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Updated September 30, 2001
Bill comments on his trip to Ground Zero.
By Ross Forman
NEW YORK CITY - He signed countless hard-hats, quite a few firefighters helmets, some dollar bills and a police department patch or two. Anything that was asked, Bill Goldberg signed, without hesitation. And every autograph included the same legible inscription.
Youre a Hero, Goldberg wrote before signing his name.
Goldberg signed such autographs on Sept. 26, here at Ground Zero. Along with his girlfriend Lisa, fellow wrestler Rick Steiner and this reporter, we visited the sight of the Sept. 11th Attack on America. The purpose: show appreciation to the policemen, firefighters and countless volunteers. And if that meant signing some autographs, not a problem at all, Goldberg and Steiner
"Ive never been so sad, yet happy at the same time being able to do what we did here today," Goldberg said after his visit. "Through such tragedy, were finding that the American people are coming together. We experienced that today. Everyone we shook hands with, everyone we bonded with we kind of felt their pain; we kind of took them away from that pain for that one short second, for that one short moment. Hopefully we helped them forget about whats going on. If we could take them to a different place per se, even for a short moment, so they could take their mind off of it, we did our jobs.
"The sight is surreal; thats the best way to describe it. You cant believe what Ground Zero looks like; I couldnt believe it. What was really overwhelming to me was, the smell; its horrendous. The place is like a warzone, with the National Guard and so many other (military personnel).
"It was kind of like youre on a different planet; thats how it was to me."
Goldberg, who had a three-year NFL career (1992-94) with Atlanta before reaching international fame with World Championship Wrestling (WCW), added: "Being at Ground Zero is like being in the middle of hell. And its even more amazing when I think about the fact that I was there 15 days after the attack. Theres no way to put into words how devastating that scene is. You cant believe what that scene looks like. When the location of the Twin Towers was pointed out to me, I was numb by that point, just from the destruction to the other buildings.
"It was a huge honor to be able to go down there and let these guys forget about everything thats going on, even if it was for just a split-second. Thats why we came here. That was our mission. You always hope to help, but I honestly was astonished at our ability to do what we did. I feel so proud of what we did today, more so than anything Ive ever done. I think today was one of the most gratifying days of my life in that I think we touched so many people. We at least were able to temporarily ease their pain."
In addition to visiting Ground Zero, we visited several area police precincts and fire stations, each mourning the nations loss and their own losses. Several policemen and firefighters from the places visited lost some of their own. Goldberg signed 8x10 photos for all who requested, and some for children of the slain. He also left hundreds of pre-signed photos, just in case an autographed photo would ease someones pain for even a split-second, he said. In total, Goldberg gave away about 1,500 color autographed photos.
The New York visit also included a stop at the make-shift "family center" at Pier 94 on Manhattans West Side, where hundreds of hand-made MISSING posters hang. Goldberg offered his support to the grieving families, such as the White woman who lost her son and the Black man who lost his best friend; each wore a self-adhesive sticker on their shirt that identified them as FAMILY. Strangers on Sept. 10th, the two were eternally connected the next day and have been the support for one another ever since. Both knew Goldberg; both recognized Goldberg; both were shocked, surprised and slightly happy to see a familiar face grieving with them. Amid the tears, a dose of support and glimmer of a smile.
Goldberg also presented the center with Nabisco food products and several hundred Beanie Babies, donated by Tri-Star Productions, Inc. The Houston-based company contributed more than 1,000 Beanie Babies to the grief-stricken families and all were passed out by Goldberg and Steiner.
"Stopping at the family center that was like an upper-cut," Goldberg said. "That knocked us down before we even got started. We knew what we were in for when we saw all the names on those boards. We kind of knew what we were in for after (visiting the family center)."
The New York visit was capped by an hour-long visit to the Ronald McDonald House. More autographs, more Beanies from Tri-Star and, most of all, more smiles.
"Going to the Ronald McDonald House thats hard to describe, thats reality," said Goldberg, who received a button from 6-year-old Ariel, which represented all the people killed or injured in the Attack on America. "Shes smart beyond her years. To know that she understands to a point whats going on shows how delicate the situation is.
"To see those kids was so refreshing. Its hard to explain. It was uplifting to see the smiles on those kids face."
Goldberg added: "I know this is going to be a long clean-up. This is huge task that will last six months, probably much longer. Ill be back, and hopefully we can put more smiles on faces because these people are the real heroes."
Theres nothing I can say about Ground Zero that Goldberg or anyone else who has been there hasnt already said. The destruction in incredible. The smoky, horrible smell is non-stop, truly war-like.
Ground Zero is nothing less than hell.
Not only are the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center gone, but so are other nearby buildings. Thats the incredible part, plus the fact that several still-standing buildings will have to be destroyed due to damage.
The size, scope and magnitude of this terrorist attack in indescribable.
Newspaper pictures dont do it justice.
TV footage doesnt do it justice.
I cant even imagine what it was like at the scene on Sept. 11th, or the following day, or any day in the two weeks that proceeded our visit. Actually, I sort of can. During visits to the police stations and fire departments, each showed us their photos of the scene from the days immediately after.
Incredible is the only way to describe it.
I showed up in New York with a black Topps fleece jacket, the one made for the card makers 50th Anniversary. Why? No particular reason, other than it would keep me warm on a crisp fall afternoon and if it got dirty as I suspected it would the dirt wouldnt show as much on the black. I wasnt wearing the jacket as a tribute to the nearby card maker, or for any other reason.
But Ive now got to admit, Im glad I wore it.
Sure, it kept me warm. But most important, it attracted quite a few positive comments from policemen and firefighters about their collections. They thought I worked for Topps and often without even asking started telling me about their collections.
"Ive got some great cards from the 1950s," one policemen said.
"Topps," one firefighter said, a confident smile on his face, "I love their cards."
For one small moment, as we talked trading cards, their minds were away from the attack. Then they got autographs from Goldberg and Steiner, another collectibles experience that took them away from the hell that was minutes away from their offices.
Thats why I can unquestionable say, our trip was a success.
Goldbergs devotion to help the victims of the Attack on America was seen on eBay in mid-September. He auctioned the boots and one of the black gloves he wore in a January pay-per-view match, which was his "last" match due to a retirement stipulation on the match.
The boots sold for more than $1,500. The glove sold for $600.
All the money was donated directly to the American Red Cross.
And Goldberg agreed to match the total.
ADDITIONAL COMMENTS FROM GOLDBERG.
ON ROSS FORMAN
"This day couldnt have happened without you. It could not have happened without you, period. And if you dont include this in the story, Ill kill you. You set us up with everyone, everything we did. So, I thank you from the bottom of my heart because, for me to be able to do things like this is worth more to me than any car, motorcycle or monetary possession, or any feeling Ive ever felt. I feel more powerful after doing what I did today than picking up The Giant and jack-hammering him in front of 40,000 people."
ON TRI-STAR PRODUCTION, INC.
"I personally want to thank Mandy (Fuerst) and Jeff (Rosenberg) for donating the stuffed animals. Every person who was involved in making today happen, I thank them, and that definitely includes Mandy and Jeff. It wasnt just Goldberg and Steiner showing up in New York to shake hands."
ON RICK STEINER
"I really want to thank him for coming. Big time. The more and more Im around the guy tells me more and more about him that I like. I love him. He didnt waver one second when I asked him to come with me."
ON THE WWF
"After inquiring about whether or not any WWF wrestlers had been to New York to offer support for the policemen and firefighters, its amazing that, even though the WWF is basically based in New York City (Stamford, Conn.), none had been by there. Or at least to the places we had been, and with the people we saw and spoke with. Thats disgusting. People ask me why Im not working for the WWF. Well, I think that explains it."