Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Just a small addendum

After watching "The Secret" yet again last night, with who will hopefully be my newest convert, and having deep conversation about it; I came up with a couple more references to help relate the magical material to the masses.

As we know, you have to live in abundance. In case I haven't fully explained this concept thus far, let me take the liberty to do so now. You cannot worry about the finite amounts of things you have at the moment. Don't worry about checking your bank account before going to lunch. Just go. The money will be there. Go get the new DVD you want. Grab that T-shirt you have been eyeing for a while. I'm not telling you to go out and buy a boat tomorrow. It must be believable to you that you can afford it. If you want a steak, going to a place with $47 Filet Mignon may be a little much for you and your partner, but you don't have to eat more ramen either. Get some steaks from the market and treat yourself that way. Only you can define your limits and thresholds. It is important to live within your means without pinching pennies and counting every last financial calorie. Some people will squeeze the quarter until the eagle screams. If you're that concerned over it, you're not living in abundance.

Bob Proctor tells us about driving on the road at night. Your headlights are on. Do they illuminate your path from beginning to end? No they don't. Headlights will uncover 100-200 feet or so. And yet you get all the way to your destination. All you are concerned about is that next 100-200 feet. When you complete that, then it's the next set, all the way to the end. So know where you are, know where you're going and know the next step in the process. Take it in pieces.

If you're driving from New York to California, you look up a route. You decide to take Interstate 80 west across the country. Do you memorize every alternate road along the way in case there's traffic, accidents, road closures, etc? No you surely do not. You have faith that if the road is closed a detour will be provided for you. The point is that we don't always know the path, we just know that one will be provided for us. Why is that? It is because the universe provides.

If you want something, make a decision to get it. The word "today" is very, very important. Notice the difference in the 2 phrases to follow. Don't "make a decision to get it today." Instead "make a decision today to get it." The important part about today is making the decision; not getting whatever it is that you want. Maybe you can manifest a cup of coffee today but it may take a month or a year to manifest that new car or the perfect relationship. Timing is not important because you know it will be provided.

You have wants but you must let go of them. That doesn't mean give up. That means stop chasing them. Anyone who has been through high school can relate to chasing their crush. Generally, the harder you chase, the more elusive they become. Sit back, focus on your wants and desires and allow the universe to respond to your energy and provide it to you. How is not important. Do you honestly care how? Do you care if that $25,000 you want comes from a lottery ticket, inheritance, a new job, etc? No you don't. The end result is what is important. The spirit and intent of your wish. Let the universe do the work.

For those of you who understand the Air Force's enlisted promotion system, let me recount a series of events. For 2007, I studied as hard as I knew how for promotion. I fell 11 points shy (out of about 260 needed). This was in my pre-secret days. All the while my peers, co-workers/colleagues, bosses, etc had been telling me that I carry myself in the way that a promotee would. I act like I'm a rank higher in my demeanor, attitude, communication, ethic, motivation and so on. So this year came around. I didn't crack the book to study for a moment. I believed that I was already a rank higher. I acted as if it was already mine. This year I beat the needed score by 23 points. Add in the 11 I missed it by last year and you have an effective difference of 34 points. Now the Air Force gives you 8 points a year automatically so that leaves a true net gain of 26 points. And I didn't study for even one moment. I didn't jump 2 points or 6 points. I jumped 26 points without working for it. I believe it was my year. I lived in abundance and the universe took care of the rest. 26 points is not an accident or luck; that's meant to be.

The universe provides.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Anniversary Anxiety

They say that time heals all wounds, yet every year September comes and goes and I don't feel any healing. As a matter of fact, a piece of me dies on the eleventh of September year after year. Some may say that after 7 years, it's time to move on with my life and get it together. Some may say it's unhealthy to dwell on the pain and suffering I endure each year. I disagree. I don't dare say that it's healthy, however.

On September 11, 2001, we, as a nation, became victims of a world changing event. It was one of the most heinous crimes ever committed against humanity. I am in no way trying to undermine any of the rest of the world's problems or historical events. Simply, the way in which these events were carried out - sneakily and cowardly - was quite jarring. Everyone became part of the affected that day. Some of us more than others. Folks will, throughout their lives, come in contact with individuals present for the attacks or individuals who lost a friend or family member in the attacks. I, however, can personally speak from both sides of that coin.

I started my morning like the hundreds before it in an identical manner. I had the unique privilege of watching the planes crash, watching and hearing the towers collapse, being chased by dust and debris and being lost amidst chaos and mayhem. I left my house that day at 7am or so and did not arrive home until 1pm the following day. 30 hours out of the house - part of which was spent fearing for my life, others were spent frantically making sense of the events, finding my way somewhere safe, getting in touch with loved ones or laying awake, staring at the ceiling wondering where that sucker punch to the gut just came from. It was on that 30th hour that I finally was safe as safe gets in my childhood home with my family.

What should have been relief turned into further devastation when I learned my uncle was missing. Amidst tears and a knotted stomach I found and scanned photos of him and uploaded them to news sites as fast as my shaky hands would allow. I hadn't slept. I hadn't eaten. I hadn't showered. But what else could I do? Surely SOMEONE had seen him in person, would see the pictures and would make the connection back to us. Surely.

His firehouse was 85 blocks away, yet the 2nd on scene. How could a truck that far get there that quickly? It was done with an 18-year veteran at the helm. This would be my uncle. His experience and position would be what caused the inevitable. As a driver among that mess, he was doomed to arrange the truck while the team went in the first time, separating him from his herd of brothers. This is why we received the news that the house of Ladder 13 and Engine 22 lost 9 men that day - the remains of 8 of which were found. The 1 fateful man who was never recovered by so much as a stitching was, yet again our beloved family member.

Less than 2 weeks later, I was required to bring myself past that spot via a different path back to my office and collect my ridiculous salary like all was well and unaffected. That is, until the flailing economy caused by that day, left me professionally homeless 4 months and 4 days later. Of course in the span of time from the event until I lost my job, I also watched my mother slip into shadow and become and unrecognizable version of herself, attempted to comfort my aunt and cousins, spent our first Christmas without him and suffered through a pretend funeral for a photo only.

I've poured so much of myself, my thoughts, my feelings and my energy into these events that I just don't understand how I could possibly let go of my feelings. Frankly, I wouldn't want to even if I could. As something only true New Yorkers can understand, I wouldn't have wanted to be anywhere ELSE on that morning. Not for one moment.

All the world over, New Yorkers are known for being assholes and rude. We are not. We are quite misunderstood. We are just busy. A lot happens in a New York minute. Millions of dollars change hand in that small, but densely populated city in such a short time. We are on a mission in a city that never sleeps. We, much like a public company has, are shareholders in our city. When it thrives, we thrive. When it hurts, we hurt. We are vested in the survival of that city. Growing up, partying and working among the clean, square lines of skyscrapers and grid-lined blocks, it's where I feel most comfortable. It's home. There is a kinship to the city and it's people that I feel.

I don't dwell on it every day but I do feel it. I carry my uncle in a tattoo of the maltese cross emblazoned on my left calf. His photo is on my fridge. An 8x10 is passed, looked at and acknowledged every time I leave my home. It does not run or ruin my day anymore throughout the year. This time of year, however, I'm affected. It is my full moon. I could wander the streets tearing apart innocent bystanders. I choose to barricade myself in a shroud of emotion and hurt until the anniversary passes and I regain control of my emotions. I have no choice; as I am alone in this. Physically I don't share the full appreciation for this, as there is nobody near me who has endured such horrific event. Emotionally, I am always alone. My family shares the loss. Some friends share the memories. I, alone, have both. The visions of explosions, collapses, terrified people jumping 110 stories to escape the horror inside, the sounds, the confusion.

The tremendous impact of my experiences is always present. I am changed by it. It is who I am. It is who I have become. It is who I am meant to be.

I can't escape this. To hide from it, is to forget it.

Leave my wound open.

Monday, September 01, 2008

It’s September and time to remember.

A few notes. 1) The numbers are incorrect. This was written within 2 weeks of the event and remains, as of yet, unedited. Forgive the misinformation in that way. 2) PATH = Port Authority Trans-Hudson and is a train that runs from stops in NJ into NYC and had a terminus at the WTC. 3) At the time I was still employed at the New York Stock Exchange. 4) There are minor plot-points left out purposely to keep this shorter than "War and Peace" but should make relative sense. With that being said. Here is the white meat.

A tragedy has struck. This tragedy has struck in the city of New York, but has had effects all across the nation. It is the greatest disaster we, as Americans, have ever seen on our own soil. On many levels, this event has reshaped our thoughts and views. It has brought the people of the nation together. It has once again made us whole. Strangers are weeping for the losses of others. Thoughts and prayers are being directed at the victims of the tragedy and nameless and faceless heroes who sacrificed their own lives to save the innocent; and to the families of both groups. Everyone has been watching the news. Everyone wants to know what comes next, what do we do now, how do we cope or simply, why. Commentators, field reporters and news anchors all have their own answers and interpretations to these questions, but does anyone really know? Will we ever really know? Despite what the news shows us about our retaliation efforts or political pushes to regain peace and order in the world, there will be things we, as an international community, will not be told. And nobody can tell us how to cope. The magnitude of this event has hit every single person differently. And everyone reacts in his or her own way.

It is painfully obvious that the aforementioned event is the act of terrorism that befell the World Trade Center, as well as Washington D.C., and the United States and the world. Since September 11th, there has been a bombardment of emotions coming from each individual's television or newspaper or radio. Students, not unlike myself, have written about it. It has become nearly the only topic around the water cooler at the office. Traveling through a shocked and changed Manhattan, conversations are overheard on every street corner, bus and subway train.

Structures have fallen victim to this, but structures can be rebuilt. Lives have fallen to this, but lives cannot be rebuilt. A number tall enough to reach the heavens of 6,000 men and women were taken from us by an act of hate. Twice that number of children is left with one parent or has been orphaned. Commuting to work has been re-routed and some people, although alive, are unemployed. It is not something that can be avoided nor hid from. It will not just "blow over." Many people who live outside the confines of Manhattan are afraid to return. One month ago that phobia would have been laughed at or criticized; now it is shared by many.

These are all things that New Yorkers and Americans have thought about in the days following September 11th. These are things that fall on macro-sociological level. As someone who works in lower Manhattan, few blocks from "Ground Zero," I have bore witness to many more micro-sociological events. I am a World Trade Center survivor. Monday morning, September 10th at 8:45 the PATH train emptied onto the platform, four levels below the street. Up the stairs to the newspaper stand for the daily dose from a crisp New York Times. Another flight of stairs and an escalator. Past all the shops; Warner Brothers, Bath and Body Works where the scent reminds me of the gifts I had purchased there last holiday season, New Balance sneaker shop and finally Au Bon Pain, the last stop before the outside world. Large black coffee and a warm bagel. A final set of stairs and double doors lead to the corner of Liberty Street and Church Street. A cigarette is lit and the home stretch to place of business is begun. All around, men and women going through each of his and her own routine to begin the day; each unknowingly making the trip for the last time.

The very next day my commute was delayed due to highway traffic and my life was spared. From Jersey City, I watched as a second jetliner crashed into the tower. Hurriedly, we all switched to an uptown PATH train and impatiently awaited our arrival into Manhattan. When the train emptied this time, it wasn't the same. A new place and a new frame of mind. No longer was it the calm, well-planned path to the final destination. Confusion all about; and people walked in a frenzy to make sense of everything. We were almost running. All at once the crowd turned the corner and stopped as if all were halted by an outside force. We looked up to see the two towers burning. They were cultural icons. They were representatives of the strength of the city. Their height marked our height of success in a place of business. And there they stood, burning, weakening, and waiting to die. Confusion, as well as habit to make your way to work amidst this mess and pure morbid curiosity brought the crowd closer; too close. As we stood just a few blocks away, watching the towers burning, the unthinkable happened. A noise unlike any other I have heard, followed by the collapse of the first tower. We ran. Everyone ran in different directions. Some of us were silent, some of us were screaming. None of us knew what to think about this. The only thought was to get away from there as quickly as possible.

At some point, the dust and debris stopped chasing me. I was in a safe place. Countless cell phones were quickly whipped from their holsters like an old west cowboy draws his gun. It was reaction to call everyone. Who is ok? Who needs to know that I am ok? "My call won't go through. Excuse me sir; may I use your phone? Mine seems to be unavailable." "I can't make any calls either," he replies. Manhattan's largest signal tower had just fallen. A native New Yorker, I was lost in the confusion and shock. Where do I go and how do I get there? I needed to be off of the island. On every street corner was the news blasting from car stereos. On every street corner more news about another attack, some of which proved to be false. Armageddon was a word that was being used over and over.

All mass transportation onto or off of the island was suspended. So I walked to Brooklyn - four hours later, arriving at my grandmother's house and I recounted the events to her. I was still unaccounted for with my employer and most of my family, but phones weren't working. I spent the night there – awake. The vision of what I saw and experienced replaying in my head like a broken record.

Wednesday, September 12th I decided it was time to venture home. Gathering up my last bit of courage, I sat on a train that brought me back to the place that I had spent so much time trying to get away from just 24 hours earlier. I continued my journey and made my way home. My family anxiously awaited my arrival home. All knew I was ok by then, but not satisfied until I had proved it by appearing in the flesh. Again, I recounted the horrific chain of events that led me there. With my head in my hands, I struggled to regain my composure. I did not know that the news I was about to receive would undo all my efforts. "Jason," softly spoke my mother. "There is no better or worse time to tell you this, so I'll just say it. Your uncle is among the missing." Thomas Sabella – uncle, brother, son, father… firefighter.

A brave man waiting out the last fifteen minutes of his shift to go home and see his family when the call came and the bell rang. There was an emergency at the World Trade Center and all New York City Firefighters were to respond. He never came home. Hope slipped away slowly at first but more quickly with each passing day. Many firemen were lost that day. While the average person was getting away from the troubled area as quickly as possible, these men were heading towards it. They brought out scores of people and went back for more. Ladder Company 13 was in the second tower to fall. My uncle led the team back in to rescue more people and the first tower fell. An authority figure from outside screamed into a radio, "The other tower fell. The one you're in might too. Get out of there now!" It was their chance to save their own lives. The response came back from inside, "There's more people in here. I'm not leaving." The second tower fell. He had spoken his last words. They were words of courage and bravery. Traits that we all have, but to a level that most will never know.

Due to the safety restrictions of the police and fire departments, my office was one of the many that remained close all that week and most of the next. Then came the time to return to work. The routine was gone. No more would that fresh copy of The New York Times be available. The hot coffee and warm bagel would have to be purchased some place else. The morning walk with all the familiar places and faces was gone. A map would have to be used to find the best route. Butterflies in the stomach made it feel like the first day at a new job. Up the steps from the subway that has become my new route into the air of downtown. I couldn't breathe. The air was thick and smelled like burning rubber. Ash and little pieces of debris were floating around. I look quickly to my right and see the plume of smoke traveling straight up in to the air. It made a shape of a tower, almost to mock the magnificent structure that once stood. I hear the sounds of the city but they're all different. No more talking amongst the commuters. No more discussions about the hot stock to buy. The sound… was silence.

Once again, in the same state of shock as I was in on the infamous Tuesday morning, I made my way through the streets to my office. Replacing the businessmen such as myself were Construction workers, Police officers and men of the National Guard. The faces on the people I passed were all the same. What was this place? The New York Stock Exchange now laid ahead; a familiar sight. For two years I rode the elevators of that building to and from my daily tasks. It looked unchanged and unaffected by this. A majestic building standing proud and ready to handle the pressure it would soon be under. Two forms of ID were necessary to enter Broad Street and more security checkpoints inside. The same security guards that waved good morning to me countless times now asked to see identification and "Please, sir, step through the metal detector." Although initially offended, I complied. Nobody knew whom to trust. I step through the doors and like a celebrity in front of the media; colleagues surround me. They all heard about the passing of my uncle and all wished to extend their condolences. I must go on with my day. There is a job that needs to get done. I have duties to perform. It was business as usual within the confines of the building and the horror was almost forgotten. I'm looking out my window and see a rooftop parking lot. There were only about nine cars compared to the dozens normally. Each of the cars was covered in dust. They hadn't been moved since the day the terror struck. Their owners must have perished. A group of people approach one car with keys and open all doors and the trunk. They were cleaning out the personal effects of the owner; maybe a parent, child, sibling, or spouse. It was all real again.

These events are now over. We have all adjusted our schedules and commutes and begun to carry on with our daily routines. Everyone has exchanged stories about where they were the day the trade center fell. The invasion of Normandy, dropping the atomic bomb, the assassination of John F. Kennedy, the day the World Trade Center fell. Everyone who saw these days will remember where he or she was. In addition to remembering where I was, I will remember where Thomas Sabella was. He was running into a dangerous situation with men just like him for innocent people. The FDNY, the NYPD, and EMS are the true heroes of the world. All of the personalization has been forgotten though and we have embarked on a journey of retribution as a nation. It is time for recuperation. Memorials have been had for these men and women, but it's not enough. True remembrance should come through us trying to be like them. Help someone; go out of the way for someone. We have forgotten about race, color, religion, creed, or sexual orientation since September 11th. We are Americans. We have united and the attackers have failed in their mission to destroy and demoralize us. We have physical damage, but that can be repaired.

We have lost lives, but to live out the rest of our lives, the way the heroes did will keep them alive forever. Coming to that realization allows me to sleep again. The nation has a mission to make it known that we will stand proud and the government will handle the way in which we react. As individuals, we have our own mission. We have to be the best people we can and stick to our convictions of helping others and ignoring colors. Each one of us is colored – red, white and blue.