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Bearing Witness

January, 2002

January, 2002 I felt a rising sense of gravity as I was driven toward Manhattan. I'd just completed my engagement with Slanted Fedora Entertainment's Star Trek convention at the Meadowlands in New Jersey. The skyline of Manhattan was clearly visible in the crisp, mid-morning light. I saw the elegantly tapered silhouette of the Empire State Building once again dominant as the tallest structure on the horizon. The vacancy in that skyline was heartrending. It was almost as if I were being driven to visit the grieving family of a deceased friend - except that I, too, was a member of that family.

As we emerged from the Lincoln Tunnel into the relentless hurley-burley of 42nd Street, it was almost comforting to be engulfed by the familiar New York assault on the senses. Neon lights blazed in broad daylight. Traffic noise blared in competition with each other. And the unyielding mass of humanity still poured through the streets with determination. New York was resiliently, vibrantly alive.

The next morning, I went on my pilgrimage to "Ground Zero," the place of the devastated remains of the World Trade Center. There was a long line to the viewing platform that had been built just east of the site. It snaked past the wrought iron fence surrounding the cemetery of old St Paul's Chapel dating back to 1780. The fence had become a grieving wall covered with photos, letters, Christmas wreaths, and other offerings posted in memory of the deceased and missing. They were bright, young people with ascendant careers. They were seniors ready to enjoy retirement. They were janitors and restaurant workers. They were people with names of every ethnicity in the world. When I read a letter addressed to "My little brother, our dearest son," my emotions wouldn't be contained. Tears ran cold down my cheeks. Snowflakes were falling softly. They reminded me of the ashes that fell from the sky that horrible September morning.

When I reached the platform, I was stunned by the sheer enormity of the site. Sixteen acres of barrenness where once there had been structures teeming with the energy of global commerce and the two tallest office towers in the United States -- all only memories now. In their place was a vast emptiness. Only a great hole in the ground with a tangled mess remained. Tractors moved somberly among the rubble, clearing the wreckage. Only the day before, the remains of another person had been found. Surrounding this huge void were scarred, soot covered, vacant buildings, some covered with black netting like shrouds of mourning. That snowy January morning, I relived in my mind and bore witness to the horror and pain of the morning of September 11, 2001.

I bore witness to the results of that dreadful day, but I know New Yorkers who actually lived through the terrors of the atrocity. Through friends with the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund, I arranged to have lunch with one of the heroes of September 11th, Officer David Lim of the Port Authority Police Department. A native New Yorker, he told his story in the punchy accent distinctive of Queens. Officer Lim is with the Canine Patrol in the World Trade Center. He was in the basement of the South Tower with his dog named Sirius inspecting the incoming cars when his walkie-talkie crackled that there was an explosion in the North Tower. His first thought was that someone had gotten a bomb past them up into the building.

He left his dog in the basement kennel and ran to the North Tower. On pure adrenaline, he rushed up 44 floors past fleeing people in roughly 20 minutes. There were office workers still sitting at their desks too stunned to react. Officer Lim went from floor to floor making sure everybody got out. He was in the stair well at around the 27th floor, when the whole building started to vibrate and rumble. It was the South Tower, which had been hit second but collapsed first, coming down. The North Tower was still upright. He urgently needed to get everyone out quickly. Officer Lim continued bellowing at the top of his voice, "Down is good. Down is good." When he reached the fifth floor, suddenly the entire building began to shudder with an indescribable sound combining an approaching train with an avalanche. He heard the snapping of pipes and cracking of concrete together with the deafening roar as they began to fall. He remembered thinking, "If I'm gonna die, please God, make it fast." Then there was silence. Miraculously, he and two other officers found themselves together and alive, trapped in a pocket. They were imprisoned in that cranny for about five hours before they were able to claw their way out. He ended his story by telling us, "My dog died in the collapse of the South Tower. I know exactly where Sirius is. They still haven't gotten to him yet."

I had dinner with Stan Honda, a photojournalist friend, who took photographs of the attack on the World Trade Center that have now become iconic. His picture of an African American woman completely covered in ash, looking shell-shocked and almost ghost-like, staggering away from the wreckage was published in virtually every newspaper and magazine in the world. Fortune Magazine used his photo of the ash-coated businessman, still in full suit and tie, still carrying his briefcase, on its cover. As I reminisced with Stan about my trips to New York in the early 70's, noting on each flight the progress of the steel skeletons of the World Trade Center as it worked its way 110 stories up into the sky, he shared with me his panic working frenetically as the great structures came roaring down.

A photo exhibit titled "Faces of Ground Zero" opened at Grand Central Station while I was in New York. I made a date to get together with my actress friend, Pat Suzuki, for lunch and a viewing of the exhibit. The display was made up of bigger than life-size photos of the heroes of the tragedy taken with a giant camera the size of a small room. The oversized images of people that we would ordinarily call "common guys" -- firefighters, police officers, medical workers, spouses of those that didn't survive, and others -- were profoundly moving. They were "common guys" caught in an extraordinarily uncommon situation who rose to the full challenge of the occasion with uncommon valor. They were the faces of the muscles and energy of working New York. They were the faces of the diversity of New York -- Hispanic, white, black, Asian and, yes, Middle Eastern. They were indeed, the faces of American resolve and American unity. Those faces and the quotes accompanying them were, at once, deeply touching and so uplifting. Over lunch, Pat revealed to me that for a couple of months, she had gotten up at 4 a.m. in the morning to volunteer as a breakfast cook for the rescue workers at ground zero. It seems all New Yorkers were involved in one way or another. They are all kindred.

After New York, I flew to Park City, Utah, for the Sundance Film Festival. I had worked on a small, independent film titled, "Noon Blue Apples" last year and it was to be premiered as part of the festival. I had been to the Venice Film Festival in Italy twice but this was my first visit to Sundance. What a contrast! It was as dramatic a difference as snow and water, as distinct as skis and gondolas.

However, there are also similarities. Both are storybook cities. Both places look like movie sets - one a floating Italian Renaissance capital turned popular tourist destination, the other an old western mining town turned ski resort. The energy, excitement, tensions, and partying are exactly the same. The overwhelming choices of film screenings are dizzyingly alike. Deal making seemed to be going on everywhere at Sundance, in restaurants, bars and even street corners. "Noon Blue Apples" is a psychological thriller by independent filmmaker Jay Lee with a fine performance by young actress, Lauren Fox. A member of the cast, actor Montel Williams, has a chalet in Park City and threw a lavish party for the cast, crew, press, and distributors. Jay and his producer sister, Angela Lee, were energetically wooing potential distributors.

During my four days at Sundance, I gorged myself on movies - from midnight screenings to early morning shows. But, like gorging on food, constant movie going can cause cinematic indigestion. I ingested some discomforting movies. Among them, however, were gems that I enjoyed greatly. "Love in the Time of Money" and "The Laramie Project" were impressive films with wonderful performances. But the very last movie I saw at Sundance before I left for the airport was the best. It was a 9 a.m. screening of an independent film starring Robin Williams titled "One Hour Photo." It was the highlight of my Sundance movie-going experience. First time feature director Mark Romanek had given Robin Williams his most challenging opportunity to stretch his creative muscles. And he rose fully to the challenge with a brilliant characterization of a sad and chilling loner. I predict that both Mark Romanek and Robin Williams will be Academy Award contenders next year.

People Reveal The Weirdest Thing About Themselves

Reddit user Isitjustmedownhere asked: 'Give an example; how weird are you really?'

Let's get one thing straight: no one is normal. We're all weird in our own ways, and that is actually normal.

Of course, that doesn't mean we don't all have that one strange trait or quirk that outweighs all the other weirdness we possess.

For me, it's the fact that I'm almost 30 years old, and I still have an imaginary friend. Her name is Sarah, she has red hair and green eyes, and I strongly believe that, since I lived in India when I created her and there were no actual people with red hair around, she was based on Daphne Blake from Scooby-Doo.

I also didn't know the name Sarah when I created her, so that came later. I know she's not really there, hence the term 'imaginary friend,' but she's kind of always been around. We all have conversations in our heads; mine are with Sarah. She keeps me on task and efficient.

My mom thinks I'm crazy that I still have an imaginary friend, and writing about her like this makes me think I may actually be crazy, but I don't mind. As I said, we're all weird, and we all have that one trait that outweighs all the other weirdness.

Redditors know this all too well and are eager to share their weird traits.

It all started when Redditor Isitjustmedownhere asked:

"Give an example; how weird are you really?"

Monsters Under My Bed

"My bed doesn't touch any wall."

"Edit: I guess i should clarify im not rich."

– Practical_Eye_3600

"Gosh the monsters can get you from any angle then."

– bikergirlr7

"At first I thought this was a flex on how big your bedroom is, but then I realized you're just a psycho 😁"

– zenOFiniquity8

Can You See Why?

"I bought one of those super-powerful fans to dry a basement carpet. Afterwards, I realized that it can point straight up and that it would be amazing to use on myself post-shower. Now I squeegee my body with my hands, step out of the shower and get blasted by a wide jet of room-temp air. I barely use my towel at all. Wife thinks I'm weird."

– KingBooRadley


"In 1990 when I was 8 years old and bored on a field trip, I saw a black Oldsmobile Cutlass driving down the street on a hot day to where you could see that mirage like distortion from the heat on the road. I took a “snapshot” by blinking my eyes and told myself “I wonder how long I can remember this image” ….well."

– AquamarineCheetah

"Even before smartphones, I always take "snapshots" by blinking my eyes hoping I'll remember every detail so I can draw it when I get home. Unfortunately, I may have taken so much snapshots that I can no longer remember every detail I want to draw."

"Makes me think my "memory is full.""

– Reasonable-Pirate902

Same, Same

"I have eaten the same lunch every day for the past 4 years and I'm not bored yet."

– OhhGoood

"How f**king big was this lunch when you started?"

– notmyrealnam3

Not Sure Who Was Weirder

"Had a line cook that worked for us for 6 months never said much. My sous chef once told him with no context, "Baw wit da baw daw bang daw bang diggy diggy." The guy smiled, left, and never came back."

– Frostygrunt


"I pace around my house for hours listening to music imagining that I have done all the things I simply lack the brain capacity to do, or in some really bizarre scenarios, I can really get immersed in these imaginations sometimes I don't know if this is some form of schizophrenia or what."

– RandomSharinganUser

"I do the same exact thing, sometimes for hours. When I was young it would be a ridiculous amount of time and many years later it’s sort of trickled off into almost nothing (almost). It’s weird but I just thought it’s how my brain processes sh*t."

– Kolkeia

If Only

"Even as an adult I still think that if you are in a car that goes over a cliff; and right as you are about to hit the ground if you jump up you can avoid the damage and will land safely. I know I'm wrong. You shut up. I'm not crying."

– ShotCompetition2593

Pet Food

"As a kid I would snack on my dog's Milkbones."

– drummerskillit

"Haha, I have a clear memory of myself doing this as well. I was around 3 y/o. Needless to say no one was supervising me."

– Isitjustmedownhere

"When I was younger, one of my responsibilities was to feed the pet fish every day. Instead, I would hide under the futon in the spare bedroom and eat the fish food."

– -GateKeep-

My Favorite Subject

"I'm autistic and have always had a thing for insects. My neurotypical best friend and I used to hang out at this local bar to talk to girls, back in the late 90s. One time he claimed that my tendency to circle conversations back to insects was hurting my game. The next time we went to that bar (with a few other friends), he turned and said sternly "No talking about bugs. Or space, or statistics or other bullsh*t but mainly no bugs." I felt like he was losing his mind over nothing."

"It was summer, the bar had its windows open. Our group hit it off with a group of young ladies, We were all chatting and having a good time. I was talking to one of these girls, my buddy was behind her facing away from me talking to a few other people."

"A cloudless sulphur flies in and lands on little thing that holds coasters."

"Cue Jordan Peele sweating gif."

"The girl notices my tension, and asks if I am looking at the leaf. "Actually, that's a lepidoptera called..." I looked at the back of my friend's head, he wasn't looking, "I mean a butterfly..." I poked it and it spread its wings the girl says "oh that's a BUG?!" and I still remember my friend turning around slowly to look at me with chastisement. The ONE thing he told me not to do."

"I was 21, and was completely not aware that I already had a rep for being an oddball. It got worse from there."

– Phormicidae

*Teeth Chatter*

"I bite ice cream sometimes."


"That's how I am with popsicles. My wife shudders every single time."


Never Speak Of This

"I put ice in my milk."


"You should keep that kind of thing to yourself. Even when asked."

– We-R-Doomed

"There's some disturbing sh*t in this thread, but this one takes the cake."

– RatonaMuffin

More Than Super Hearing

"I can hear the television while it's on mute."

– Tira13e

"What does it say to you, child?"

– Mama_Skip


"I put mustard on my omelettes."

– Deleted User


– NotCrustOr-filling

Evened Up

"Whenever I say a word and feel like I used a half of my mouth more than the other half, I have to even it out by saying the word again using the other half of my mouth more. If I don't do it correctly, that can go on forever until I feel it's ok."

"I do it silently so I don't creep people out."

– LesPaltaX

"That sounds like a symptom of OCD (I have it myself). Some people with OCD feel like certain actions have to be balanced (like counting or making sure physical movements are even). You should find a therapist who specializes in OCD, because they can help you."

– MoonlightKayla

I totally have the same need for things to be balanced! Guess I'm weird and a little OCD!

Close up face of a woman in bed, staring into the camera
Photo by Jen Theodore

Experiencing death is a fascinating and frightening idea.

Who doesn't want to know what is waiting for us on the other side?

But so many of us want to know and then come back and live a little longer.

It would be so great to be sure there is something else.

But the whole dying part is not that great, so we'll have to rely on other people's accounts.

Redditor AlaskaStiletto wanted to hear from everyone who has returned to life, so they asked:

"Redditors who have 'died' and come back to life, what did you see?"


Happy Good Vibes GIF by Major League SoccerGiphy

"My dad's heart stopped when he had a heart attack and he had to be brought back to life. He kept the paper copy of the heart monitor which shows he flatlined. He said he felt an overwhelming sensation of peace, like nothing he had felt before."



"I had surgical complications in 2010 that caused a great deal of blood loss. As a result, I had extremely low blood pressure and could barely stay awake. I remember feeling like I was surrounded by loved ones who had passed. They were in a circle around me and I knew they were there to guide me onwards. I told them I was not ready to go because my kids needed me and I came back."

"My nurse later said she was afraid she’d find me dead every time she came into the room."

"It took months, and blood transfusions, but I recovered."


Take Me Back

"Overwhelming peace and happiness. A bright airy and floating feeling. I live a very stressful life. Imagine finding out the person you have had a crush on reveals they have the same feelings for you and then you win the lotto later that day - that was the feeling I had."

"I never feared death afterward and am relieved when I hear of people dying after suffering from an illness."



The Light Minnie GIF by (G)I-DLEGiphy

"I had a heart surgery with near-death experience, for me at least (well the possibility that those effects are caused by morphine is also there) I just saw black and nothing else but it was warm and I had such inner peace, its weird as I sometimes still think about it and wish this feeling of being so light and free again."


This is why I hate surgery.

You just never know.



"More of a near-death experience. I was electrocuted. I felt like I was in a deep hole looking straight up in the sky. My life flashed before me. Felt sad for my family, but I had a deep sense of peace."



"Nursing in the ICU, we’ve had people try to die on us many times during the years, some successfully. One guy stood out to me. His heart stopped. We called a code, are working on him, and suddenly he comes to. We hadn’t vented him yet, so he was able to talk, and he started screaming, 'Don’t let them take me, don’t let them take me, they are coming,' he was scared and yelling."

"Then he yelled a little more, as we tried to calm him down, he screamed, 'No, No,' and gestured towards the end of the bed, and died again. We didn’t get him back. It was seriously creepy. We called his son to tell him the news, and the son said basically, 'Good, he was an SOB.'”



"My sister died and said it was extremely peaceful. She said it was very loud like a train station and lots of talking and she was stuck in this area that was like a curtain with lots of beautiful colors (colors that you don’t see in real life according to her) a man told her 'He was sorry, but she had to go back as it wasn’t her time.'"


"I had a really similar experience except I was in an endless garden with flowers that were colors I had never seen before. It was quiet and peaceful and a woman in a dress looked at me, shook her head, and just said 'Not yet.' As I was coming back, it was extremely loud, like everyone in the world was trying to talk all at once. It was all very disorienting but it changed my perspective on life!"


The Fog

"I was in a gray fog with a girl who looked a lot like a young version of my grandmother (who was still alive) but dressed like a pioneer in the 1800s she didn't say anything but kept pulling me towards an opening in the wall. I kept refusing to go because I was so tired."

"I finally got tired of her nagging and went and that's when I came to. I had bled out during a c-section and my heart could not beat without blood. They had to deliver the baby and sew up the bleeders. refill me with blood before they could restart my heart so, like, at least 12 minutes gone."


Through the Walls

"My spouse was dead for a couple of minutes one miserable night. She maintains that she saw nothing, but only heard people talking about her like through a wall. The only thing she remembers for absolute certain was begging an ER nurse that she didn't want to die."

"She's quite alive and well today."


Well let's all be happy to be alive.

It seems to be all we have.

Man's waist line
Santhosh Vaithiyanathan/Unsplash

Trying to lose weight is a struggle understood by many people regardless of size.

The goal of reaching a healthy weight may seem unattainable, but with diet and exercise, it can pay off through persistence and discipline.

Seeing the pounds gradually drop off can also be a great motivator and incentivize people to stay the course.

Those who've achieved their respective weight goals shared their experiences when Redditor apprenti8455 asked:

"People who lost a lot of weight, what surprises you the most now?"

Redditors didn't see these coming.

Shiver Me Timbers

"I’m always cold now!"

– Telrom_1

"I had a coworker lose over 130 pounds five or six years ago. I’ve never seen him without a jacket on since."

– r7ndom

"140 lbs lost here starting just before COVID, I feel like that little old lady that's always cold, damn this top comment was on point lmao."

– mr_remy

Drawing Concern

"I lost 100 pounds over a year and a half but since I’m old(70’s) it seems few people comment on it because (I think) they think I’m wasting away from some terminal illness."

– dee-fondy

"Congrats on the weight loss! It’s honestly a real accomplishment 🙂"

"Working in oncology, I can never comment on someone’s weight loss unless I specifically know it was on purpose, regardless of their age. I think it kind of ruffles feathers at times, but like I don’t want to congratulate someone for having cancer or something. It’s a weird place to be in."

– LizardofDeath

Unleashing Insults

"I remember when I lost the first big chunk of weight (around 50 lbs) it was like it gave some people license to talk sh*t about the 'old' me. Old coworkers, friends, made a lot of not just negative, but harsh comments about what I used to look like. One person I met after the big loss saw a picture of me prior and said, 'Wow, we wouldn’t even be friends!'”

"It wasn’t extremely common, but I was a little alarmed by some of the attention. My weight has been up and down since then, but every time I gain a little it gets me a little down thinking about those things people said."

– alanamablamaspama

Not Everything Goes After Losing Weight

"The loose skin is a bit unexpected."

– KeltarCentauri

"I haven’t experienced it myself, but surgery to remove skin takes a long time to recover. Longer than bariatric surgery and usually isn’t covered by insurance unless you have both."

– KatMagic1977

"It definitely does take a long time to recover. My Dad dropped a little over 200 pounds a few years back and decided to go through with skin removal surgery to deal with the excess. His procedure was extensive, as in he had skin taken from just about every part of his body excluding his head, and he went through hell for weeks in recovery, and he was bedridden for a lot of it."

– Jaew96

These Redditors shared their pleasantly surprising experiences.


"I can buy clothes in any store I want."

– WaySavvyD

"When I lost weight I was dying to go find cute, smaller clothes and I really struggled. As someone who had always been restricted to one or two stores that catered to plus-sized clothing, a full mall of shops with items in my size was daunting. Too many options and not enough knowledge of brands that were good vs cheap. I usually went home pretty frustrated."

– ganache98012

No More Symptoms

"Lost about 80 pounds in the past year and a half, biggest thing that I’ve noticed that I haven’t seen mentioned on here yet is my acid reflux and heartburn are basically gone. I used to be popping tums every couple hours and now they just sit in the medicine cabinet collecting dust."

– colleennicole93

Expanding Capabilities

"I'm all for not judging people by their appearance and I recognise that there are unhealthy, unachievable beauty standards, but one thing that is undeniable is that I can just do stuff now. Just stamina and flexibility alone are worth it, appearance is tertiary at best."

– Ramblonius

People Change Their Tune

"How much nicer people are to you."

"My feet weren't 'wide' they were 'fat.'"

– LiZZygsu

"Have to agree. Lost 220 lbs, people make eye contact and hold open doors and stuff"

"And on the foot thing, I also lost a full shoe size numerically and also wear regular width now 😅"

– awholedamngarden

It's gonna take some getting used to.

Bones Everywhere

"Having bones. Collarbones, wrist bones, knee bones, hip bones, ribs. I have so many bones sticking out everywhere and it’s weird as hell."

– Princess-Pancake-97

"I noticed the shadow of my ribs the other day and it threw me, there’s a whole skeleton in here."

– bekastrange

Knee Pillow

"Right?! And they’re so … pointy! Now I get why people sleep with pillows between their legs - the knee bones laying on top of each other (side sleeper here) is weird and jarring."

– snic2030

"I lost only 40 pounds within the last year or so. I’m struggling to relate to most of these comments as I feel like I just 'slimmed down' rather than dropped a ton. But wow, the pillow between the knees at night. YES! I can relate to this. I think a lot of my weight was in my thighs. I never needed to do this up until recently."

– Strongbad23

More Mobility

"I’ve lost 100 lbs since 2020. It’s a collection of little things that surprise me. For at least 10 years I couldn’t put on socks, or tie my shoes. I couldn’t bend over and pick something up. I couldn’t climb a ladder to fix something. Simple things like that I can do now that fascinate me."

"Edit: Some additional little things are sitting in a chair with arms, sitting in a booth in a restaurant, being able to shop in a normal store AND not needing to buy the biggest size there, being able to easily wipe my butt, and looking down and being able to see my penis."

– dma1965

People making significant changes, whether for mental or physical health, can surely find a newfound perspective on life.

But they can also discover different issues they never saw coming.

That being said, overcoming any challenge in life is laudable, especially if it leads to gaining confidence and ditching insecurities.