September 11, 2001. We all remember where we were that day as horror upon horror unfolded. When I go back to September 11, 2001, I can still feel the terror of wondering what was happening and what would happen next, the desperation to reach loved ones, the tears and the trembling. We all have our memories of that bright blue, terrifying day and the vast, expansive repercussions following. This is my story.
That morning was Ali’s very first day of school. We were excited, my parents had come to our house on their way home from a wedding in Canada and enjoyed sharing the milestone and picture taking. Ali couldn’t wait to wear the name tag that was mailed home. I looped the yarn of the name tag around her neck. It was a laminated blue airplane. Meaningless as I tied it on and shattering as I took it off hours later.
I dropped her off singing along to some silly kid’s music as we both nervously and happily drove off for her first day. On my drive back home, I was confused and trying to catch up as I listened to the radio while the DJs, generally full of jokes, were haltingly talking about planes hitting the tower, I couldn’t grasp it, they couldn’t grasp it. There was a overwhelming sense of disbelief, insecurity and fear.
I was so grateful to have my parents there with me, we alternated watching the television and taking turns entertaining the kids outside away from the images and sounds that we could not turn off. The need to know more, the yearning for answers drew us to the TV. When the first tower fell, I broke down. I cannot remember that moment without crying still. All of those people inside. The moment is vivid in my heart, like so many other moments.
Nick grew up in New Jersey, he could see the Empire State Building from his front porch. That building held family pride as his grandfather was a stone mason who helped build the treasured landmark. As the Twin Towers were going up, he and his family jokingly resented that the Towers would claim the title of tallest buildings in New York City overshadowing the Empire State Building. Nick and his neighbors along the Hudson River watched those towers grow and grow. His friend’s family down the street took regularly timed, sequential photographs of the Twin Towers being built resulting in a sort of stop-motion film.
On September 11, Nick was in New Jersey driving on Route 3 which snakes along the river. Everyone was pulled over stunned as they watched the smoking buildings across the river. Plumes of darkness suddenly collapsing upon themselves. Nick witnessed the Towers going up and he witnessed them coming down.
I remember the silence overhead as planes were grounded. I remember calling and trying to reach my sister in Manhattan, trying to reach my brother in Boston, trying to reach friends who lived or worked in the Trade Center or in that neighborhood. I remember learning about my brother’s two friends and colleagues who were on the first plane and thinking about Dave’s wife, children at home and pregnant. We were the same age, in the same life stage. I thought of her all the time. And the others like her. I think of them still.
I pray for those families. I honor their loved ones memory and I watch the ceremonies each year on September 11. I listen to the names being read and stand quietly at home for the moments of silence. I cry. I cry as the bells toll, as voices lift names, as I remember.