WTC Rescue Worker's Experience 
By Richard Perez 
[Excerpted from the Oct. 5, 2001 World Tribune]

My wife introduced me to the practice of Buddhism four years ago, while we were dating. Before I met her, I was not religious even though I meditated.

One day she asked if she could chant while I meditated. When she chanted, it sounded like a beautiful bird singing. She asked me to sit next to her while she chanted. Then she asked me if I would like to try chanting, which I did. From that moment on I was hooked.

I never had the courage to go for the things I wanted in life until I started practicing. So many benefits have come into my life: I got engaged, bought a home, and started a family. Buddhism has also awakened in me a powerful desire to help others, and save lives.

I work for the New York City Department of Transportation in the borough of Manhattan. I am a "Peace Officer" though I do not carry a gun. My main function is to inspect public areas before a festival or other public events.

About a month ago, I started reading the Gosho every day on my way to work. Also, on my lunch hour, I would walk to the New York Culture Center to chant Daimoku. I told the staff there that I was having a "Daimoku Lunch."

On Sept. 11, I was on the Staten Island ferry when the first plane hit. When I got off the ferry, my co-workers and I began running toward the World Trade Center. As we got closer I saw a man lying on the ground and discovered that he was having a heart attack. His name was Joseph.

As we were lifting Joseph into a police car to take him to a hospital, the first tower collapsed. In seconds, we were covered in dust and ashes. If we hadn't have stopped for Joseph, we would have been under the tower when it fell.

I have been working at Ground Zero since. I won't go into details about what I have seen there. That is not the most important thing. What I have come to realize is that there are two very strong emotions: anger and compassion.

On my way home I encounter people who are angry about what happened. But those who are working at Ground Zero are not motivated by anger. We are motivated by a stronger emotion: compassion. We see everyday, close up, the destruction that results from anger.

Everyone looks at us as though we are heroes, but I believe that anyone who takes action to create a more peaceful world deserves to be called a hero. 

Through this experience, I am determined to develop myself as a human being and help others as much as I can. I want to keep fighting for kosen rufu. My conviction is to speak to everyone I can about Buddhism whenever I get the opportunity.

I believe that this is the time to unite the country, and the entire world. It is our mission, right now, to establish world peace.