It was a beautiful day, much like today, with hardly a cloud in the sky and a clear view straight downtown to where the World Trade Towers once stood.
I was at work, getting ready for a meeting when someone told us that a plane had hit the World Trade Center. With New York City’s 3 major airports in close proximity, we all assumed it was a plane crash. Minutes later, when news of the second plane hitting the other tower came through, we knew it was somehow much, much worse.
With no phone service, and no public transportation, we all began walking. People were swarming out of all of the buildings in midtown, panicking, and trying to get home.
As we walked I could see the smoke obscuring the skyline that had changed so completely since I set out that morning. Just past my street, the city had been closed off to everyone but the rescue teams.
I arrived home, eager to make sure that my family was safe. People had gathered in the dining room, glued to the television set, trying to piece together what had happened. The father of one of my husband’s assistants had been in one of the towers, and had walked to our apartment for safety. Another’s wife had just gotten off the subway at the World Trade Center stop when she followed the swarms of people running uptown, and had taken refuge at our home as well. My baby daughter, recently adopted from China, sat quietly in her high chair, watching the planes fly into the buildings over and over again.
As the days progressed, the situation became more and more real. People wandered the streets of my neighborhood aimlessly, posting signs and looking for reports of their missing loved ones at St. Vincent’s Hospital, the designated trauma center just a few blocks away. The streets remained closed and deliveries were suspended in the area, leaving grocery store shelves empty. The sirens stopped at some point and the city was eerily silent.
Sometimes, if the television stayed off, it was possible to push it all aside. But when the wind blew, the smoke and the acrid smell of burning buildings, burning aircrafts and burning flesh permeated everything.
While I did not personally know anyone who perished in the towers, it was impossible to live in lower Manhattan and separate oneself from the grief and the fear that gripped us all.
Each year, when September 11 rolls around, I am surprised to see that the memories have not faded. I think of all of the people who lost their lives that day, and the heroes that saved the lives of so many others.
I strongly believe that today should be a day of mourning, and remembering, and not one clouded by protests and acts of hatred.
Nine years later, we are a country at war, with countless innocent lives lost as a result of this horrible incident. We cannot be a country whose people are so consumed in hatred that we deny others the freedoms we take for granted. The terrorists flying the planes that day showed no prejudice…the people that perished were of all races and religions, including Muslim. Let’s put our personal agendas aside today and honor the memories of those who lost their lives. It may not be enough to create world peace, but it certainly is a very tiny step in the right direction.
photo: Glasshouse Images