9/11, Five Years Later… one person’s memory
Growing up in Brooklyn and working in Manhattan, the Twin Towers were a fixture in the skyline from when I was very young. I don’t remember when they were built, to me, they were always there… kinda like the sun each day. There are only a few times I can remember being awe-inspired by their presence, looking up and thinking, “Man, those things are big!”
My clearest memory of just how impressive those structures were comes from the time my father took me to several of his accounts located in those buildings when I was young. When we were on one of the high floors, he took me over to a window that was bigger than I was and I saw clouds outside. I couldn’t believe it! I wasn’t even in a plane (nor had I ever been in one at that time), but I was experiencing being in the clouds! My father told me that the building also had a little “give” built into it so it wouldn’t break when it got windy, saying you could feel it sway if you really pay attention. I don’t know if this is true, but at about 12 years old, I could swear I felt the building sway… :-)
Mostly though, the towers blended with the rest of the city, and the rest of my life. Because I once held a job on the Concourse Level of the Trade Center, they also came to represent a former place of employment. – not particularly awe-inspiring. And they were a backdrop, really, during the years I surfaced from the subway on my way to other jobs I held in the financial district.
But on September 11, 2001, watching The Twin Towers ravaged in such an appalling way was like watching the murder of an old friend. To watch the video clips again today, and every anniversary since, elicits sadness, anger and tears. I have no connection to that day that makes me “special”. I am no longer a New Yorker and was 160 miles away. My life was not in danger. There was no Trade Center dust on me. I did not lose anyone that day to the tragedy. Like millions of others, I merely watched on television.
Yet I watched while holding a newborn baby. I remember wondering what kind of world I had brought her into. Her father sat on the couch expressing his horror by repeating the words, “Jesus Christ” over and over, which has remained such a strong memory to this day because he considers himself an Atheist. As a Christian, his words only reminded me of the importance to pray.
My three older sons were already in school and I struggled with the idea of picking them up and bringing them home. There was this feeling that something bigger was happening, even before we were told our country was under attack. But ultimately, I felt they were safe at school (two blocks away) and did not want to frighten them, so I left them there. Later, I learned the teachers told them what had happened and they were worried and nervous, wondering why I hadn’t come to get them. Mom screws up again… :-/
Five years later, I try to focus on the good that has transpired since. This morning, my 5-year-old daughter left for kindergarten, asking first why the flag is hanging outside our house. It was a difficult idea to try to explain to her. Saying only that something happened five years ago today that is important to remember and I hang the flag because I feel patriotic, I think I dodged a bullet when her attention shifted to what she was wearing to school. I want her to know, but I don’t think she is capable of understanding without being terrified that it will happen again and that the next time, the planes will hit our house.
She is a well-adjusted little girl and I don’t wake each day wondering what kind of world I have brought her into – no more than I wonder about my sons. Probably the hardest thing with the boys is to teach them not to be prejudice against Arabs or Muslims. To teach that there is a peaceful Islam and a radical Islam is difficult, yet imperative. To be honest, at times, I think it’s difficult for all of us to remember.
The best thing that has happened in my life as a result of 9/11 is reconciling with my dearest friend. We have been friends since childhood, and somehow lost touch for the 3 years preceding 9/11. But within days of the attacks she called me, saying the event showed her that life can be short and unpredictable, and she didn’t want things to keep going on the way they were. So, for the last five years, I have enjoyed having my best friend back. I hope others realized this, as well.
This is not a political commentary, per se, but a personal commentary on something political. On this fifth anniversary, my fear is that time will lessen the impact of this event. Let’s pray that this doesn’t happen to our leaders, and that they figure out how to prevent an atrocity like this from ever happening again.