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Where was I on 9/11 morning?

Friday, 9 September, 2011 - 6:35 pm

Where were you on September 11, 2001? It is a question we have all asked and have been asked.

Here is where I was, and I will never forget it:

At the time, I was studying at the Rabbinical College in Detroit. That morning, I and some fellow students were supposed to rent a car together to drive to New York for Rosh Hashana. Travelling by plane would have been much faster, but being that we were students we usually settled with a car ride. The drive to New York is always very pleasant, with some stops at the rest areas. I always remember the stops in Pennsylvania, where we used to meet the Amish, and for a minute thought 'Hey, we can get some more guys for a minyan, for evening services'. We also always knew at which exits off the "Highway 80" we could get kosher snacks to make the drive easier. 

On the morning of Tuesday, September 11, we still hadn't heard about anything, and made our way to the small car rental location, a small station on the side of the town of Oak Park. Already from far I could tell that something was up. There was a long line of people reaching out to the street, something that never happened before. We never even had to make a reservation in advance, because there were always cars available. Shortly after, we heard the dreadful news on the radio.

I realized quickly what was happening, all the airports were closed, and so there were many travelers trying to drive to their destinations instead. I understood that I will definitely not get a car today. As I was about to leave, I see 3 business men leaving with a nice luxury car, when one of them noticed me and starts coming towards me. For a moment I got scared, but then I saw his shy smile and was startled by his request: "Are you a Rabbi?" he asked quietly. Without even giving me time to answer he goes on: "Well, for me you definitely are one. I am driving out now with my partners to a business meeting in Washington, since our flight got cancelled. I would like to ask you something, which I never asked anyone in my life, and surely not a Rabbi - please Rabbi, give me a blessing for the journey. I'm just a bit scared"

Well, who am I to give blessings, but when a Jew asks, how can you let him down? I blessed him with a safe trip and a Shana Tova. He answered me with a big smile and thanks. This was a very special moment which I will never forget. It was a moment of unity.

Two days later when we finally arrived in New York, I felt it again with the unusual courtesy and politeness that was everywhere. People were driving on the streets almost like the Swiss. The atmosphere at the synagogue was also very different from any other year. 

It was a feeling of a superior unity.

May we all have the strength to unite in times of peace, just as we do in times of war.

Rivky and the children join me in wishing you a Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Chaim




Comments on: Where was I on 9/11 morning?

CMD wrote...

truly inspiring!!