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The Trip of a Lifetime // 9.11.01

September 11, 2oo1. It might seem like a random day for me to come back into the blogging world, but today has quite a bit of significance for all of us, and for me and my husband as well. Zak and I went out to lunch today with some dear friends of ours and we discussed what it meant to remember 9-11… especially as my husband and one of his best friends are firefighters working out what it means to honor this day as part of the brotherhood. We grieve this day that others lives were cut short, yet we celebrate this day we are still given to live and we struggle with what it looks like to live between the two.We just don’t know what that looks like yet so we are still figuring it out together. But we thought it would be a good start to spend the day with the people that matter to us the most.

In November of 2001 I went on a trip with my church to partner with the Salvation Army and just offer whatever help we could in New York. If it meant serving a firefighter or police officer a cup of coffee in ground zero, or serving dinner to a dentist volunteering their time to help identify victims from a plane crash at the medical canteen near NYU with the make-shift morgue, or just package some water bottles to be sent out to ground zero from a warehouse at JFK then we wanted to be there. It was one of the most life changing trips I’ve ever had and it will stay with me forever. I wish there were words to share that would justify the significance of this trip in my life with you, but I can’t find them. I wish I could share with you the smell I remember in the air, but then again I’m grateful that’s just not possible. That smell… the constant reminder of the lives lost and the ash settling in every corner of the city was pretty overwhelming and everything within me screamed “this is NOT normal.”

I remember this:

This was the view of Ground Zero from when my team was there. This was taken in film, by one of my teammates.


This was five years before I became a photographer, and I didn’t even have a camera to document the experience. My good friend Dave graciously lent me his digital camera to take what pictures I could. [Thanks again Dave.] I just remember the buildings looking like skeletons, and that often they were finding fallen brethren in the rubble and we could hear the music leading a parade of servicemen towards the make-shift morgue in an NYU alley. It was unreal. But REAL… and that made it all the more difficult to wrap our minds around it all.


It was a time that I remember our country feeling united as one and sending love and encouragement to those they didn’t even know which was pretty amazing to witness…

And this is me inside one of the boxes filled with water bottles that we organized… I was only 20!… now you can do the math:)

We were all sent into teams of four within our group of 30+ or so, and long story short, my friend Kristen in this shot became a super good friend of mine and now she and her husband are mentors for me and Zak in our marriage. She hadn’t even met her husband yet in this picture either… and another teammate is cousins with one of my husbands best friends… although I wouldn’t meet Zak for another 9 years. It’s amazing to see Providence at work, and have the benefit of looking back over the last 10 years to see it all come together…

I guess that is the thing about tragedies… that in the midst of such great suffering and loss that new life and relationships can spring from places that wouldn’t have been given the opportunity to happen otherwise. Looking back over the last 10 years (can I really look at time spans in decades now??), I am amazed and thankful for the people I’ve been able to meet and work with. I will never forget the conversations I had with the workers at Ground Zero, the dentists at the Medical Canteen, or the smell of ash. I will always remember the fight for hope, for a new day, and for the desire to be included with Providence to help redeem all that has gone wrong with this world.

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Jen Disney - September 12, 2011 - 11:59 am

Great post lady!