This is the first year I’ve been far away from NYC on 9/11. And it’s the first time I’ve felt (since it happened) how much it changed so many of us and me.
The silence. The way a major metropolis shut down for a few days (it is a blur at this point). My best friends and the person I was dating briefly at the time across the Hudson where I could see the billowy dust of where the towers once stood. There was no way for us to see each other for days. Cell service totally down. Land lines tied up for at least a day. How did anyone know that anyone was safe?
We walked everywhere those days as no vehicles were allowed on the road. Walked to the river to pay our respects to wonder how everything was normal one day and then it wasn’t. We watched mourners cry and stare across and cry some more.
No one thought twice about reaching out to acquaintances and people you’d only talk a couple of times every five years at best to make sure they were okay. That is still what is the most powerful shakedown of the aftermath of suffering — the love, the genuine concern and camaraderie of being alive and coming together. All differences and things of the ego dropped and melted away to be a community, to be reminded that people do care and that we all know how to do it even when we go back to our masks and separation and pretend we don’t know how.
There were things I’d wish I’d done differently that day. I am a denier when hard things happen. I’m in a state of shock that goes along with regular life as if it isn’t a big deal — that has been my go to coping mechanism for most of my life and for as long as I can remember and sometimes it serves me well...
I wish I had believed the seriousness of what happens when Larry told me. I wish that when I walked outside and saw smoke floating out of the tower that I had gone back inside and not attempted to go to work. I wish I hadn’t seen in real time on the corner of Patterson Plank and Congress as I drove toward Fort Lee from Jersey City the tower (which one I don’t remember) fall right before my eyes as the anchorperson on 1010 Wins screamed in horror that it was falling.
I wish I’d had the wherewithal to turnaround then, but I kept going to work trying to keep normalness alive. I somehow made it there to a travel agency — besides the towers, the businesses in and around the towers, the travel industry was hit immediately. I made it and the phones ringing nonstop and the franticness of it all. One of our coworkers had taken off for travel that morning and her sons calling to make sure she wasn’t on any of those flights is what stood out that morning in the office and being able to say that her flight was much earlier than those and that she was safe felt like a saving grace.
I made the trek back home and it took a couple of hours if not more. I wish I’d given the stranded people a ride home out to further suburban parts of NJ. How had they even gotten to where they were I wondered. And in my denying defense, I had a mission to get home.
I got yelled at by a firefighter when I asked if I could drive down the hill because I just lived right down there by the fire station and he yelled at me like I was an idiot and didn’t know what was happening and he threw the fact that people were dead in my face as if I didn’t know and all I wanted was to go home. I just wanted to be safe and I know he was sad and stressed and his reaction still makes me cry. I just wanted to be safe and going home was the only thing I could think of to feel safe.
I parked my car somewhere around where he stopped me and it sat there for days — no one was allowed to drive anywhere downtown as emergency response vehicles were transporting the displaced and carrying over bodies.
I got laid off from work a day or two after the attack. I had never been let go or fired from a job my whole entire life, so it was devastating but before I was let go, I had the pleasure of listening to a co-workers story about his beautiful wife with a beautiful name... her division had just been transferred to WTC and she worked for THAT company, the one that was on the floor that was hit. That day she was sick and she called out and she felt so bad that she was sick and couldn’t make it to work. That day she was saved.
That day, those of us still here, were all saved. I love you New York always. My heart is always open to you and everything you’ve given me.