September 11th: The Port Authority Police Department Story
After the collapse of the two towers, volunteers flocked to the area to offer their help. Many begged for something to do, anything. Their hearts were in the right place, but without formal training, they couldn't be let loose on the pile. When they refused to leave, the police had to ask them to wait in a fenced parking lot to keep them from getting in the way of the professionals.
Everyone, it seemed, wanted to do something. If they couldn't get on the pile and look for survivors themselves, they wanted to do something for the men and women who were doing that job. Fancy restaurants in the area threw open their doors and offered free meals to rescue workers. A local printer offered to make business cards for any cop who wanted them; the man simply wanted to do something to show his gratitude.
PAPD cops reported that racial and ethnic differences melted away during the crisis. People fell into only two categories on September 11: those who needed help and those who offered it.
The compelling need to help wasn't relegated to the people of New York City. A group of cops from Sheboygan, Wisconsin, for example, loaded up a truck with hundreds of pounds of bratwurst and cheddar cheese and two grills. They drove straight through from Wisconsin to Manhattan and got as close to the sight as they could. They explained who they were and why they were there to a ranking PAPD officer. They offered to aid in the rescue efforts on the pile if they were needed, but in the meantime all they wanted to do was feed the people who were doing the job. Their truck was escorted to a parking lot near the sight, and the cops from Wisconsin set up their grills, cooking their bratwurst and handing out food to whoever wanted it. When their food was gone, they got back into their truck and drove home, but before they left, they gave their names and phone numbers to a PAPD lieutenant. "If you want us to come back," one of them said, "all you have to do is ask." One of the PAPD officers still remembers the taste of their bratwurst. "It was the best I ever had," he said.