I’m going to deviate a bit in this post, as I want to further my healing with this tragic event. Hope you don’t mind.
Growing up, seeing the twin towers was the first thing I saw in the skyline as we approached the city. Seeing the sunrise hitting them really made them gleam. When you stood beneath them and looked up, it looked like they went on for infinity into the clouds.
September 11, 2001, is fuzzy in my mind up until about 9am. My earliest memory that day was thinking how beautiful the morning was; more so than most— low humidity, low 60s, sunny, not a cloud in the sky. For AP Art, we were allowed to go outside and draw landscapes. When I went back in and the period finished, I saw students hysterically crying all in the hallways and frantically trying to dial their cell phones. At social studies, I turned around and asked my friend what’s going on. The teacher was just sitting there and everyone was oddly quiet.
“Didn’t you hear? Planes crushed into the World Trade Center.”
”yeah, right” I told her, as I turned around. I thought she was joking. Class eventually started as if everything went back to normal, for 30 minutes.
Next period at lunch, my friend told me it really did happen. It felt like my heart went into my throat. I went frantic and went to the library to see it on tv. The library was closed to us but all the teachers were allowed in to watch. I could see the tv through the doors and opened my mouth stunned. A teacher scolded me for trying to look at the tv, and I told them I have a right to see what’s going on, and what if I had a parent who worked there? (Which my dad actually had stopped working there a few years prior).
We were the only school in the area that didn’t get sent home early. So many students had family in the towers, but none of our phones were working.
Once I got home, all I heard were fighter planes flying right over our house. It was shaking the house so much you could hear the china in our cabinet rattling. I went outside, and there were so many of them. I suppose I had just been stunned up until that point, but at that moment I finally started crying. It was probably the scariest moment of my life. The what-ifs and feeling like you’re in the thick of a war over what you’re seeing.
The next morning, the smoke made its way in our direction. It’s something I hope nobody ever has to experience. It was green and murky and smelled terrible— like burned metal and flesh. It gave me a really bad headache. That whole day at school we were talking about where our loved ones are, who we know survived, passed away.
Those few days after feel like such a fog; like I was in another world. Our cell phones weren’t working, and the entire radio was all static. Most local stations’ antennas were on the WTC.
The signs for missing person were plastered all over the place. That was perhaps the saddest thing I experienced. There were so many, everywhere. I cried every time I saw one. And it was especially saddening seeing some of them still up after a few months.
3 months later, my mom and I went downtown to the overlook to see ground zero. It was specifically built for the public to see the damage. It was massive; so much bigger than I imagined. The amount of sadness you felt walking around there is something you can’t put into words. For the next couple of years, you could still see ash in the corner of the buildings. I’ll never forget that.
In 2007 when I moved a few minutes from downtown Manhattan after graduating college, there would always be constant reminders of 9-11. Posters about treating PTSD, what to do if you get 9-11 related cancer, and being on the subway and passing demolished stations that have been untouched and have all the debris still inside. Not to mention the gaping hole in the skyline.
Now that we’ve rebuilt, many of us are glad something is filling the hole in the skyline now, but it still doesn’t feel the same. It feels like something was robbed with us and we aren’t quite the same; empty.
Generations now won’t understand the impact that day had, but we can teach them. It will always stay in the back of our minds. Last month I took my 4 year old son up to the top of the Empire State Building. The last time I was there was one week before 9-11 when I took my friends from Arkansas around the city (my mom actually predicted 9-11 and told us to stay away from the towers). I had to first ever panic attack because I didn’t want to be that high up. Sometimes it’s hard to forget the impact something has on you.
RIP to all those lives lost.
here I am in 1996 in front of the towers-