Remembering Homer on 9/11

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Probably no part of Homer's Odyssey has provoked more outraged response (yes, there are readers out there who were outraged--outraged!--by Homer's Odyssey) than the chapters dealing with 9/11 and my attempts to rescue my three cats who were trapped in my apartment mere blocks from Ground Zero.  I have been called "selfish," "utterly self-absorbed," "eerie," and just plain "stupid" for thinking about my cats on a day when so many human lives were lost.



I've always felt that any reader who comes away from those chapters describing my very visceral reactions to witnessing the loss of human life that day and remains convinced that it wouldn't have ruffled a hair on my head so long as my cats were okay is...well...not a very intuitive reader.  And, going back to my non-profit days, I've always been particularly irritated by the type of person who takes no helpful actions himself, but feels that so long as he criticizes your actions and attempts to help, he's achieved a kind of helpfulness-by-proxy.  (I like to refer to this as the Cheez-Whiz of helpfulness--it isn't actual helpfulness, but it's a helpfulness-like product.)

Forgive me for such a cranky beginning to a blog post.  But the thing that really chaps my hide--and that I'm using today as a platform to discuss--is this idea that helping people and helping animals is somehow an either/or proposition.  It is one of my firmest, most deeply held beliefs that when you help animals, you help people, too.  I spent this summer traveling to no-kill shelters all over the country, each one of which has programs that serve their local human communities--anti-bullying programs, literacy programs, programs that serve the elderly, the disabled, military families, disaster survivors, and so on--as a direct extension of the work they do saving animals.  Certainly more has been done for people by the people who help animals than by those who sit comfortably on the sidelines offering nothing beyond one more opinion about how things should be done (and we all know how much one more opinion is worth).

On September 11th, the ASPCA helped rescue animals trapped near Ground Zero--but, in doing so, they also helped me, and I'm a person.  The same goes for Garrett, my pet-sitter, who did everything in his power to get to my cats.  It was something he was able to do for a 9/11 survivor forced to flee with nothing but the clothes on her back and the $500 she had in her savings account, and who--for all she knew--might have nothing else left in the world.

I don't even want to get into the debate as to the relative value of human life versus animal life, mostly because I think such a debate is ultimately pointless.  We couldn't live in a world with only humans and no other animals, nor would most of us want to even if we could.

On September 11th, we remember that all life--whether that life goes on two legs or four--is precious and fragile. 

We remember the men and women--the office workers, the police officers, the firefighters--who lost their lives that day.  And we also remember the rescue dogs who rushed bravely into the fray.  Some of them didn't live to see September 12th.  Many of them have since been claimed by the lung diseases and cancers that have taken the lives of so many 9/11 first responders.

And I, at least, remember a little blind cat whose life was spared that day.  Just a little cat, whose loss might not have shaken the world to its core, but who meant the world to the person who loved him.



  • Pam Montgomery Wednesday, 11 September 2013

    We've shared before our emotions concerning 9/11. I was involved in the airline industry at the time and as I read Homer's Odyssey I felt not only your pain and confusion, but relived my own emotions as I worried about coworkers in the industry. I have always felt that the loss of life involved so many people, animals, hopes and dreams. It touched everyone in some way. You described your emotions and involvement so well. Now this blog has really hit the nail on the head. What you did for Homer and your other kitties is amazing and the fact that you shared Homer with the world is even more amazing. He was a trooper and he was living proof of perseverance. I know you are really missing him especially on this day. I pray that you will feel the love that is out there for you. You are such a special person!

  • April Crawford Wednesday, 11 September 2013

    Beautiful post.

    Don't let the negative people get you down Gwen.For the amount of joy Homer & You give us everyday I am thankful you DID worry about Homer being safe.I still cry every photo or post you make of Homer Bear.I have a cat with no eyes that I adopted from Puerto rico and I always thought of MontoyaGato when reading Homer's Odyssey.Montoya did just about everything Homer did and I giggled all through the book.

    Thank you so much for sharing Homer with all of us.Huge hugs to You and Laurence
    April Crawford & MontoyaGato..

  • Teresa Cristina Moreira Wednesday, 11 September 2013

    Olá Gwen!

    Gwen, do not worry about what people are saying or thinking about your 9/11. I certainly would have done the same thing for my cats.I just was amazed to realize that Homer was in the same place you left when you went to work that day. Homer seemed to have gone out the window since. He simply did not flinch, but knew there was something wrong. Kisses!

    Gwen, não se preocupe com o que as pessoas estão dizendo ou pensando sobre o seu 11/9. Eu certamente teria feito a mesma coisa pelos meus gatos. Fiquei apenas admirada por perceber que Homero estava no mesmo lugar que você o deixou, quando você saiu aquele dia para trabalhar. Homero parecia não ter saído da janela desde então. Ele simplesmente não se abalou, mas sabia haver algo errado. Beijos!

  • Sharon Wednesday, 11 September 2013


    I genuinely do not see how anyone can read your book, that chapter particularly, and NOT have tears streaming down their face. If one can...I just dont know what to say. I could barely get through the chapter without sobbing...and the one thing that I felt when I got done reading was hope, and that I was so glad you shared that experience with the world. And then, I hugged my big black kitty.

  • Beth M. Wednesday, 11 September 2013

    You were not selfish!!!

    You were NEVER selfish. I would do the same type of thing to save my little cat as the bond we have is indescribable. Those cats were your family and you did the right thing by saving them!!! The thought that you were selfish never ever crossed my mind. How strange that anyone would even think such a thing. You said it best that those who judge are usually the ones not doing what they could do to help and probably did not do a damn thing to help other people that day or the days following. What horrible people they are to attack you for saving YOUR FAMILY!

  • Denise Gamble Wednesday, 11 September 2013

    Beautiful Tribute

    Gwen I understand you completely as with others on here I would have been frantic if I could not get to my babies, I would move heaven and earth to save those I love. Keep doing what you do and keep posting about Homer I know you love all your cats but he was special I had a Homer also but her name was Ariel and sometimes when people met her their reaction was stunned silence she was a tuxedo cat and even with no eyes she could see and she played like a kitten her whole but short life but she made me smile everyday

  • Gloria Caballero Wednesday, 11 September 2013

    Phantom's Mom

    As we say here on the border, those folks who talk that garbage really "frost my tortillas"! Bein in the animal rescuin myself with "Scooter's Place" and also in rescuin humans by bein a pet partner who goes into hursing homes and hospitals with cats, I see the animal human connection in unexplicable ways. You rescue one, you rescue the other. I for one would have gone to hell and back for my two, three, four and no legged human or fur friends!! You are who you are Gwen and I thank GOD for that! I wish more people had one one hundredth of your heart- then maybe more animals and people would be wanted, loved, and respected. Your strength and drive to rescue your fur babies should be in all of us- think of what the world would be like then........Homer's Mom Rocks!!

  • Julie garrett Wednesday, 11 September 2013

    Well Said

    One of my first thoughts this morning was regarding you & Homer and Scarlett and Vashti. Of all the chapters in the book, it was the 9/11 passage that dealt with the horror of the day and the subsequent days of not knowing if they had survived or if the windows had broken and the cats had gotten out! Your frantic movements to get to your living beings was only more poignant because by the time we read the book we KNEW what had happened in lower NY that day and the days after!

  • Cathy Keisha Wednesday, 11 September 2013

    Well written. While TW fretted about Pop who worked near Battery Park, she also was thinking of her cats. The tunnels were closed and there was no way for her to get home to them in NJ. Thank Cod she was able to reach a neighbor, who had her key so he could feed them. They are family.

  • Susan Pryor Wednesday, 11 September 2013

    Perfectly said, I echo every word

    I remember my feelings when I read that part of Homer's Odyssey - remembering the fear that day produced and thinking what distress you-and the cats-must have been going through to each other in such traumatic circumstances. I felt as helpless as you must have. Such a wonderful legacy you have left us with Homer's Odyssey and I thank you for sharing it.

  • Stephen Marks Wednesday, 11 September 2013

    Well expressed Gwen!

    Gwen, there will always be in this world forever and ever, those that will do everything in their power to take down others. No matter what your heartfelt and honorable intentions were on that terrible day, (and anyone with MINIMAL insight, will KNOW what your intentions were)- those people that are determined to hate, criticize, and tear down your actions will always make nonsense "noise". I for one shall -(and the are so many others too)- just ignore them. And you just continue Gwen doing the great good that you do, for people and for animals as well . I applaud you!

  • Lisa Wednesday, 11 September 2013


    When two and four legged lives can respect, trust, and learn to live in peace and harmony, then the world will truly heal. We don't always see those little beings, hiding in drain gutters, under cars, any place they can find safety from the storms of life, but they matter too. We are all they have. How can we possibly turn our backs on those without a voice. Thank you for using yours...

  • Sandra Reynaldo Wednesday, 11 September 2013

    Thank You

    Just that. Thanks for your words.

  • Julia Maxwell Wednesday, 11 September 2013


    As usual, you have a mouth and you use it. Well said Gwen. That part of Homer's book hit home and screw those who criticize without knowing.
    Peace and Love to you and yours. ( and to Homer the angel, who is laughing out loud because he crashed your Blog site AGAIN)

  • Charlotte Creeley, Esq. Wednesday, 11 September 2013

    The two parts of your book that touched me the most were 1) Homer's unmitigated optimism even as a tiny gunky eyed kitten with no prospects and 2) your gut wrenching attempts to get back to your cats after 911 and your fear that Homer must be suffering or else that he had already fallen out the window. I cried buckets at both these chapters, and I am neither sentimental nor even particularly emotional.

  • Lynne Fichter Wednesday, 11 September 2013


    This day makes me miss Homer more than ever - I remember reading your trials in NTC that day and reliving the terror we all felt. You and Homer are two of the bravest souls I have ever been aware of grateful to be a fan of yours. Fanny and Clayton have no idea how lucky they are..... with love from my furry children and me.....

  • Vickie S. Wednesday, 11 September 2013

    I couldn't agree more......

    And Gwen, this is just one of the many qualities that makes you such an eloquent writer; you express what I and others think about, better than I/we ever could. I feel sorry for folks who have that terrible attitude; their lives must be very empty. They don't have the sense to realize that caring for, and loving, and receiving love, and being with a pet, and giving of oneself, can be just as enriching (or more for some) than being with a human. God knows, there's enough love for everyone. I've been thinking the time is right to read the book again and your tribute to dear Homer bear has given me the strength to start today. Gwen, never forget that you have made the world a better place and not too many people can truthfully say that. I love the Cheez-Whiz analogy, and it makes me wonder what would happen if you had the chance to ask those poeple what they've done to make the world a better place. So glad I checked here today! Even though I'm not supposed to blog at work, I had a feeling and was hoping you would write today. I hope you and yours find some peace today and thank you for everything you do.

  • Mimi and the kids Wednesday, 11 September 2013

    Amen Gwen .. my thoughts about u and Homer when heavy on my mind this day ♥

  • Karen Wednesday, 11 September 2013


    The world is so full of selfish people, and you, Gwen, ARE NOT one of them. I am outraged that "they" were outraged. Pets are our furry family. I've always felt that if one does not care for animals, then they care not for people.

  • Jane Winegardner Wednesday, 11 September 2013


    You said it so well,Gwen. We all (Americans) felt the loss on that day. Homer, Vashti and Scarlett were your children and you needed to save them. God bless you in your strength.

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