With my brother Drew’s leadership, we became a catalyst in an around-the-clock effort to prepare and deliver delicious, nourishing food to the heroic emergency and rescue workers.
Twenty years is a significant period of time in one’s life, and we’ve reached that milestone in looking back at the events of 9/11. Time offers some perspective, and while the intensity of the pain and shock is not as immediate, it still lingers and challenges us and our continuing desire to be better people.
Prior to 9/11, the World Trade Center had been attacked on February 26, 1993, when a large bomb planted in the underground garage of Two World Trade Center killed six people and injured over one thousand. I remember several shell shocked individuals walking into our restaurant, Tribeca Grill, and we did our best to comfort them. On June 10, 2001, my family celebrated my son Matthew’s birthday at Windows on the World, with spectacular views of New York City from Table 57. Our bakery, TriBakery, was a bread supplier for the restaurant. The Trade Center was also the place where many of our guests worked.
As the shocking events of September 11 unfolded, we were affected in profound ways, with a full range of emotions from fear, horror, and sorrow to rage and anger. Most devastating of all was the loss of friends and loved ones. At that time, we were operating six restaurants within a half mile of Ground Zero. With my brother Drew’s leadership, we became a catalyst in an around-the-clock effort to prepare and deliver delicious, nourishing food to the heroic emergency and rescue workers. With the help of employees, volunteers, and organizations like City Harvest, Dallis Brothers, and Spirit Cruises, the meal distribution effort was extended “to both land and sea.” There were also many elderly and disabled people stuck in their buildings because of the devastation around them, who were helpless and needed food. We prepared hot meals from the kitchen at Tribeca Grill and worked with City Meals on Wheels to get food to them.
I vividly remember handing sandwiches to rescue workers on the pile, who were desperately hoping to find survivors, and also delivering sheet pans of food to destinations set-up to serve cafeteria-style. The magnitude of the destruction, the lingering smoke, and acrid odors were all pervasive. We tried to keep going even when physically exhausted because, otherwise, the emotions of the moment would have overwhelmed us. I also remember many acts of kindness and civility during the months in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, where despite our differences, we were unified as a country.
Looking back, it was a privilege to have been of service. I remember a song by Bob Seger, where he poignantly sings about the passage of twenty years, saying “I recall.”
I do recall, and I will never forget. None of us will ever forget.