Wednesday, October 3, 2012

GORUCK Challenge - 9/11 Tribute

This one was my own fault. I mean, I volunteered to fly up to New York City mere days after climbing mountains in Colorado. I could have stayed home and enjoyed the first weekend of the NFL. I had tickets to an FSU game that would have been fun. It's my own fault. But, when a pretty girl tells me she has a place to stay in Hell's Kitchen only a few minutes' walk from Times Square... and it's $60 a night... I can't rightly say 'no,' can I?

Not when it's the GORUCK Challenge 9/11 memorial ruck, I can't.

View from the apartment
I've been to NYC several times, but experiencing the city (a city I LOVE, by the way) during 9/11 tribute time is something special. I landed on Friday afternoon and did what GRTs (Goruck alumni, for you lay-people) are wont to do. I met up with others to drink. This would be something oft-repeated over the course of the long weekend.

Eight of us (I think...? Was it more? Seeing double makes it hard to count.) joined forces to rent an apartment on the 44th floor of a nice complex, and it worked out great. We drank. We ate. We napped (some of us). And, then we met up near the NY Stock Exchange with three full classes of ruckers intent on showing their respect to those that perished 11 years earlier in the only way we knew how: We would punish ourselves for no reason whatsoever.

Oh, it made sense. Don't look at me like that.

About 90 ruckers stepped off at Wall Street (mere feet from where George Washington took the first presidential oath of office) and headed toward the East River. There, on the side of the syringe-laden waters, we did PT for about an hour. Bear crawls. Push-ups. Inchworms. Squats. 403.... 403... 403.

Welcome party along the East River
403. Four-hundred and three. That's the number of first responders that entered the twin towers that day and never made it out. As we held that push-up position, and GRC cadre barked out abstract terms like respect, honor, and commitment, I thought about those 403 and what they were thinking as they ran inside.

Push-ups are nothing.

We were sticky, sweaty, and emotionally drained... perfect time for some water PT. In the East River. This was healthy. We also found a log that NYC bums appeared to use as a toilet. Also... very healthy. This log was then lugged all over lower Manhattan.

Seriously, stop looking at me like that. It totally makes sense.

For 8 hours, we fought the night, our cadre (Chris), that log, and drunken New Yorkers. Then, the rains hit and hit hard. We handed off the log to another class and took their coupons (sand and plywood) in exchange. Good riddance to the craplog...

We jumped in the Hudson River. We buddy carried through a neighborhood comprised largely of people with chauffeurs and expense accounts. We played the most insane, sadistic version of Duck, Duck, Goose around the Washington Park fountain that I have ever seen. We blindly ignored the "Don't Get in Fountain" signs as we bobbed up and down reciting the Spongebob Squarepants theme song (okay, you know what? Fine.. it doesn't make sense.) It was exhausting and inspiring. We fought our way back to Ground Zero only to be detoured by Chris after he found a flooded and muddy baseball field.

The 9/11 patch
We split into teams and crawled, crab-walked, and bear-crawled around the bases. It pays to be a winner. It also pays to cheat... which means it devolved into a disastrous, disgusting mud fight on the banks of the lower East Side. To think, if Chris had been arrested earlier that night (a distinct possibility given the night's events and the cops' warnings), we would have missed out on that lovely event.

We had time hacks to the end point. Casualties mounted as we neared... Chris wasn't happy with our pace even though we were moving faster than we had in the past 12 hours. We had all of our coupons and six casualties to carry as we made the final push.

We survived. Chris, a sadistic bastard that I had met over beers after the July 4th ruck in DC and who had led our climbs out in Colorado, handed out patches to some desperately thankful new GRTs and alumni alike. The special 9/11 patch we received will always remind me of the 403...

Class 238 - Hoorah

The 9/11 ruck wasn't more difficult or crazier than the others I've done, but it meant something different. That's for sure. Several of us went down to Ground Zero on 9/11 to 'feel' the atmosphere. Not knowing what to expect, I braced myself for a solemn morning.

O'Hara's Bar at the foot of the Towers on 9/11/12
Instead, we found laughter and friendship. Firefighters from all over the country converged on local bars amid the bonds of brotherhood. They'd never met each other, but they shared something... much like GRTs that have never met. Having someone stop me because I am in a GORUCK shirt and talk to me like an old friend is oddly calming. And, this is coming from someone that hates talking to other people more than he hates eating green peas. [Note: I really hate green peas.]

On 9/11, there are cops everywhere. Ostensibly, it's to secure the area and prevent anything dangerous from happening while keeping the thousands of on-lookers at bay. But, I talked to several of these guys and saw it in their faces. They weren't there because they were working. They were there because they wanted to be. They were making pilgrimages of their own, even if it was on the clock.

New York is a great city. The traffic is horrible. The people are aloof and largely dispassionate to those around them. But, that's because they have to be. There are just too many of them walking around. I ran around Central Park in the days following the ruck and had a great time. People were everywhere, but I might as well have been by myself (or, at most, with my running buddy, Cary). It's amazing to be surrounded by people and feel so independent.

Some people hate the big city... if my job allowed me to live there, I would in a heartbeat....

It's worth noting that I deleted about 1500 words from the end of this blog that went into some detail as to how the rest of the long weekend panned out. As I reread it, the stories of friends ripping off their pants in bars, getting roofied and wandering the streets until 8AM, and passing out face-first on an Ottoman didn't come across as 'high culture.' Plus, I would have felt bad identifying them (especially the one that decided to sleep walk and urinate all over the apartment).

But, they know who they are...

It's worth noting that we DID go see Phantom of the Opera. Yea, that's right. It wasn't all about the drinking.

I'd seen the play before, but it was quite good.

Then, we went drinking.

Lower Manhattan from the deck of the Empire Sate Building

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  1. Amazing write up, Russ. It's very hard to explain to people what we do and why we do it at times, but if ever there was a Challenge to complete it is the NYC Memorial GRC.

    Class #238 brother. And thanks for not calling me the 'craplog'

    1. Haha. Absolutely, Kipp. It's always difficult to explain GRCs to people in a way that is specific but doesn't make us look crazy for doing them.

      For all the heartache I give for being forced to carry you, I'd choose to carry you over that log any day.