Remembrance

Twelve years ago I lived in New York City. I was there to see the destruction that came after the initial disaster that was everything about 9/11. I was traveling during the actual event, and still suffer from some form of survivor’s guilt — I was not there when my city was attacked; when my friends ran for their lives and feared for their loved ones. My company was actually situated just blocks from the World Trade Center. When I worked there, we spent lunches under the twin towers, visiting the Ben & Jerry’s operated by the cousin of one of my coworkers. I shopped at Century 21 right across the street and at the bookstore beneath the looming shadows of those seemingly immovable structures. To watch them fall on television was so surreal that I actually thought it was a new age War of the Worlds; that it wasn’t really happening.

But when I returned to my city, to my apartment on 15th street, just above the zone that was closed below 14th, it was all too real. I bought rounds at the Village Idiot on 14th for the firefighters that trudged up out of the dust at the end of every day, their eyes vacant and their bodies beaten by what they’d seen. I played pool with them and thanked them for what they were doing down there.

One of my best friends manned a call center in the weeks that followed, answering call after call from hopeful sisters, husbands and parents, describing loved ones who hadn’t come home that day. Who never went home again.

I eventually moved away. An already dwindling dot-com economy in Silicon Alley was smashed flat by the events of 9/11, and I was laid off along with almost everyone I knew. But New York will always be my spiritual home — the place I am most alive.

In memory of that day, I will give away a copy of “Through a Dusty Window: New York City Stories 1910-2001”. The last story in that collection is semi-autobiographical and centers around 9/11 in a way. The book will go to a commenter on this post. Tell me where you were that day, what you were doing and what 9/11 means to you. A winner will be chosen at random one week from today.

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5 thoughts on “Remembrance

  1. WOW, I am sorry for what you went through. I remember it like yesterday. My now husband was the Fire Chief in our town, I was a firefighter, we had just been dating for a few months, but known each other forever. Being a small town, I grew up in the fire house where he was a rookie fireman. At the time of 9-11, my Dad was the Assistant Fire Chief and my brother a newbie fire fighter.
    That morning as I was getting ready to go to take my mother to a Dr. appt., my 5 yr old son yells from the other room “They’re destroying my city!!”. When I went in to see why he was crying, I saw the replay of the first plane hitting the tower. By the time we got to my Mom’s Dr.’s office, we were watching footage of the second plane. While we waited for her turn, the Dr. would keep running into the waiting room to check on the news footage. His family lived very close to one of the towers and he could not reach them. We heard later he lost his brother-in-law.
    My mother began to panic after we received a call from home telling us that my brother’s work could no longer reach him. He used to travel a lot and was due to be on a plane leaving Columbus going to New York. His work had called to try to tell him to not go. My father had been trying to call him also. As we left the Dr.’s office and got in my car, my fire fighter pager went off, it was asking for all department officers to report to their stations. That caused us to get even more concerned. We knew the protocols for emergencies. When officers were called like that, it was serious. I headed straight for home, but my phone rang scaring me. It was the Fire Chief telling me in a voice I had never heard waver until now to come straight to the fire house.
    We spent the entire day there, our entire department and their families were crammed into the small building watching a small 13 inch television. The only good news we saw that day came around 8pm. The outside door opened to reveal my brother, a little shaken up, but glad to see everyone, esp. his 5 year old girl. Apparently, he got stuck in an area where the traffic had been shut down before he got close to the airport exit. He couldn’t get turned around and his cell phone battery died. I should explain more, we live in OH, 50 miles from Dayton and @ 70 miles from the Wright Patterson Air Force Base. Our kids heard the sound barrier break for the first times in the lives, saw Army helicopters fly over our farms for weeks. We even saw Air Force One, at least one of them, fly over head. We lived in fear for a long time and made plans (and re-enforced plans) of what if something happens at the base.
    Two days later while our department was still on a high level of alert, while I’m babysitting at the Chief’s house, he comes home early. He received a call that set our world on it’s head again, as a member of Task Force One, a Search & Rescue Team that is know for traveling and having special skills, he had been put on notice that he would be sent to NY on the next group out in 4 days. At that time, he was raising a 4 year old and taking care of his handicap brother by himself. I was watching them during the day or when he needed extra help (it’s how we realized our feelings-but that’s another story, lol). That night we discussed it and we decided that my son and i would move in and I would be there for his son and brother and take care of the animals on his farm.
    Sadly, two days later we received the call that there would be no need for the second team. There were no survivors. We didn’t know if our tears were for them or us.
    My husband met several of the brave men who lost their lives that day. One of the fire trucks in our station house came from a station NY. We had friends from the first Task Force who came back and have never been the same. They came to my husband for support and every year we honor their memory.
    Now all these years later, my husband and I each have our two boys (16 & 17) as well as another (8), and his brother still lives with . Each year on Sept. 11, our children remain home from school and as a family we will watch the documentaries and attend memorial services for our friends locally who have passed and to honor all the people who had to suffer on that tragic day. It is our belief that this day should be A Day Of Remembrance.
    – I apologize for this being so long, this has always been personal to us

  2. And I can surely understand why it’s personal. I think there are so many stories like this — stories from folks who didn’t live in NYC or near the Pentagon, or that field in PA. Stories like yours, from people who didn’t have anyone close to them on one of those planes, or in the buildings. But your story — since you are a first responder and were so personally affected — really hits home. I’m glad to hear how you remember that day. In the course of my life, it’s been the day I’ll remember like no other. I think it is similar to other days in our parents’ lives — Pearl Harbor (my dad is over 84…), the day JFK was killed…

    Thanks so much for sharing your experiences… it’s interesting to see, too, how 9/11 sort of brought you and your husband together. The friend of mine who worked in the call center actually decided to get married on that day about six years later, to try to make a bad memory into a reason to celebrate.

    Thanks also, for your service.

  3. It’s hard to not look back at an event like this and not go “Holy crap.”

    I remember this one well, because it changed a lot even in a city uneffected by a direct hit.
    At the time, I worked for Office Depot in Annapolis. I remember getting ready for work, having the radio playing in the background. The DJ normally went off the air at 9 and just played music during that last hour of his show. When he initially spoke of the plane hitting the towers, it was just a shrug off, as he thought it was a small bi-plane type craft. It wasn’t until they got the true reports that the full scope of the attack settled on him. The radio was off as I went from house to car, but I went right back to the station, listening all the way to work. The second plane hit as I drove. My thoughts were IN New York, because I had too many relatives who were FDNY or from surrounding burrows. I’d gotten to work and we fought our store network to get the proper coverages up on the display computers. We had someone running the sidewalk from the store to Radio Shack for details while we fought the network.

    The strike on the Pentagon rattled Annapolis like a lightning bolt striking the state house. Our managers had phone calls coming in on every line. I’d been at work 3 hours when they closed the store. Fears of a strike at the Naval Academy or the State Armory sent us home for our own safety. I got online and started checking on people as soon as I got home.

    My family survived the day, but I still pray for and honor all those who gave their lives.

  4. I was at work when I heard. It was very difficult to believe & comprehend. It took time for the horror to sink in. So many loved ones lost.

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