Seeing Ground Zero

I’ve been to NYC exactly 15 times in the past two years. That’s a lot bad cab rides, overpriced hotels and brilliant meals. But in all of those trips, I never could bring myself to visit Ground Zero. 

Ten years ago, on September 11th, Scott and I were both in Hawaii at a 10-day Tony Robbins Life Mastery event. Scott was there as a Trainer, working the past 7 years for Tony Robbins; and I was attending as a participant in the Leadership program. That was the trip that I met Scott for the first time. In fact, while we were unpacking last month, I found an old photo that I had snapped of Scott on the first day of the conference, even before we shook hands and made the introductions. 

On that fateful day, I remember waking up in the hotel room, turning on the television while I was getting ready and when I saw what was happening, I crumbled on the floor. I didn’t cry, I couldn’t. I was too confused, too in shock and most of all felt absolutely helpless being on the very very other side of the United States and possibly stuck here for who knows how long. Hawaii is 6 hours behind from New York time zone, so at 8am, it was already 2pm in NY.

I walked to the conference center with nearly 2,000 other participants from 39 countries – in a zombie-like demeanor. What to make of this? What can we do? What should we do? Who died? Who did this? What’s the next target? When can we go home? How can we help?

We found out that about 50 of the participants lost a friend or family member in the attacks. One woman who years ago, lost her fiance (I don’t recall how he died), after years of healing and trusting love again, was engaged to a man who was working on the 111th floor of World Trade Center that day. She played the voicemail message that he left for her right after the first plane crashed for all of us to hear. She was sleeping and didn’t hear the phone ring. He died.

There was a Pakistani Muslim named Assad who stood up in front of all 2,000 of us and told all of us that, “Hey this is retribution” and even regretted not being in one of the planes himself.

The room was in shock, you could see a few people standing up in anger. Bernie stood up. Bernie normally works in the WTC, and he probably would have perished if he were not at the conference. He’s an Orthodox Jew and his family lived in occupied territory. I seriously thought that we were going to own little war right there in the conference.

Tony Robbins spent the rest of the morning transforming Assad from an thug Muslim into a peace-loving human being and reconciling and aligning Bernie and Assad as partners in creating a better world together. At the same time, it healed all 2,000 of us in the audience too. It was magic what happened on stage, you can watch it if you’re interested

Well, last week, I was in NYC for a couple of meeting and to host the 3rd Annual Dumpling Festival to benefit the Food Bank for NYC. I grabbed a cab to head for my first meeting and the cabbie dropped me off at a corner and pointed me in the direction that I needed to walk in.

Right in front of the WTC.

I didn’t even recognize it at first, all I saw were giant cranes towering over the entire block.

I was so disoriented that I ended up walking in the wrong direction of the meeting, and came to this:

And it turned out that the meeting was held on a building with amazing panoramic view of the city skyline…

….as well as a bird’s eye view of Ground Zero

It was absolutely surreal. I placed my palm on the glass window and said many prayers.


I can’t leave this post without thanking every single person who came to the Dumpling Festival. It was absolutely grand, the turnout was even greater than the past years. TMI Foods, the maker of Tang’s Natural Dumplings sold at Whole Foods sponsors this yearly event and 100% of the proceeds goes directly to the Food Bank for NYC. Last year, we raised a whopping $44,000 at our 5-hour event, celebrating dumplings from around the world, as well as hosting a dumpling eating contest!

I’ve emcee’d the event every year and it’s my favorite reason to come to NYC.

Some facts that I learned from The Food Bank for NYC:

  • They serve 1 out of every 5 New Yorkers.
  • They serve 1 out of every 5 children in New York
  • Only 9% of the people they serve are homeless. 91% of them are working class poor – moms, dads, kids.
  • They’ve just celebrated their 1 billionth pound of food served
  • Every $1 they receive will provide 5 meals

The $44,000 we raised for them last year turned into 220,000 meals to feed the hungry.

That is simply amazing. I’m lucky to be a part of such a powerful team of people.

The dumpling eating contest was also a blast! 30 men and 20 women competed. This year, the Guinness World Record came and officiated a dumpling eating contest for their record books too. How many dumplings can you eat in 2 minutes? 

This man ate 69. He’s nuts. But he’s also a champion eater. “Gentleman” Joe Manchetti has won countless eating contests. I don’t know if I could afford to treat him out to dinner.

Guess who also showed up at the Dumpling Festival???

Here’s a hint:

Oh yeah, it was him. I told him *he* should be in the eating contest.

I also got to meet some new friends — it was a fine trip indeed.

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Comments 20

  1. JulieD

    What a beautiful post, Jaden. I remember where I was on that day, when I first heard the news and how I felt seeing the towers fall on tv. May we never forget.

    Dumpling Festival? How fun! Can’t wait to see you soon!!!

  2. Sheila

    One of my favorite posts ever of yours. What a great memory you have for that day. Also loved hearing about the dumpling festival! WOW what an amazing organization!

  3. Katie

    I loved this post! LOVED IT. That is an incredible story; to be surrounded by so many people, so many of which lost someone special to them on that day. And the story of the woman who lost 2 men she loved? My God, how sad! I could just picture all of the people at the conference listening to the message, their hearts breaking for her. It seemed like such a life changing day for you, and for many of those people attending — on SO many levels.

    Thank you for sharing this AND for including the fun details about the dumpling eating contest! What a great cause!

  4. raolsies

    you lost me at “thug muslim.” “thug” sure, but once you associate someone’s ethnicity with their (no matter how horrible) trait, I’m out. it was nice reading your blog.

  5. Karen D

    Thank you for sharing your memories of 9/11. I can only imagine how hard it would be to visit Ground Zero in person. I am glad you wrote of the past tragedies in New York and then shared how New York City is continuing to build. And how NYC is a wonderful and vibrant place to be.

  6. Christina C

    I was at the Dumpling festival that day & saw you were the emcee. How exciting it was that I read your blog & got to see you on stage. Glad it was for a good cause.

  7. Shoe s

    I agree. To place the word “thug” next to muslim was a poor choice. The same point could have been made by just using thug. Also, why not say peace loving muslim? I didnt even think about this till it was commented on and then a light went off.

    1. SteamyKitchen

      It was a direct quote from Tony Robbins as he was leading Assad through a transformation of belief and values. There was an absolute point in Tony using that word – I should have explained more – but I think if you would have watched the video you would understand why Tony used that word.

  8. Silvia

    What a nice post. I could remember exactly where I was when I first heard about 9/11. The feelings I felt that day, I will never forget. May we never forget 9/11.

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