On that bright September morning, my friend Greg Trevor had just gotten up from his desk on the 68th floor of 1 World Trade Center and happened to look out at the Statue of Liberty. Suddenly he felt the building shake and watched flames scream past the window.
The explosion 20 floors above nearly knocked him to the floor. Dazed, he joined thousands of others as they found their way into a crowded stairwell. They navigated through smoke and dust and finally, darkness.
Greg made it out, 11 minutes before the building collapsed.
Greg was an Observer reporter for eight years in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. He worked in Hickory and Gastonia and later Raleigh, where he covered state politics. He left for New Jersey in 1994 and was working at the Port Authority on that clear September day in 2001.
Across the country people will remember that day in different ways: in churches and in service projects. Greg, who now works for Rutgers University, will commemorate it in another way.
He’ll host what’s billed as the 1st annual “9/11 Day of Discussion” in Highland Park, N.J., the town where he and his family live.
It was an idea Greg floated a couple years ago in a column that ran in the Washington Post.
“Will Sept. 11 eventually become like D-Day or Pearl Harbor Day, remembered primarily when the anniversary ends with a zero?” he wrote. “Will Sept. 11 become more like Memorial Day or Veterans Day, used as an excuse to sell cars and furniture? …
“The heroes of Sept. 11 deserve better. Thousands of people, including me, owe our lives to these brave men and women. We must find a meaningful way to make sure their sacrifice remains relevant for all Americans.”
His answer: A national Day of Discussion “where Americans actively seek ways to find common ground across political, religious and cultural divides.”
Will Sept. 11 eventually become like D-Day or Pearl Harbor Day, remembered primarily when the anniversary ends with a zero?...Will Sept. 11 become more like Memorial Day or Veterans Day, used as an excuse to sell cars and furniture?
Greg Trevor, former North Carolinian who is hosting the first annual Day of Discussion on Sunday
The first one will be Sunday afternoon at a Highland Park high school. The topic will be “De-stigmatizing Mental Health Care.” It’s a subject of particular importance to Greg, who like thousands of other survivors and first-responders, suffered from PTSD after 9/11.
“Unless people like me are open to talk about the benefits we receive from mental health care, this issue is going to stay in the shadows and people are going to be reluctant to get the help that they need,” he told me Friday.
Highland Park’s Day of Discussion will bring together mental health experts and medical professionals, including one who worked with 9/11 first responders.
Greg hopes the day leads to future discussions about other subjects. The point, he says, is to get people talking together, proving that Americans have more that unites than divides them.
And he’s doing it for the people who didn’t make it out of the towers and the responders who lost their lives trying to help.
“I really feel it’s important to remember that and honor their memory,” Greg says, “and the sense of community that their heroism helped to inspire.”