Sunday, September 11, 2011

9/11/01

I remember returning to my desk for a moment and being told that a plane had struck one of the World Trade Center towers.

I remember how this news immediately reminded me how, shortly after Todd and I moved to New York, a bomb had exploded under the World Trade Center and my colleague's husband was trapped inside the building. A part of me assumed this was a similar experience that would be over soon. We would recover from it and carry on in the usual way.

I remember a panicked call from my sister, who wasn't sure where my office was but wanted to be sure I was ok.

I remember that someone at the office had a radio, and we were able to get updates from public radio. The announcer sounded almost as shocked and shaken as we felt but carried on with updates and coverage as best he could.

I remember that Todd was out of town on business, and we had trouble reaching each other because phone lines were busy.

I remember seeing from our office windows the smoke downtown and being told we should go home, as we were located just a block from the Empire State Building. We didn't know the extent of the attacks, and rumors were wide-spread.

I remember that, as I waited for the elevator so we could leave the building, someone told me one of the buildings had fallen.

I remember walking home with a friend. The streets were filled with people walking, but everyone was strangely silent.

I remember arriving at Union Square and standing on the street in a crowd, looking downtown together. Where once two buildings had stood, now we saw only one. The street was silent.

I remember arriving home and going up to the roof of our building to look downtown. The World Trade Center buildings were gone. The only thing left was smoke.

I remember that I was taking care of a neighbor's cats while she was on vacation. Since we didn't have a TV, I went to her apartment and watched the images. And comforted the cats. But really, the cats were comforting me.

I remember sleeping, or not sleeping, alone that night and for several nights following. Todd and I were schedule to meet on the west coast for a backpacking vacation and neither of us could get anywhere at that point. I really wanted to be with him.

I remember walking down along the East River early the next morning and stopping in front of a lone fire truck parked along the side of the road, covered in ash and dust. The image still haunts me.

I remember the smell. A friend called and told me to close the windows of our apartment, but I left them open. I needed that stench to know the events were real.

I remember how my dear friend, who lost her office in the attacks, had trouble sleeping for years, suffered depression and anxiety, and was so fortunate to be running late that morning.

I remember passing the emergency room and the posted missing person signs on my way to church the next Sunday. The pain in those signs was overwhelming. The world was changed, and we had no idea what our lives would be like going forward.

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Until now, I've never written about my experiences ten years ago. As a society, we lost so much on that day, but my own experiences are tiny in comparison with what people with closer ties to downtown experienced. I met an elderly man on a city bus one day, years later, who quietly described his escape from one of the buildings. His life was changed in so many ways as a result of that day. My experiences never seemed worth writing down because I was not directly affected. I was here in Manhattan, but my life was largely separate from the events downtown.

Just two years prior to the attacks, I had worked very near the World Trade Center and spent quite a bit of time there, taking classes and having meetings in or near the buildings. I worked for a brief period in 7 World Trade, I shopped in the neighborhood and met friends there after work sometimes. But then I left the industry and returned to school for fashion design, and by the time of the attacks my ties with the financial industry and the downtown area were minimal.

My story from that day is not dramatic. But like everyone else who watched and was horrified, I'll never forget it. I don't know if we've made sense of it. I don't know if we ever will. Our lives have changed in unexpected ways and have not changed in other more anticipated ways. But I think it's important that we commemorate this day and keep remembering and vowing to make a difference in the world.

2 comments:

  1. Vowing to make a difference in the world. Probably the only thing we can do. And probably the best thing we can do.

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