On September 11, 2001, I woke up in New York City like I always did. I had breakfast, a shower, cup of coffee and read the news on the internet.
The news was reporting that a small plane had hit the World Trade Center. Wow, how could the pilot not see those two big towers, I thought as I continued reading other stories. Fifteen minutes later, I was out the door and walking down Houston Street on the way to work.
But something felt off. People were running around with confused looks on their faces. Groups were gathered around cars, listening to the news on the radio. Lines of people waited to make calls on the public pay telephones. (Yes, we still had public phones in 2001.)
It was then that I found myself standing on the steps of the Angelika Film Center looking skyward with a like-minded crowd of people. Together, we watched in horror and disbelief as the World Trade Center’s South Tower disappeared in a cascade of silvery glass in the clear blue sky.
I will never forget what an absolutely beautiful day it was when the world changed forever. When I changed forever.
But I didn’t realize my life had changed at first. I guess I was just in shock.
For weeks after, the air smelt of burnt sulphur and the sound of sirens never ceased. Every day I’d walk down to where Houston Street connected with the West Side Highway. I’d stand with the crowd and cheer as emergency workers were deployed to what became known as Ground Zero. We stood and watched as other workers came back exhausted to rest, clean up and try fruitlessly, to relax for a while.
One of the things I noticed were the dogs that some of the emergency workers walked with. At this point, Dog Files wasn’t even a glimmer in my eye but I knew something special was going on with the dogs. The workers gathered around the dogs. Some workers hugged them, others cried. The dogs were a great comfort to the exhausted workers. Probably more than the cheering crowd was that I was a part of. It was cathartic to all who watched.
Years later, after creating Dog Files, I decided to do something for 9/11 and I remembered the special dogs from Ground Zero. I knew exactly what it would be: A video episode of Dog Files celebrating and commemorating what I had since learned were search & rescue Dogs, comfort dogs and bomb detection Dogs. The Hero Dogs Of 9/11.
The short video was a major hit. It garnered the most views ever for a Dog Files episode and I found that this largely untold story had touched many others as much as it touched me. That somehow, a story about dogs, could help us see our own humanity, brighter and clearer.
If you haven’t noticed by now, 9/11 affected me greatly. But none so much as what happened to my perspective on life.
About six months after 9/11, I decided to move back to the motherland (that’s New Jersey to you) and six months after that I adopted Max, an American Foxhound/Pointer mix, from St. Hubert’s in Madison, NJ.
Years later, I found my calling and inspiration through way of Max and started Dog Files. I have never looked back.
Working on the Hero Dogs Of 9/11 TV Special was a complete thrill to me. I mean, how could it not be? I got to shake hands (and paws) with true heroes. Folks that put others safety ahead of their own. They are a special brand of people and I’m glad we are able to celebrate them here. I had the opportunity to meet David Lim and Michael Hingson, both highlighted in the documentary. These are folks that care so deeply about their dogs. About all dogs. It was an honor to help them share their stories.
I could not be happier with the finished one hour special. It is the perfect compliment to what I was trying to do with my short video all those years ago. To show the world that dogs deserve our love, care and respect. And hopefully, in doing so, nudging the world to become a better place for this very special animal.
The only animal, in fact, to create an indelible connection with another species… humans. A connection that many anthropologists believe may be one of the reasons homo sapiens survived and thrived 20,000 years ago to become the dominant force on Earth.
However, being in charge doesn’t mean we should always get our way or force our will on others. It means we are protectors. And that it is our sacred duty to be kind and caring to this amazing furry creature that has become our trusted friend throughout history, both good and bad.
Dogs deserve more than a chain tying them down in a muddy yard. They deserve more than puppy mills, dog fighting and neglect.
When the complete history of the human race is written, there will be one constant throughout. The unbridled loyalty of man’s best friend: the dog. Standing right beside their human, ready to protect… ready to comfort… ready to love.
Do we want history to reflect kindly on us, or do we want it to be about the hell dogs are so often cruelly exposed to? This is for all of us to decide on our own. I think you know where I fall.
When I think back to September 11, 2001 and after I get past the pain and the sorrow of it all, I am amazed at how it affected what I do today. If 9/11 hadn’t happened, I might not have moved back to New Jersey, which means I wouldn’t have adopted my dog Max, the Dog Files wouldn’t have been created and I wouldn’t be writing now about the Hero Dogs Of 9/11.
Sometimes it takes a horrible event to see the truth in your own life. It forces you to choose directions. Creating something positive from such a terrible tragedy is what makes us human.
On Tuesday, September 10, 2013 at 8Pm ET/PT, the one hour Hero Dogs Of 9/11 TV Special will premiere in the United States on Animal Planet. A one hour special dedicated to the unsung heroes of a frightening, uneasy time in my life and the life of all Americans, if not the entire world.
I hope you enjoy the Hero Dogs Of 9/11 TV special as much as I did working on it. I also hope that after you finished watching it, you will look at your dog, sitting peacefully at your side, in a way you’ve never looked at them before. Or if you do not have a dog, you will be inspired to adopt one.
Hero Dogs Of 9/11 reminds us that dogs are a gift to all of us.
Let’s treat them as such.
Creator of Dog Files