I’m not sure why, but I’ve never written about 9/11. I’m always at a crossroads if I should write when something happens that triggers a story. But when you’re a writer, you write about what you feel. You write your story. For all of us that were alive on September 11, 2001, 9/11 is part of our story.
Last night, before I went to bed, I couldn’t take my eyes off my phone as I read one account after another. I watched videos of people fleeing and the towers burning. I knew it wasn’t healthy to watch, but I watched until past the time I should be asleep. This day always takes me back. Before I went to bed, I looked at my 17-year-old daughter and said, “this day is always heavy. At this time in 2001, people were going to bed like they always did, unaware that their lives and the world would change forever.”
You can’t live in New York City for as long as I have and be unaware of someone who was directly affected by the towers falling. I know people who lost loved ones on that day and know people who escaped. I remember walking by the site months later and watched smoke that continued to escape the rubble. The day is heavy.
One reason I continue to keep this blog running is because my kids have an account of my life as an adult. Long after I’m gone, they can read a detailed account of what my life was like. It’s like a public diary. Some of my posts have received 100,000 plus views, while others have received under 50. There’s no way for sure to know what is going to strike someone’s interest. My first and foremost audience is my kids. When I write, I think of them and what they will think one day when they read my writings. This is one of those stories where one day, my kids will read what my life was like on that day. Whether others are interested or care, I do not know.
One the morning of September 11th, 2001, I got in my car and turned on Howard Stern. I was living in Columbus, Ohio at the time. My fiancé and I had an appointment to see a new apartment. We were getting married soon and looking forward to starting our lives together in a new place. The plan was for me to pick her up at work and go see the apartment. After, I was to drop her back off at work. On the way to pick her up, someone on the show said a plane flown into the World Trade Center. When my fiancé got in the car, I told her what happened and we listened to Howard Stern’s firsthand account of what was happening. Nobody knew at the time the United States was under attack.
We drove to the apartment and walked in to meet the person who was to show us around. When he greeted us, the first thing I blurted out was, “A plane just hit the World Trade Center!” He paused and said, “oh, no! Here is the living room.” As he showed us around the apartment, we were numb and had no interest in being there. The tour was quick, and we got out. When we got back in the car, we heard that a second plane hit the towers. I dropped my fiancé off at work and headed home. I sat on my couch and was glued to CNN for the rest of the day. Then, reports of the Pentagon being hit and a fourth plane crashed in Pennsylvania.
I worked evenings in a half-way house for men who were in the final stage of their sentence. That night, the entire downtown was closed off and I couldn’t find a place to park. I parked my car in a “no parking” spot and saw a police officer. I walked over to him and asked him how he was doing, and he shrugged. He was exhausted. I told him about my job and that I had to be at work right then. He looked at me with tired eyes and said, “nobody is getting tickets today.”
When I walked into the half-way house, the TV was set up in the cafeteria. A group of hardened men gathered around the TV and watched quietly. Occasionally, someone one would gasp or make a comment, but it was silent. They usually restricted phone calls at the half-way house, but I let anyone use the phone that wanted to make a call.
The days that followed were hard. People looking for loved ones appeared on TV. Stories of heartbreak and bravery were frequent. Everyone mourned together. Then, we hear about al-Qaeda and Osama Bid Laden. Our hatred burned. The country was shut down. Nobody was flying and public gatherings ceased. Little by little, things opened up.
The year that followed continued to be hard. Photos wrapped around the World Trade Center site with contact information for people hoping for a word about their loved ones. Smoke rose even though fires no longer burned.
During the one-year anniversary, the city was quiet. I have never seen the city so quiet. It was terribly windy that day. Yet eerily quiet. Nobody was talking. Horns were not blaring. Only wind making noise. In the evening, we all gathered in Central Park for a free concert. Billy Joel played and Meryl Streep gave a speech. A year later, I was still numb. I don’t remember the songs or the speech, just that they were there.
The day will always be hard. It’s become one of those days where people say where they were and what they were doing. It’s always resonated with me I was beginning a new life that day while others’ lives were ending.
I get asked often about what it’s like to raise kids in New York City. I usually bring up this day when explaining what it’s like. Innocence is lost at an early age in NYC. Parents wonder how to speak to their kids about the lights that shine into the sky on 9/11. Usually before a kid enters kindergarten, they know thousands of lives were lost in a single day and the terror our country was under. Much like our country after that day, I like to add that New York City kids are resilient.
Sometimes, my stories in this blog ramble on. This is one of those. I sat down with no direction, but wanted to finally share my thoughts on that dreadful day. Today I’ll pause occasionally and pray and remember those who died that day and the following days. I’ll pray for our military, firefighters, police officers, and government officials. And I’ll remember those that were left behind. I will never forget.