91/11/2001: The Day That Changed America
A Solemn Walk With Thousands
Scholastic Editor Denise Henry Joins Bagpipers For a Trek Across the Brooklyn Bridge
By Denise Henry

New York Police Department bagpiper Keith Rositear (right) leads the Brooklyn bagpipe and drum procession across the Brooklyn Bridge at sunrise. Bagpipers from all five boroughs meet at Ground Zero for commemorative ceremonies. (Photo: Kathy Willens/AP Wide World)
I used to walk to work at Scholastic over the Brooklyn Bridge every morning. I really enjoyed this peaceful time with the city before the hustle and bustle of the normal weekday rush began. I looked forward to this ritual even though it meant waking up with the sunrise.

The last time I walked across the bridge was in August 2001.

This year, on September 11, 2002, I left my apartment at 5:45 a.m., and made my way to the bridge entrance for the first time in a year. On the bridge were bagpipers, drummers, and thousands of New Yorkers and tourists who had come to honor the memories of fallen family members, friends, and strangers.

At 6:30 a.m. I stood in the middle of the crowd that had gathered to make the solemn march from Brooklyn to Ground Zero in Manhattan. I slowly took in everything around me. The quick flashes of the photographers' cameras as they snapped pictures to capture the moving scene of bagpipers greeting each other with hugs and smiles. A group of weary and drained police officers directing the morning rush hour traffic away from the bridge. And employees rushing to catch a train or bus, stopped for a few moments to offer a sad smile or wave to the crowd, before they resumed their frantic pace.

Then, at precisely 6:34 a.m., the mournful, yet beautiful wail of the bagpipers' music played, and we began our march to the tune of "Amazing Grace."

Everything else around us was so quiet. All I could hear was the steady beat of the drums, and the rhythmic tap of the bagpipers' shoes as they marched in unison. After we crossed the mile-long bridge, the procession grew larger as more people joined us at each street corner.

Although much has changed since 9/11/01, today, my morning ritual had somehow remained the same. I usually walk over the bridge by myself so I can appreciate the peaceful stillness of New York City. But on September 11, 2002, I walked with thousands of fellow New Yorkers, and it was one of the most peaceful moments of my life.