Trace Adkins was still sorting out feelings about his visit to Lower Manhattan when he spoke to country.com Thursday (Oct. 4).
At the request of Navy public affairs officer Lt. Cmdr. David Waterman, the country star and a member of his management staff met with rescue and recovery workers at the World Trade Center site on Tuesday (Oct. 2) to help raise morale and offer support and appreciation.
“We went out there and shook hands with a lot of the guys and told them thanks and had lunch with them,” Adkins said. “I just told them, ‘Man, we hurt, too. Of course, not like you do, but we want you to know that we love you and we hurt too and we want to do anything that we can do to help out.’”
The devastation caused by the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks was too enormous for Adkins to comprehend in one day. “You just stand there and try to take it all in, and it’s impossible,” he said. “I was trying to take mental pictures of everything that I saw so that it would be seared in my memory forever, and I found myself not able to do it. It was just too much. It was overwhelming. Our minds just can’t absorb all that.”
While much of his visit was somber, Adkins also experienced feelings of great pride in his country. The courage of the firefighters and others workers at ground zero lifted his spirit.
His visit inside the disaster command center also made him proud to be an American. “This place was a pier where ocean liners and cruise ships dock but was set up as a command center,” the singer explained. “It was about 100 yards long with three rows of computers and workstations — one section for transportation, another for debris, another for the victims’ family members. I had no idea we had our [act] together this much. It was impressive to see all that.”
The country star felt awkward about being presented to the workers as a celebrity. “The whole time I was there I felt out of place,” he admits. “I felt so insignificant there. It was like, ‘What am I doing here? Give me a hard hat and a pair of gloves.’ The people taking me around said, ‘No. You’re doing what you’re supposed to be doing. These people are glad to see you.’”
Adkins told those he met that he represented not just himself but also “the country music community and Nashville, the state of Tennessee, the South, my home state of Louisiana.”
“It was larger than me personally,” Adkins reasons, “but speaking for me personally, I would have never missed the chance to see everything so that it would forever be in my memory and something that I could tell my kids and grandchildren.
“I can say I was there, I saw it,” continues the father of four. “That way, at least my direct descendants will have a first hand account and they won’t ever forget it.”
Adkins plans to lend his support to the cause again. “At some point, they want all the celebrities that have visited to come back and gather at Governors Island (in New York Harbor) to do something strictly for the people that have been involved with the rescue and recovery, all their families, and the families of the victims,” he said. “When they call, I’ll certainly go back.”