On the morning of September 11, 2002, I stood at Ground Zero with my friends, on a pilgrimage to be where our hearts had been for a year.

In our effort to get near Ground Zero, we mistakenly ended up in the press pen behind the families of the survivors. We stood there, face to face with the families of the lost, and talked with them about their fathers, mothers, children, siblings – all of those lost – with tears, laughter, and hugs. When a city official tried to have us ejected from the area, the mother of one of the victims hugged said, “they’re with us, they’re not going anywhere.”

I will never forget the wind….swirling up from the pit just as the first name was read, constant, circular, enveloping the families as they decended to lay flowers and remember their loved ones. We stood there for hours, through the reading of all the names of the lost, and after the last was read, the wind died and the dust fell back into the pit, as if we were surrounded by those that we lost, comforting us, until the ceremony was complete.

I carry the love, laughter, and pain I shared with the families that day with me always, tightly clasped to my chest.I carry with me the feeling of the bear hug I got that week, from a firefighter who mistook me for the sister of a fallen comrade. I carry the blocks and blocks of pictures and banners and paper cranes strung along the fence around St. Paul’s. I carry the panic of then seven-year-old Tim, seeing the replay of the plane crashing through the building, asking where his constantly traveling grandfather – my father – was. I carry the image of the iron cross, twisted but standing, in the pit of Ground Zero, shining in the morning sun.

I will be there again, September 11, 2011, to see the rise of the American spirit out of the twisted metal and rubble, the broken families and lost souls. I want to stand and see the sun glisten off the Freedom Tower, the memorial wall, and hug that mother who for me is the perfect symbol of our spirit and our determination to go on.