Remembering 9/11

I know that many people will be writing similar posts today, because it is a day we must always remember, however difficult that may be.

I was working in Manhattan in 2001 and should have been in the city on September 11. I worked in midtown, so for all practical purposes I would have been safe, scared but safe. But that day I wasn’t feeling well and opted to drive into the Long Island office instead. On my way to work (I was late), listening to the radio, I heard news of the first plane crash. At first I thought it was a sick joke the DJ was playing. Then, when I realized it had actually happened, I thought it must have been an accident. And then the second plane hit. And I knew. We all knew. This was being done on purpose. And I was scared.

I frantically tried to reach my husband who also often works in the city (in construction so he could be anywhere), but by then his cell phone had stopped working. I called his office. He was on Long Island that day too. My friends who worked in NY made it home that night. My brother got stuck in his office in New Jersey. But everyone was safe. We were the lucky ones.

At work that morning, everyone was crowded around the one TV in the building – in the gym, watching and waiting. A coworker and I headed up to the cafeteria for something to drink and one of our other coworkers was bubbling over after getting off the phone with her husband, who worked on one of the floors above the impact in the South Tower. He was safe and they were awaiting rescue. She had two young children. Just a minute or so later, another coworker came running into the cafeteria to announce that the South Tower had just collapsed. We watched our coworker’s knees give way and she fell to the floor. I will never forget the anguish on her face at that moment. One coworker was simply announcing the events as they happened. What he didn’t realize was that he had just told this woman that her husband had perished and she would never see him again. I don’t remember the anguished coworker’s name. She had just started working there. But I will never, ever forget her face or her sorrow.

We went home around lunchtime that day, after it was deemed “safe.” I went to get my kids from school. My daughter, then in junior high, had been shuffled off to a room with other students whose parents worked in the city, I am guessing to keep them from hearing news until they knew their parents were safe. She cried when she saw me. My son was younger and didn’t realize, I think, that my working in the city could have in any way meant I wasn’t safe. My husband arrived home minutes later.

We sat glued to the TV for the rest of the day as events unfolded. We cried a lot. The next day  on the way to work, I could still see the smoke billowing above the skyline. I passed a man standing on the back of his pickup truck on the side of the road, saluting and holding up an American flag. I cried the rest of the way to work.

The next week, back on the train, with police and guard dogs, everyone had stories, some horrific, some triumphant. People spoke more on the train in those following weeks than I had ever seen before. New York commuters keep to themselves, but now, everyone needed to talk and connect. The stories were a testament to how amazing we humans can be in times of crisis.

Eventually, life got back to normal. I worked for another six months in Manhattan before permanently moving back to the Long Island office. It was not because of 9/11, but I was happy to make the move back.

After 8 years, the events of 9/11 have faded some and life goes on. As it should. But 9/11 is a day we must never forget. And we must never forget that we were the lucky ones.

My daughter sent me this this morning. It is a fitting way to pay tribute to those who sacrificed their lives that day and the families and friends who held them dear.

That it will never come again is what makes life so sweet. — Emily Dickinson
On this day remember to get out and live, not merely exist. Laugh much and love more.


6 responses to this post.

  1. I hope we as a nation never forget that day. I was in FL, but my hubby was in DC, not far from the Pentagon. It was a scary and a sad day.

    I think I watched TV for 48 hours straight. Thanks for posting this.


  2. Posted by Jeannie Porter on September 11, 2009 at 3:28 pm

    Thank you for the post…and the reflections. It is a great reminder of what we as a nation endured together. Together we got through it and together we will stay strong.

    After I read your post I did reflect back on my memories of that day. I can remember almost every detail. I remember being at work and watching the towers fall and most of all I remember the evening with my family. My son was in Antofagasta, Chile when this day occurred…and of course we were scared to death of how he may be treated…but the Chileans were incredible people and made sure he was taken care of.

    Thanks again for the post.


  3. What a poignant post!

    I heard on the news about the first plane and sneaked into a hotel bedroom (I was working in a hotel) in time to see the second plane hit. I sat on that bed crying all afternoon (time difference), watching the buildings collapse and when it came time to go home I headed out to my parents’ house. I just had to be with loved ones. The horror of it was too much to bear alone. I didn’t sleep for days… my TV was on permanently. Even thousands of miles away, with no one I know directly affected, this event affected me, and many others around the world, profoundly.

    I remember that we had lots of American guests in the hotel and the staff would tell them to switch on their TV’s when they arrived back from their day of sightseeing. The sense of shock was so profound.


  4. Posted by Fran on September 11, 2009 at 6:15 pm

    9/11 has made such an impact on the whole world, also in Holland. This week there has been a documentary or movie about 9/11 on TV every day. Tonigh their airing United 93.

    I was at work and heard on the radio a special news flash. I couldn’t believe what I’ve heard and told all my colleagues what happened. Immediately after that I looked on internet and did that the whole day till I got home. There my hub and I watched tv all evening, we couldn’t believe this had happened and were in shock, as everybody was.


  5. Posted by Kate on September 11, 2009 at 8:16 pm

    Yes, thanks for this post. I was directly across the river in Brooklyn wandering around in a daze with hundreds of stunned people, ash floating like confetti in the air. Even after open heart surgery and other life-altering experiences, this September day was the first time I really reckoned with mortality. It’s easy to say that life can end any second – but we can’t really sustain that feeling – nor should we, probably – yet on that day, we KNEW life could be over in a flash. There was such an eerie sense of frailty. For a good long while, every time I heard a plane after this bleak, horrific day, I’d get that “frail” feeling again – and I’d hug my baby daughter and pray.

    I wonder why it’s so easy to tumble back into self-defeating habits, even after such dramatic warning bells are sounded?


  6. Posted by Melissa on September 12, 2009 at 2:06 am

    Thanks for your post. Reading about your coworker broke my heart. I can’t imagine how it was for you being there. I was in Texas when it happened. My mother called and woke me up. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing on T.V. Such a sad day for America. But, I love how NY pulled together during this time and really showed what being American us all about. Standing together, united as brothers and sisters. What a wonderful example they set for us during this tragic time in American history. God bless America, it’s people, and our men and women who fight for us everyday!


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