I wrote this 2 years ago on the 10th Anniversary of the attacks….
Reflections of 9-11-01: Ten Years Later
It’s hard to believe that it was 10 years ago today when the United States was attacked. For me, it seems like only yesterday, I can remember every single moment of that day. I was a junior in college and I had gotten up late for my first class, so I was taking my time getting ready for my second class. I turned on the television and saw the headline “Breaking News: Plane crashes into World Trade Center” I left the news on and listened to the broadcast as I walked around my room. The newscasters were discussing whether or not they thought it was a terrorist attack or an accident and as I walked out of my bathroom I heard “oh my god another explosion”… That was 9:03am when the plane hit the South tower. Shocked, I sat down on the edge of my bed and watched… watched as they showed rescue vehicles showing up at the trade center… 9:37am a plane hit the Pentagon…it was in this moment that I first felt terrified, originally I was just shocked but seeing the capitol hit just struck me… 9:59am the South Tower of the World Trade Center collapsed… as I watched it fall I felt my heart sink to the pit of my stomach….10:03am a plane believed to be headed for the White House crashes in Pennsylvania…28 minutes later…still on the edge of my bed… still glued to the television.. the South Tower collapsed.. and again I felt that sinking feeling…
I can remember not knowing what to do… where to go… I finally started looking for my loved ones, trying to make phone calls, all the circuits were busy and so I got into my car and headed to school so I could find my best friend. I got on the palisades parkway and it was vacant… emergency vehicles rushed passed me… I had never seen so many police cars and ambulances at once… I knew they were all headed to the city to help.. It was so surreal to watch them fly by… There was only coverage of the attacks on the radio and I listened intently… finally made it to school and found her, we tried calling our other friend who lived in the city, our parents, anyone just to see where they were, if they knew what happened… school had been cancelled and after standing in the parking lot at school for what seemed like forever, I went home and assumed my position in front of the television for the rest of the day, watching the footage over and over again, seeing the fireman, EMT workers, police officers running in and out of the buildings trying to rescue as many people as they could.. and then the crowds formed, people looking for their loved ones…
My parents generation has “where were you when Kennedy was assassinated?”…my generation’s Kennedy is 9-11-01. It’s hard to find someone my age who couldn’t tell you exactly what I just did, a moment by moment account of their day. Every year since that day I think about those moments and I think about all the people who lost their lives.. I was fortunate enough that I didn’t loose anyone that day, but I was still profoundly affected by it. Perhaps it’s because I am a New Yorker and I take tremendous pride in that fact. The towers were a symbol of what can be argued as the greatest city in the world, the NYC skyline was something to be admired and within 2 hours, it was destroyed. I can distinctly remember another moment in my life, I was 8 years old and my family and I had gone to the Statue of Liberty; my grandfather and I were standing at the base of Lady Liberty, taking pictures. My grandfather was a mason and he had worked on many prominent buildings all over NYC, he took me to the edge and we looked out at the skyline, he said to me “isn’t it beautiful?” I took a picture, then he said “you see those 2 big ones? they’re 2 of the tallest buildings in the world… I built them” I’m sure as the bright 8 year old I was, there was a series of questions that followed.. how do you get up that high, etc… As I watched the towers fall that morning, I was so grateful that my grandfather had passed away the year before, it would have devastated him to see them fall, he was so proud of them.
What I think may have affected me even more than the attacks themselves was what happened afterwards… seeing how people just helped one another, the kindness, generosity, genuine care and concern for one another, and deep pride in being American. Every where you looked there was an American flag flying high. People wore ribbons, buttons, hats, t-shirts displaying their pride. There was a respect for the FDNY and NYPD that had mostly never existed before. Before 9-11 most people only had negative things to say about the firefighters and police officers in NYC, but on that day and the months that followed, they were our hero’s.. and rightfully so. These are the men and women who while others were running out, they were running in, knowing that they were most likely not going to make it back out but if there was a chance of saving someone, they were taking it. It takes a special kind of person to do that job, selfishly and shamefully I can say that I don’t think I could do it. It was so appropriate that Denis Leary’s Rescue Me ended its 7 year run this week on FX. In the final moments of the episode, Tommy Gavin gives a speech to the new firefighters about what it means to be a firefighter, running into burning buildings, coming out and running right back in, how it’s a calling and you are either cut out for it or you’re not, how sometimes you come out of that building and your buddy doesn’t… these men and women have so often been forgotten in the past 10 years and it saddened me when I heard there wasn’t enough room for them at today’s memorial services. I was angry because there had to be some solution… 343 FDNY, 23 NYPD, 37 Port Authority Police died that day… there wasn’t enough room for the chief of each of those departments to have a seat? to represent their fallen brothers? There wasn’t another place in the city of NY where all the FDNY and NYPD could have convened to watch the ceremonies on a large screen?
These are the things we’ve lost in the past 10 years, that sense of respect, that sense of gratefulness, that sense of pride…. What I can hope everyone will take from this day, this year and every year after is that its not a day just to mourn those who died, but rather a day to remind us of how we felt about each other that Tuesday morning in 2001… to remind us how angry we were that terrorists had attacked our home, our nation… to remind us that we are the land of the free and the home of the brave and that there are men and women who fight in our armed forces everyday to keep that fact true… to remind us to be kind, help one another… to remind us that even though we face tough times, we are still the United States of America… to remind us that even though we may be in a war not all of us agree on or we are struggling through an economic crisis, we STILL live in the greatest Nation in the world… remind us to be proud, Proud to be Americans.