Within an hour of the first plane striking the World Trade Center on 9/11, smoldering debris was blowing down my street in Brooklyn. Like the rest of the nation, I glued myself to the news. Two days later, I volunteered with the Salvation Army. Their headquarters in Manhattan was overrun with donations, and they needed round-the-clock sorters. My first shift was 12 hours long. The next day, I ended up on a food truck headed down to ground zero. We parked three blocks from the site and handed out food, drinks, clean socks, work gloves, first aid supplies and smiles to the hundreds of people doing their best to recover the remains of the people who lost their lives that week. The shift lasted 16 hours. For the next 5 weeks I volunteered for 12-16 hour shifts, all of them down at the site. I met a man whose job it was to identify recovered body parts. I met countless iron workers who had lost track of what day it was. I met a cruise ship captain who pulled into port and started unloading food and blankets for the workers. I was there the night that operations at ground zero changed hands, from the NYPD to the FBI. Everything was on fire, the air quality was off-the-charts dangerous, everyone was exhausted. And yet, there was no place else I wanted to be. Elsewhere in the city people argued for or against war, for or against freedom of religion. It often got ugly. But down at the site, no one fought. We were all too busy cleaning up a horrible mess.
-- Jessica Dukes, iVillage Community Director
Watch iVoices and iVillage Staffers share their 9/11 memories