While I was locked out of the office I first sat stunned in front of the TV
for a couple days in between wondering around to various sights to volunteer,
but everyone said, "We don't need anyone; come back later." But finally on
Thursday night at midnight, as it started to rain, I found a spot that needed
people. It was a new donation drop-off point on 39th Street. After 8 hours of
sorting clothes I had been there longer than all but one person, and the next
thing I knew I was in charge. That gave me the chance to deal with volunteers,
the company that loaned us the space, police, the national guard, people who
drove all the way from Ohio to bring us a load of stuff that we no longer
needed, petty power-struggles among leaders of other donation centers, and I
even had to put down a coup attempt. The other managers and I worked long
shifts for the next week, making sure that we only accepted the donations that
could be used, sorting them, and sending them downtown when someone came for
them. After one particularly long shift, I said I was going home to relax and
one of the people I was working with said, "I can't imagine YOU relaxing." I
had to laugh like hell, and I said, "Please tell that to anyone who knows
me."

Many more donations seemed to come in than went out, and we wondered if we had
any real effect on the effort, but eventually people figured out we were
there, and started taking more of our stuff. We were all shocked when some
people from ground zero actually thanked us. Almost as shocking was when
somebody came back with a load of hamburgers from the much larger facility
nearby on 34th St., saying, "These hamburgers were cooked by Tim Robbins, you
know from 'Shawshank Redemption.'" Sure enough when I went over there the next
day he was flipping burgers, and he came back several days in a row. He and
Susan Sarandon took turns flipping burgers or staying home with their kids. I
said, "we all appreciate your hamburgers on 39th St--it's like you're famous
up there now." He actually laughed.

After a little more than a week in business we found a much larger facility
(run by the Federal Emergency Management Agency) that was able to take our
entire inventory. We closed up and cleaned up and went back to our normal
lives.

My normal life now consists of passing a military check-point every day on my
way to work, and every time I step out for coffee. We share the street with
people in business suits, police uniforms, and military fatigues. Of course
there are a lot of gawckers with cameras. There is a horrible smell in the air
every time the wind blows up, but most people in lower Manhattan are back at
work, and this is what is becoming normal.

Karl