As I returned from my early morning run with Mark James, I am thinking back on a decade ago. Mark and I were in high gear training for a little known race - the Soulstice Mountain Trail Run to be held in early October, 2001. On 9/11/2001, I had a break in my training as I was helping lead a Passport in Time volunteer project for the Kaibab National Forest, with 16 volunteers camped at Hull Cabin. Hull Cabin is the oldest standing structure in the Grand Canyon area, built by Phillip and William Hull in 1884.
The plan was to survey around Hull Cabin to better understand the prehistoric settlement pattern along the Coconino Rim. As I crawled out of my tent on that fateful Tuesday, I could hear a colleague shouting that the World Trade Center was under attack. I had awoken earlier at 3 AM, to drain some beer out of my system, and I could hear Patrick listening to Art Bell in the Morning (An overnight talk show about conspiracy theories and UFOs). I told Patrick I was not amused as my Dad works a few blocks away. He then told me to listen to the NPR reports.
We continued making breakfast amid reports of the towers on fire and their potential imminent collapse. Thankfully one of our volunteers, Ed, a fire fighter from Los Angeles, had a sattelite phone. I reached my mom who lived in White Plains, about 20 minutes north of the city, and she knew dad was OK. It would be days before I heard his harrowing story from his office just 4 blocks away.
Eventually, PT Carter, a co-worker from Tusayan came out to check on us and make sure we knew about the current events. He told us the Forest Service would be shutting down and wondered if we would be sending volunteers home. We thought about it a bit, but since most had flown in from across the country, we had no choice but to go on with the show. We were then on our own. It was an unusual week near the south rim of the Grand Canyon, quite eerie with no overflights buzzing us all day long. Complete silence and not even hunters in the woods. For a brief period, the whole Forest seemed like wilderness.
As a kid, I never made it up to the twin towers, but on my first break from college in December 1982, my best friend Jimmy and I decided to play tourists in the town where I was born. We visited the Empire State Building, Statue of Liberty and finally the Trade Center. (It is a bit like those that live in Flagstaff that haven't been to the Grand Canyon) Both avid photographers we took our cameras along to see who could take the artsiest photos (Jimmy always won that competition). I recently scanned these 35 mm photos that I took. (The Trade Center was only a decade old at that time). In today's New York Times there is an interesting panoramic reconstruction of the Trade Center.
My Grandfather who was born in the city in 1905 collected matches from different restaurants across the city. As a kid I always enjoyed the colorful array of books in his collection box that was the centerpiece of a coffee table in their Greenwich Village apartment. When Gramps died in 1995, I inherited that matchbook collection. A week after 9/11 I decided to take an inventory of the fine cuisine gramps had visited over the years. The first one I flipped over was a bit eerie. Windows on the World, the restaurant atop the Trade Center.
After 9/11, my Dad who had lived on the upper east side of Manhattan for more than 25 years, decided to move down to the abandoned Battery Park area. Within months I visited and got to see the destruction up close. The small room where I stayed looked right down onto the Ground Zero, just three blocks to the north, with my room lit up by the workers still clearing debris. Walking around the neighborhood there were scars all over buildings and many were still condemned. I spent every day walking/running the perimeter of Ground Zero. Dad has moved around the now vibrant rejuvenated tip of Manhattan and one of his apartments was next to Trinity Church which was amazingly spared during 9/11. He is now on West Street, right near where the first responder police and firefighter stations were located. I have visited many times since 9/11 and am amazed at the recovery that has taken place in the Battery Park area. An article in today's Times recounts this as well . The New York City Half Marathon now finishes on the tip of Battery Park.
In the days leading up to today's 10th anniversary of 9/11, I found myself back at Hull Cabin - this time working with the incident management team on the Lower Fire. The area around Hull Cabin had not seen a fire in over 100 years and managing the fire gave Forest managers the opportunity to reduce the chance of a catastrophic fire reducing the Cabin to ashes. Over the past decade, the Kaibab has restored Hull Cabin to where it is now in the Cabin rental program for the public to enjoy.
However, back to our run today - a 6 mile jaunt through NAU's campus - I remembered how Mark and I were training for Soulstice 10 years ago. I had already pledged to help with the organization of this little known event the following year thinking we should simply start an email list together of interested runners. Maybe even a web page. While those were just ideas, after 9/11, they really blossomed. There seemed to be a need for folks to reconnect, and the timing of social group trail runs had arrived - and trail running did seem to bring us closer together. I am thankful for all the friends who have lent a hand or joined in on a group run. And I'm looking forward to the next 10, minus any more 9/11s.
About NATRA Blog
This page is meant for folks to post their thoughts on the Saturday group run. I (Neil) will post a blurb about who showed up and where it was held. From there, I hope that other runners will share their thoughts since we often have different experiences on the same run. Enjoy!