Sunday, September 12, 2010

9-11 Commemorations in Mystery, NYC sims

The ninth anniversary of the terrorist attack on New York City on September 11, 2001 was commemorated in a number of places in Second Life in ceremonies large and small. Among the smaller ones, was a vigil at the normally cheerful Mystery sim. One of the larger ones was at the NYC sim, also known as New York City Block.

At the Queen of Hearts riverboat club in Mystery, Amythe Moonlight hosted the small commemoration from 10 AM to 12 Noon SL time, “We take this time today to remember those who were lost in the tragedy, those who lost their lives in trying to rescue others and also all those who have died in the name of or in the service of their country. Please take a moment to reflect on those who lives were lost and join us as we think about the events that day and the tragedy that unfolded.”

She invited those around to share stories. Some did, one saying, “I remember watching it live and I just couldn't believe my eyes... I was so scared and felt so much hurt for all of those innocent people any their families. I'm very proud to be an American and to see watch that happen gave me so many mixed emotions of anger and sadness.”

Another added, “I first heard about the twin towers burning from one of my 6th grade students. I did not believe him. At that time there was nothing to go to to confirm. No TV. No internet. No radio. All things frowned upon at the school and blocked. We were pretty isolated and the administration was keeping things hushed even from us teachers. I heard that a teacher had a TV and was watching it. I went to the class and could not believe what I was seeing. Later during my drive home I wept uncontrollably. I had to stop and pull over several times. Being Teacher I had to put on a show of everything will be all right. In the car I did not have to put on a show. I knew that everything was not all right.“

Amy had her own story, “I am not an American but I was involved in what happened indirectly. I was online when the news broke, playing a game. One of the young boys who played IM'd me. I knew both him and his father from the game. He was 10 years old and he was afraid. His father, he told me, was in the Pentagon and they could not get hold of him. His mother and his grandmother were crying and would not talk to him and he was scared. I sat and listened as he told me what he could see on TV - the pictures of the plane strike on the Pentagon - and what his family were saying. They could not reach his father at all, and the boy did not know what to do. He felt alone and frightened.”

“I talked with him for 3 hours as his fears poured out of him and we discovered more and more about what had occurred. He was frantic though doing his best to be brave for his mother. Eventually he left and I sat and cried. Although I did not personally lose anyone on that tragic day I lived that day through the eyes of a frightened child.”

“The word got around that I had stayed with the boy and listened. In the following days others who lost people came to me with their stories and I heard so many harrowing tales of family lost on the aircraft and in the buildings. Too awful to describe. I will never forget that day or the people I met who's lives it altered forever.”

Minutes later, she spoke again, “Our vigil is now drawing to a close. As we stand here today reflecting on those who have been lost may stand as a symbol of lasting remembrance. Those who have left us too soon will not be forgotten for those who have touched our lives live on in us each day in our thoughts and memories. As we remember not only those we knew but also those known by others let us keep them all dear in our hearts not just today but every day.”

“We will not forget.”

“Thank you all for being here today. Peace be with you.”

Amy got some words of thanks from the audience over the next few minutes. Eventually, all gave their farewells and teleported or logged off.

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At the NYC sim, displays were set up at the World Trace Center Monument yesterday and early today. Starting with candles, a few flowers and a couple posters, by this morning it had become the setting for a large tribute. On the sidewalk in front of some benches a stage had been set up, with several American flags draped in front and two flying to the sides. Just in front of that were three crosses, each with a fireman's’ helmet on it. Behind the speakers podium was a fire engine, “Squad CO. 61,” with another flag flying over it and an American Eagle and flag painted on it’s side, “Never forget.” On the wall behind that was “343” in large red numbers, the number of firefighters whom had been killed that day.

To the right was a larger cross, made with two iron girders, as if made from the debris of the towers. To the left, a hook and ladder fire truck with a large American flag flying from it’s extended ladder. There was also a list of names of fallen policemen. All around, there were a number of pictures set up of the tragic day. Inside the World Trace Center buildings was another display of photographs.

Numerous people showed up for the commemoration, the sim at one point holding 66 people. The people showed up in a wide variety of dress and avatars. Some wore commemorative titlers, “We Remember.” One definitely displayed the group title “American Infidel.” Many were residents of New York City in real-life. The guests of honor were the Second Life Fire Department, some of whom are also firefighters in real life, including from New York.

JayFizzle McGinnis, the Chief of the SLFD, began the main ceremony at 1 PM SL time, “Hello, I would like to begin today by welcoming every one, friends, neighbors, brothers and sisters in service. Today Marks the 9th anniversary of our country's worst tragedy to have taken place in recent history. So we sit here today, those of us directly affected and those of us indirectly affected. Remember one thing we have all been affected as a nation, and as a world civilization.”

“It changed us no matter how we look at the day, none of us will be or live the lives we lived prior to 9-11-01. We take this time today to remember the heroes of that day not just the 343 Firefighters who paid the ultimate sacrifice but the 408 total emergency workers who perished that day and the thousands of souls who perished along with them. Today you will see some deep fire dept. traditions come to life as we remember this day and the toll it has had, not only on our nation But our world. Thank you and God speed.”

“I would like to share with you a quote Made famous By Edward F Crocker, Fire Chief (of) New York, dating back to the year 1908: “

“ ‘ I have no ambition in this world but one, and that is to be a firefighter. The position may, in the eyes of some, appear to be a lowly one; but we who know the work which the firefighter has to do believe that his is a noble calling. There is an adage which says that, "Nothing can be destroyed except by fire." We strive to preserve from destruction the wealth of the world which is the product of the industry of men, necessary for the comfort of both the rich and the poor. We are defenders from fires, of the art which has beautified the world, the product of the genius of men, and the means of refinement of mankind. But, above all; our proudest endeavor is to save lives of men-the work of God Himself. Under the impulse of such thoughts, the nobility of the occupation thrills us and stimulates us to deeds of daring, even at the supreme sacrifice. Such considerations may not strike the average mind, but they are sufficient to fill to the limit our ambition in life and to make us serve the general purpose of human society.’ “

“Edward F Crocker Chief FDNY 1908.”

JayFizzle then turned the podium over to Nick Pritchett. He gave short speech in voice, of which unfortunately technical difficulties made it hard for some to hear, including myself. Then he asked everyone to hold a moment of silence. The only noise was a faint electronic beep. He typed, “The noise you are hearing is the only sound firefighters heard after the towers fell, this sound is the pass alarm on a firefighters airpack signaling a fire fighter is down.”

JayFizzle spoke again, “The fire dept. runs deep with traditions, many of them dating back to the inception of the American fire service. At the completion of each every alarm, the fire department signals that they have returned to the station and are ready for duty. The next Alarm. In times past,was the bell was used as the signal. We signal today with 5-5-5-5 FDNY that their members have returned home safely and awaits the next assignment. We will now welcome our heroes home by the sounding of the bell with the signal 5-5-5-5.”

The ceremony did have one interruption at this point. Cheri’s microphone was on, and she was arguing with someone who wanted her time, and Cheri trying to explain what she was doing was important. Then in voice, “OOPS! I left the mike on.” followed by chat, “Sorry I forgot that.” The response was a few cheerful answers, “Typical NY household, to be honest, it's good to hear voices from home on this day.” “That's NY, organized chaos.”

The signal was soon ended, JayFizzle saying, “Welcome home brothers!! Rest in peace.” This was followed by some in the crowd going “Amen.” JayFizzle resumed, , “In closing today, I would like to share with you The Firefighter's Prayer, also a tradition in the fire service to remember our fallen.”

When I'm called to duty God
wherever flames may rage
give me strength to save a life
whatever be its age
Help me to embrace a little child
before it is too late
or save an older person from
the horror of that fate
Enable me to be alert
to hear the weakest shout
and quickly and efficiently
to put the fire out
I want to fill my calling and
to give the best in me
to guard my neighbor and
protect his property
And if according to your will
I have to lose my life
bless with your protecting hand
my children and my wife.”

“God speed everyone, and thank you for coming here. In just a few minutes we will be showcasing the many apparatus that serve us in SL and their proud firefighters. So please stick around as we line up for the parade and again thank you for coming.”

Nick led the firefighters to the trucks. Some people moved to the sidewalk next to the street further away from the Twin Towers. Others may have been just camming from where they stood. After they gathered, the firefighters boarded the red trucks, and drove them around the sim.

After that, the event was officially over. A few left right away. Others lingered to chat with others, such as the firefighters sharing stories, and New Yorkers meeting one another on Second Life for the first time. Eventually, most of the people were gone. People continued to drop in and visit the exhibit throughout the afternoon and evening.

A guestbook at the area had a number of comments, among them: “I will always remember and will always pray for the families of the people that lost there lives that day,” “We will always remember,” “Kill the terrorists,” “You are what I'm fighting for,” “As a survivor of 911, I thank the sim owner for this tribute never forget, thank you,” “RIP Mom and Dad - Marlina,” " ‘On this day, angels were born’ seems to say it best. A piece of every American, past, present, and future died on September 11th and the Twin Towers shall forever remain the headstone of American as we knew it. The very fabric of this country changed the day the towers fell. My heart to all of those who lost their lives or their loved ones on 9/11 especially to all the children who will grow up never really knowing their parents.”

The NYC sim is owned by native Brookliner Cheri Bing. The SLFD has a station on the sim. The World Trade Center Memorial in her sim is believed to be the oldest permanent one in Second Life, standing for three years. The 2009 ceremony was covered by Second Life Newspaper and CNN.

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In real life, across the country there were many other commemorations. Among them were fire stations holding a moment of silence at 7 AM SLT, the time the South Tower collapsed. In New York, the ceremonies took on a different tone later in the day following the quiet reflections early in the morning. Opponents and supporters of a planned 13 story high mosque to be build a couple blocks from the World Trade Center site held demonstrations against each other. The Muslims say they have every right to build wherever they please, some dismissing those against them as racist. Opponents call the mosque a violation of “holy ground,” citing the 19 hijackers involved in the September 11 attacks were Muslim extremists, some saying the real purpose of the mosque is as a celebration of the disaster. Threats have been implied over both it going up or not. There have been numerous comments made about the controversy. Among them, one person asking the Muslims to either move the site or wait another generation, saying the destruction of the Twin Towers had left a wound on New York and America that was still raw, and would take many more years to heal.

On the morning of September 11, 2001, Islamic extremists hijacked four airliners at the same time, two attacking New York by flying into the World Trade Center. About 2600 in the buildings died from the collisions and the structures’ collapse. Besides the Twin Towers, several other nearby buildings were destroyed or damaged by falling debris. In Arlington Virginia, a third plane hit the Pentagon. The fourth plane, believed to be headed to strike the US Capitol Building, crashed into the ground near Shanksville Pennsylvania after passengers heard what was happening through cell phones and attacked the hijackers. A total of about 3,000 were killed.

ADDITION: More pictures of the event can be found Here.

Bixyl Shuftan

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