It felt like George W. Bush, in a speech delivered to the United Nations General Assembly at U.N. Headquarters on November 10 th , 2001, was talking directly to me and my Port Authority family after we lost 84 of our own.
Even as I knew it would take years to clean up and rebuild the nightmare we called Ground Zero, I was bolstered from Day One by the sight of the workers in those bucket brigades. In the heady and emergent first days, they included 1,000 ironworkers from across the nation, and thousands of doctors, EMTs and paramedics, Marines, seamen, soldiers, N.Y.P.D. officers, NYS Troopers, F.E.M.A. workers, Coast Guard folks, National Guardsmen, and others.
Each inspired the next and all conspired to keep working despite the conditions until the cleanup was compete in May 2003, almost two years after the terrorist attacks. They motivated the nation to remember what we stood for: “… and the people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon.”
In that case, the revolutionary social movement we needed started with honesty surveying and taking stock. Seeing and feeling the enormous support, the team effort, like soldiers must experience in the trenches. It meant knowing I was not alone.
I can’t think of a single leader involved in the cleanup and reconstruction who didn’t take this kind of personal responsibility. But it also meant calculating the enormous effort it would take to get the job done. It never occurred to anyone to just give up. Necessity outweighed impossibility. It took the combined effort of tens of thousands of people – and hundreds of thousands of financial supporters – to get the job done, but get it done, we did.
I wish I’d never had to learn the lesson, but the experience taught us all that we can conquer any challenge, clean up any pile we’ve made in our own lives or others have made for us. Now we have an ever bigger and more intimidating task to undertake. The unstable Ground Zero our country’s become. Folks, we can restore America to greatness.
We’re already mostly great. But let’s admit we’re in dire of need of a national re-engineering project, from the ground up. What is political stability? As long as we have a team and a team leader, there is no problem we can’t solve. When we fall down on the job, we need our leader to lift us up. And when our leaders falls down, we need to lift him up.