Heal Through ServiceOct 23, 2022
by Nayaswami Narayan
“Holy _____! A plane just hit the world trade center.”
“Shut the _____ up and get back to work!”
Our regional manager and my boss blurted back and forth these exclamations to one another. I’ll never forget the day. It was Tuesday, September 11th, 2001. I was working in Midtown Manhattan for Bloomberg L.P.
Since Bloomberg was a financial markets firm with a media division, there were TVs everywhere in our office (including walls, the floor, and even bathroom stalls!). In addition, when the news wire hit, everyone turned on their TVs on their “Bloombergs” (computer screens). We saw smoke coming from one of the twin towers and hoped it was just a fire that could be contained. We all thought the report was wrong, it couldn’t have been a plane.
Then, shockingly, out of nowhere we saw the second plane hit one of the towers in real time. Pandemonium ensued. A security professional broke onto the loudspeakers telling everyone to evacuate the building. If you’ve ever seen one of those armageddon movies, that was the scene on the streets of NYC that morning.
People were frantically running for transportation in hopes of escaping the city. Jet fighter planes flew above in the sky. I lived in New Jersey so I thought my best bet out would be the ferry across the Hudson River. No such luck. By the time I got to the ferry, the city went into complete lockdown.
This was before the iPhone era and my old flip phone’s battery died. I had a friend who lived in Alphabet City close to ground zero (where the towers were hit) so I began the five mile trek in my “monkey suit” in hopes that he would be there. Thankfully he was home. We went to the top of his building and watched the massive heap of debris emanate an ungodly smoke and smell of burning plastic.
It wasn’t until the next day that I was able to go home. That evening I found myself alone in my apartment. The only thing I could find to eat was some beet soup my mother had given me in a tupperware container. As I opened the soup, the smell of the plastic and the color of the soup reminded me of the smoke from ground zero. All of a sudden I burst into tears. It wasn’t until that moment that I realized the magnitude of the tragedy.
I wanted to be of service in some way to help the City recover. Although our office was still closed, I was able to volunteer at ground zero just a couple days after 9/11. My job was quite simple — I handed out water to anyone in need. Recalling the experience reminds me of a line from one of Paramhansa Yogananda’s chants, “To the serviceful, Thou art service.” I felt one with the act of service.
Some of the best therapy is being of service. Service heals the heart and expands our consciousness through kindness. As Swami Kriyananda says in a song, “Fear not the loving, all this world’s your own.”