Ithaca Blog

Saturday, September 09, 2006

The Electrician Who Should Be President

There was a potentially redeeming news story five years ago, after the attacks of 9/11.

Actual redemption did not come - as redemption generally doesn't, because redemption requires hard choices and will. But an ordinary citizen, an electrician from New York City, said something that could have saved us from the horrors of war we face, which are likely to worsen, if he had been president.

He was at Ground Zero, working to clear the site. He was a volunteer. Skilled workers such as electricians were crucial to the recovery.

He was there because he lived a mile away, in the Chelsea section of Manhattan. The World Trade Center was practically in his neighborhood. He was needed, so he was there.

He had seen the attack. His 10-year old daughter was home sick from school that day, so he stayed home with her. He made breakfast and sat with her on the small terrace of their apartment. It was a beautiful morning, as everyone remembers.

Their terrace had a view of the Hudson River, and the World Trade Center to the south. The father and daughter sat eating as they saw the plane approach the building and hit it.

It exploded in fire and smoke. Soon bodies were plunging from the building, a hundred floors high.

He rushed his daughter inside and told her to stay there. He went back out and tried to think what to do.

His wife and daughter left the city. He stayed, and worked at the recovery site, 10 and 12 hour days.

At the time, no one knew why it had happened, or even whether it was over. No one knew yet who was responsible, or how to react. Despite the uncertainty and danger, working people went to the site and worked to clear the death and destruction.

At the site, a reporter asked the electrician what had brought him to volunteer. He told the reporter what he did for a living, and where he lived, and where he was on 9/11. The reporter asked what he thought the country's response should be. He said he didn't know. The reporter asked, do you want war? As a New Yorker, living a mile from this site, in this horror, do you want revenge?

He said, "I'm 46 years old. I'm an electrician. I have a 10-old daughter. I figure somewhere in Afghanistan there's a 46-year old electrician with a 10-year old daughter. All I know is, I don't want them to see what we saw."

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

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