretchers. No one knew that morning that the stretchers wouldn't be needed. But I'm sure it was satisfying to be doing something.

There are many stories that will always stay with me from that day, and the many long days, weeks, and months that followed. But the one that moved me the most concerns a man with a shoe store near Ground Zero.

What everyone saw on television--what made for the most exciting television--were the throngs of people running away from monstrous billowing clouds of toxic asbestos, pulverized sheetrock, and concrete dust.

But what you didn't see was the rest of the evacuation--the majority of Lower Manhattan heading north. Calmly, stoically, helping whomever needed it along the way, people began to move. Like a small sea, the tens of thousands of people who had been in Lower Manhattan that day, doing whatever it was they had been doing--working, shopping, running an errand--began to walk. And they would have to walk for miles.

"Just head North," they were instructed. "Head away from the Towers." Friends who were there that day told me that everyone very calmly began to proceed northward, up the avenues, and slowly across the bridges to the outer boroughs of Brooklyn, Queens, and The Bronx.

And then there was the man with the shoe store. Because many of the women were dressed for work, he gave them sneakers to wear for the long walk. He gave away every pair of comfortable shoes he had. I picture the women gratefully leaving their dress shoes, their heels, and every single pair of uncomfortable pumps behind, and taking far more suitable shoes from the shoe store man for the long walk (and who knew how long) to wherever they'd have to go, whenever they'd get there.

He had shoes, and shoes were what he gave them. But on that day, it was a priceless gift.

Peace be with you.

NYC, 2006


Puss-in-Boots said...

9/11 a monstrous day in terms of destruction...a wonderful day in terms of humanity and hope.

DAWN said...

All who read your post today will be blessed by it. Thank you for sharing a piece of your story. Namaste.

Anonymous said...

Peace be with you and thank you for sharing this beautiful story.

Anonymous said...

..and with you too.

Chris said...

Thanks for sharing that lovely story.

Dragonheart, Merlin, Devi, and Chloe said...

Thank you for sharing that story - what a wonderful act of kindness by the shop owner!

Peace to you and yours.

Cats~Goats~Quotes said...

It was horrible on television, I can't imagine how it must have been to you and the thousands that were so close.
Thank you for remembering and sharing.

Meowers from Missouri said...

let there be peace in your house and in all the world. thank you for that marvelously moving story of the shoe man. if he were here, we'd whisker tickle and headbutt him!!

Samantha & Mom said...

What a great story. So wonderful how people will rise above themselves in a time of crisis and need. Love your Peace Globe, too. Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with us.
Samantha, Tigger and Mom

TorAa said...

The reason for war, not peace, that's the fundamental question.

I remember as a late teenager, I was naïv enough to go with a tiny boat on the waterways (channel) between what the were West germany (BRD) and East Germany (DDR) - what happened: We wre considered a peace treath and put into a military jail.

Since then, I've thought about what makes peace and war. War=Dictaror maniac leaders that want power and "calls it People democratic/religious republics"..
They close and do sensorship on Internet.

That's also have lead to, f.i. all the control and checkpoints and paperwork as tourists. We are all suddenly became suspiciuos.... Free world?


mrspao said...

And also with you. Your post today really touched and blessed me.


Andree said...

I will never forget that story. Thank you.

Rositta said...

Thank you for sharing that story. On that day I had just gotten up and was trying to phone my husband, who had left for Greece the day before. I couldn't get through, turned the tv on and there I sat for days on end. I couldn't sleep, eat or do anything constructive. I knew in my gut that the world as we had known it was gone forever. I was right, it is. To Toraa, your lucky that you are alive to tell the story. The guards generally shot first and asked questions later. I have lots of family in the old DDR that I have never met. I may make a trip now, it was my mother's birthplace...good blog...ciao

Anonymous said...

Wow, what a story. Humans are capable of such good and such evil, but I firmly believe that most of us are good and would act in a similar fashion to the shoe store owner when faced with crisis. Thank you for that and peace be with you.

Travis Cody said...

I came over from Mimi's. Happy Peace Globe Day.

Peace to you!

Annelisa said...

Crikey... not much makes me cry these days, but that story got a tear!

Thankyou for sharing it

Peace be with you now and always!

Words that Flow

roxtarc said...

I was on the train, coming into Penn Station, we got stuck there & werent told why... i walked (panicked cause i was late) to my office on 2nd & 28th and couldnt get phone service and realized, that strangely there were no cars... and it was QUIET and i saw smoke downtown, but didnt know why. didnt know... not till i got to nyu (where i worked) and heard it from one of the drs... couldnt reach ANYONE for hours, finally got my sister & she was in brooklyn giving water on the bridge to people walking over it.

feelin helpless i waited on line to give blood for 4 or 5 hours, lied about my weight (didnt weigh enough to give blood at the time but i'm type o negative which is the universal donor and i thought they could use my blood) i ate a plain bagel while on line so i wouldnt pass out. it was the first time i gave blood and didnt wind up bruised

i remember all these doctors waiting and coming in even tho they werent working, weren't even workin in our hospital hoping to help... ready to assist... and then as the day went on... there was noone to assist

i will never, ever, ever... as long as i live, forget the smell. i can smell it now...

wow.... it's amazing how one great story about that day and how human nature can be so kind and supportive in disasterous situation.. can bring you back, VIVIDLY


Anonymous said...

I did not know about the shoe man. Thanks for that story. There are more good people in this world then bad but the media*TV & newspapers) just tells us all the bad stuff.
We will all remember where we were on 9/11/01---especially New Yorkers...Don't know what the news is like across the USA but here in NY we are reminded about 9/11 all the time.

Mimi Lenox said...

I will make a post of this story to go along with the peace globe saga. It is one of the most moving I've read. If you've followed the beginnings of the Dona Nobis Pacem movement, you know that my inspiration to throw out the idea came from the sight of that small plane in Oct 2006 hitting a high-rise building. It reminded me of 9/11.

Thank you for sharing your story with us. It is moving.

Peace be with you and all of us in this great country of ours - and in the world.

Mimi Lenox

that frolicsome kid said...

I thought seeing the whole event unfurling on CNN was disastrous. This first-hand experience of yours must have been far, far worse...

You know, I think what the shoeman had done was very commendable. He didn't think of the losses he will suffer at that time. His kindness shone on that day, and he gave out free sneakers for the women?

All I can say is, what a great sacrifice and gift he can offer.

The media was biased in showing us the disaster and destruction which had happened. It's things like this which comforts our hearts in times of distress...

I praise the shoe owner's actions, and I hope he will be greatly rewarded. Thanks for sharing this beautiful story which unfurled in a disaster. Peace be with you! =)

The Rock Chick said...

This is one of the most moving stories I have ever read. 9/11 frightened me on television, I can't even imagine the horror of being there.

We've heard some great stories of heroism come from that day, but few as moving to me as this one. It seems like such a minor gesture to give someone a pair of shoes, but, it isn't. It's huge and who knows how many lives he saved by making evacuation just a little bit easier on people.

Thank you for sharing this story. It's wonderful!

Jessica The Rock Chick

Patti said...

thank you for telling us this moving story about one man who made a difference on such a horrific day

krystyna said...

Thank you for sharing this story.
Peace be always with you!!!

HRH Yao-Lin said...

oh, that is a wonderful wonderful story. It is a sad fact of life that sometimes it takes the worst to see the best. Amazing.

Unknown said...

I remember that day and the gas lines here in Kansas were terribly long as the prices spiked up to at the very least $5 a gallon. I remember waiting in line with my gas tank just one drop away from being empty and being stranded in line. Not only was I in line barely hanging on by maybe a few precious drops of gas I was also 50 minutes away from my kid. He was in lock down at daycare. It will be a day that no one will ever forget much like the day John F. Kennedy was shot and the day Pearl Harbor was attacked.