In late September 2001, I was living in a tent in Lower Manhattan with the 2nd Battalion, 25th Marines, a reserve unit just outside the city. We were occupying Battery Park, which at the time served as the National Guard’s headquarters. “Guarding the guard,” we called it.
The two weeks I spent at Occupy Wall Street were profoundly affecting. There I was, at the center of the world, watching America at its finest, showing at once nearly impossible perseverance and limitless compassion. Generosity sprouted everywhere throughout New York City; people gave out food, shoe inserts, massages, coffee, flowers, hugs, kind words and anything you needed. I told someone I liked Red Bull, and hours later he came to my tent, dragging a handcart with eight cases of the stuff. I would slip one under each of the other marines’ pillows while they slept, and when we woke up for guard duty I would say the Red Bull fairy had come.
Exploring the city on my one afternoon off, I stumbled upon the Wall Street Bull. The smooth metal sculpture is stunning, always on the verge of some wild movement—a lunge or a charge, at the least, a bellow with a head toss. Too tarnished to be gold, too big to be a calf, it’s revered nonetheless. I would come fairly close to worshiping it myself years later. But for now, I just had my picture taken on top of it. From where I stood, the whole world seemed to feel empathy. It was one of the only times in my life that I felt like I was exactly where I needed to be.
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