It is well documented that Rte. 302 at the Sawyer River Bridge was washed out during Hurricane Irene. Along with that there is a a section of Sawyer River Road, probably at least 100 yds. that washed out as well. It left a hole 15-20' deep and took the entire width of the road with it as it deposited large trees and stones in its place. Along the trail there were many smaller washouts as well, especially along Whiteface Brook. Because of these changes in the route it was necessary to turn this normal 10 mile summer hike into a 14 mile hike, similar to the normal winter route in that it included 4 extra miles round trip of road walk along the impassable Sawyer River Road. In places, especially down low along Whiteface Brook, the rushing water from the torrential rains had scoured the trail and left a rocky tread-way, sometimes difficult to negotiate, in its stead.
This aside, a group of 12 people and 5 dogs made the long trek up the steep slopes of Carrigain to honor those who fell at the hands of evil exactly 10 years before, and to those who have fallen since to protect us from this evil lest it strike again. What is truly amazing is the dedication by all those involved to follow through with this event each year, to make this hike on this day to each of New Hampshire's 48 4k summits to commemorate this awful day in our history and to honor the innocents who lost their lives for being nothing more than what we all are, Americans. We are truly blessed to share this distinction, and the hands of evil can never take this from us, even in death.
I hesitated at this writing, not really sure what I wanted to do. Whether to make my own trip report, or to just add my pictures to an already excellent thread started by those in my group. In the end I decided to start my own, hopefully not through vanity, but through a kinship with those who hike the mountains I love, and through a fellowship with those who have participated in this event maybe for the first time this year, or maybe every year since its inception. One thing is certain, we all stood on our chosen mountaintops this day as brethren to give honor to those who departed this world too soon and left us to carry the flame that future generations should know the fallen had not died in vain.
Each of us knows exactly where we were and what we were doing on that day, and each of us can tell a story of how this day struck them and how it has affected their lives. I would like to share mine: It was a wonderful, then terrible, then more terrible week leading into September 11, 2001. On September 5th my wonderful granddaughter came into this world. With all the hopes and dreams I had for her little did I know that things would soon happen to change the course of history and change the world as we know it forever. As high as I was having cradled my first grandchild in my arms, I was soon to be cast into the depths of despair.
On September seventh I got a phone call. My oldest son had been in an accident on his motorcycle. His best friend was standing next to him on the side of the road about 3 miles from our house. I arrived on the scene at almost the same instance the the volunteer paramedic arrived. I knew my son was in grave trouble if he wasn't attended to quickly. Along with several broken bones he could not exhale. Each breath he took increased his pain. In a dreamlike state I waited as the ambulance arrived and more people attended to him. Having been on a rescue crew in the Air Force many years prior I knew that each second counted as it passed, seemingly in slow motion.
I waited as they put him in the ambulance, then I waited some more. It seemed forever as they frantically worked to save his life by opening a hole in his chest to release the trapped air in his lung. I watched through the closed doors of the ambulance, shaking in disbelief. As time passed minutes seemed like hours. When at last he was finally stabilized at the hospital they told me he would need a medi-vac to Mass. General in Boston. I shook some more. They prepared him for the flight, then they let me see him. The transport crew told me to kiss him for good luck, then they rushed him outside to the waiting chopper. I stood in the parking lot as it rose from the ground. I never felt so weak and helpless in all my life. My legs buckled and I crumpled to my knees, half in prayer and half in despair.
I do not know how long I stayed like that, but I do know the thumping of the props was replaced by the thumping in my chest. I picked myself up and knew I had to go home to explain to his stepmom and my own mother what was going on, then I had to drive to Boston to be with him. As time passed he improved. Each day I would make the trip into Boston to see him, feed him, talk to him, whatever I could do. On the fourth morning after the accident my mother decided she wanted to make the trip to see him. As I packed what she would need and bundled her into the car the phone rang. It was my ex-wife, his mom, I had made her aware of his condition when it happened. She informed me a plane had hit the World Trade Center. I thought little of it as I was heading out the door. The information was sketchy, I was thinking small plane, probably two seater.
I put the radio on. More information was coming now. As we drove south on 93 I noticed something very unusual. The traffic became thinner and thinner southbound. Northbound the traffic was bumper to bumper, jam packed. Soon I noticed we were the only car on southbound 93 heading into Boston. In panic and frenzy and just not knowing what to do the order had been given to evacuate all the high-rises in Boston. It was then it hit me just what was happening. Info on the radio was still sketchy, but it was determined that this was no two-seater that had hit the World Trade Center. Soon we learned that all planes in the air were ordered to land. What was going on?
When we reached his hospital room my son was blissfully unaware of what was happening in the outside world. I struggled for a moment trying to decide should I leave it that way or not. I turned on his tiny, overhead hospital TV. Live images from New York were showing the burning tower and there were reports that people were jumping from the windows to their deaths to escape the flames. The true horror of the situation was hitting home. We watched in terror as live TV brought the next wave of horror when the next plane hit the opposite tower. We stared in disbelief, unable to look away.
But this was not all. Reports were coming in that the Pentagon was hit as well and that there were still planes unaccounted for in the air. Then the next horror happened. A tower fell. More disbelief at what we were witnessing. This could not be happening. Not in America. How much more could happen? With the uncertainty of not knowing what would happen next I held my mom's hand with one of my own, my son's with the other. We were a chain, linked by our living hands forming a circle to repel the evil. As the second tower fell before our eyes we no longer felt miles away and safe. It was as though we were standing nearby and watching helplessly. We knew no one could survive this absolute destruction.
It took ten years before I could sit down and relive this day in written word. Much had happened since. Besides the healing it took through years of threats and uncertainty many personal things had passed as well. Ten years later the circle we made that day can never be made again. My son passed away five years ago last April. With him went a huge part of me. I carry guilt to this day for things I feel about our relationship and things we begrudged one another as all sons and fathers do. I certainly would never have held these feelings if I had known what was to come. My mom passed away almost a year ago, and so the circle was broken, leaving me the only link in the chain that is left from that day. I am thankful at each sunrise that I can carry on. I still have two sons that mean the world to me, and a loving wife. It is so much more than so many have left after that horrid day and the days that followed.
I know there are far more tragic stories to be told about this day by those who have suffered much worse than I. I write this to remind myself that in each one of us there is a story. A story about life. Life lost and life gained, and that through this thing we call life there is joy and tragedy and in this we all share, and this makes us all kin. On this day we commemorate it was brought to our attention that we all are kin to one another, despite our beliefs and the postures we choose. It is good that each year we can come together and lay aside our differences to remember the day that America stood as one nation, indivisible. It is sad that it took such tragedy to remind us of this, but it would be sadder still if we were to forget...