About twenty minutes after the first plane hit the Towers on September 11, 2001 I raced out of my house and sped into work. I did not bartend in Manhattan but was an easy twenty five minute ride away. The rest of the day was a blur crowded by shocking images and gripping fear. The restaurant did open for business, but of course, it was not a typical day.
Around 11:45 a.m. a man walked in looking distant and disheveled. He looked at me with a look in his eyes that was hollow and deep. He said simply, “My home has been destroyed… I have no where to go.”
“What can I get for you today?” quickly turned into “What do you need?” We barely charged anyone for food that day. The restaurant acted as a hostile for those who were incapable of going home. Some came in just looking to use a power outlet because they had been trying to get in touch with their spouses and had no battery left on their phones. The front dining room, which was closest to the bar and contained two televisions of its own, had its tables pushed up against the walls to contain various food throughout the day. Although no one really had an appetite. Hot coffee and hot tea made their rounds every half hour. The restaurant stayed open until the last person found a place to sleep for the night.
It was never more clear that crime victims are not just those directly affected. Victims also include family and friends. I will never forget that first man that walked into my bar on that day. I was only grateful that I was in a position to offer him a roof over his head, a chair to rest on, and a hot cup of coffee. It may not have been much, but I like to think that I along with my managers and the rest of the staff were able to provide some help and/or comfort to those watching the events of the day and waiting desperately to hear from loved ones.
We never forget those who lost their lives that day, but we also will never forget what this country stands for. It is truly what makes us great.