Freedom Skate Day 6: Remembering Tragedy and… Skating

Sept. 11, 2010

I made it down to the 9/11 memorial at the World Trade Center in downtown Manhattan today. It was a pretty surreal experience. Just like all of us, I saw the footage on TV the day the towers (and the Pentagon) were struck. I remember having a hard time making it real then. I was sitting in my 9th grade American History class talking to friends, when suddenly, my teacher burst into the room and said, “I had a lesson planned for today guys, but we’re going to skip it. History is being made right now!”

Throughout the day, I remember watching videos about this incredible tragedy, but I had a hard time making it real to myself. The fact that it was such a strange occurrence in my life added to the fact that I had never even set foot in NYC, made it so I could hardly believe my eyes and ears.

Today was different. Today I was there, and I could see that the hurt was still just as real and deep for the friends and families of the victims as on the day of the attacks. However, I also noticed a strange optimism in the air, at the same time. Without a doubt, the mood was solemn; however, there was a strange aura about the people and the place that said something like, “This still hurts, but we are strong enough to move forward.” I was glad to see that. In all, it was a great opportunity for me to experience just a taste of what it’s like to be a New Yorker. That’s important, because I cannot carry a message to people with whom I cannot find common ground. I feel as thought I must become more “American” than I ever imagined being, because I need to be able to connect, not only with each individual, but with an entire nation. That is necessary to carry this message. I count myself fortunate to face such a challenge.

On a lighter note, I had decided that it would be smart to skate back from Ground Zero to Secaucus (near Jersey City, NJ) rather than taking a bus. I was wrong about the “smart” part. 😉 It turns out that tunnels don’t mix with skaters, so I had to skate to the complete opposite side of Manhattan, take the Washington Bridge, and then follow the most convoluted and twisted trail imaginable back to the RV (probably 30-40 miles). I must have asked for directions 20 times. It was madness,… and I had a blast! I actually ended up meeting a bunch of great people along the way. As a result this article about my journey was published by an online newspaper based in NJ. You never know…

Footage from today’s skate is coming soon. Thanks again for all of your support and for caring enough to continue to follow my journey here. I can’t do this without you. Don’t forget to keep telling your friends and spreading the word in whatever way you can. That is the best way you can help me. Until next time…

– Austin

“The Freedom Skater”

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