"Hello darkness my old friend, I've come to talk with you again" Simon/Garfunkel
It is hard for me to write this blog...I do not talk much about my Sept 11 memories unless asked, find this to be a common theme for those of us in the city that day. Not that we do not want to acknowledge it but it is a day that probably many of us cannot talk about without weeping. If you lost friends, colleagues, family on that day it is that much harder. If you know anything about me you know I am fiercely loyal to New York, I love it for it's imperfections as much as for being a city unlike any other anywhere in the world. It is part of my soul and part of my personality. This attack just hurts on so many levels that I was not sure I could get through writing about it. Then I thought of all those memoirs from people about man made horrors (holocausts throughout the ages, bombings, crusades (of all religions), dictators) and how they are written because the innocent survivors voices should be louder than the shouts of the lunatics who orchestrate these events.
I too remember what a beautiful day it was. I was living in Astoria and I took the train and at 59th street a man in a suit on the 6 train kept saying into his Nextel phone "my wife is in that building" and the shaking his phone as the train pulled away and he lost the signal. No one else knew what he was talking about. I got off the walked toward my office and looked down 3rd Ave and saw the flames from the first tower and thought oh shit a fire at the Twin Towers. In my building life was frantic as usual...but for business reasons, with many of our teams in Florida for a meeting. We somehow heard that the 2nd tower had been hit and we all ran to the windows to see this and then to a conference room to watch TV. The announcement (we are across from the Israeli mission, on the other side of a news channel, block away from Grand Central, blocks away from the UN so yes we get communications from the NYPD and others when things go wrong) came on that we should stay in the building as they could not guarantee what our safety would be outside. Maybe it was then that I realized this was unlike anything, that we were on an island and suddenly everything was a potential target. I yelled at some poor soul who called me and asked about the status of a project, she was in Massachusetts and yet I did not cry yet! This man I worked with and I went to look at the windows to see the Towers now grey smoke and suddenly....one just seem to vanish in a cloud of smoke. We looked at each other and back again...it happened fast and slow and we had no idea what the hell just happened. People started making plans to stay with friends. My best friend lived on 17th street, we were stuck on the island of Manhattan with nothing going in and out, and so without thought I headed to her apartment. I walked outside and it was the silent....a few sirens in the distance but no one was blowing their horn (and you all know we drive hand on horn at all times in the city), people were walking toward me covered in grey ash quietly, not running, delis were handing out water, and as I always see New Yorkers just are incredible in an emergency. They help each other, they are grace under pressure, they were silenced....never before have I seen this. No subways underfoot, no air traffic except for a sonic boom here and there of a fighter jet. I walked with a man who told me his daughter worked in the Towers and asked me if I thought she was ok and I do not think I answered but we talked and walked and he kept going...I hope his daughter was ok.
I got to my best friend's apartment, cell phones were spotty, our other best friend was there and we got Chinese food because we still could not wrap our heads around what we were living through, you could see the ash, you could taste and smell it even on 17th street but all we had was each other at that moment. Having done volunteer work at Cabrini, around the corner from her, I thought we should donate blood. The line snaked around the corner, again quiet, people in line, not talking....no ambulances zooming by though. I went to talk to the ER doctor to say I had crisis intervention experience and he called me in a room, he told me did not think there would be survivors but if I could just not panic the line outside and he told me to go home. We walked back Elli and I...and we talked ....and then for some reason they opened the subways for a brief moment and Julie and I raced to the nearest one and went home. I am often asked how I could have gotten on a subway ...was I not scared?? I did what I do in New York, I found a way to get to my location and a real Fuck You to anyone who was trying to tell me what to do. No even then this girl has the attitude that you cannot take my city from me.
I spent days looking at the skyline from my apartment, talking to friends whose family members were in the FDNY, to overseas friends who called and told me that when they first saw the Tower go down they thought it was simulation showing what could have happened because they could not imagine that it actually had. I saw people quietly and with dignity put out their American flags and was reduced to tears over and over again. I could not stop watching the news and yet I wanted to. I called frantically trying to reach 2 of my close friends who are Pakistani (afraid that maybe in the madness someone who do them harm verbally or physically simply because there was anger out there -- they said most New Yorkers treated them with respect). I did not want to hear the conspiracy theories, still don't...if you knew so much were the hell where you to stop it before???? I was disgusted with the showing of celebrations over this...to this day I have yet to be in a celebration mood for the death of people in any country, even the ones that produced the lunatics that drove the planes on 9/11. I felt as though the wound at Ground Zero, a term so new to me, was part of me....
I have only been once to the site and it was not to see it but for the simple reason that I had to pass it to get to my destination...it is not a tourist attraction for me...it is a place where people who were part of my New York family ceased to be more than a name on a wall. I do not understand the hatred to this day and I hope I never will. I now have children who will never know a world where 9/11 is not a day where Mommy cries and mourns. I now have children who asked me if I needed to go to work when they saw a terror alert with a picture of Grand Central 'cause the bad men may hit it with a plane. I am not sure I will ever see, hear or think about that day with anything other than pain...I am changed forever by it. If you were here in New York that day you are changed too vastly differently than if you were not. This is not a competition of your loss is bigger than mine it is just the fear of being here, the confusion, the loss is here too. I feel for those at the Pentagon and I am humbled by the passengers who took on the plane in Pennsylvania. I do not forgive the terrorists and I do not have any need to....you do not deserve any more than you took that day. This day became the day that I realized that life is really meant to be lived for that day not for the what might be and that I would not put off the things I need to say, to do, to become. For me 9/11 is the day I chose to be in my life a person who will not give in to hatreds, gave up any hope for organized religion, respecting others for having the belief systems I no longer did, and the day that I decided that my children (not born then yet) would be people who would be proud of being part of a diverse world not so afraid of it that they would chose their death and the death of others instead.
Here is my voice -- You hurt me...you maimed my city...you took my friend...yet for all of that you have nothing ...you did not win !
Beautiful day with the sun shining bright
Flames and smoke downtown a terrible sight
Confusion, loud silence, grey soot and despair
The smell of death, smoke, fear in the New York air
Why we have asked ...reasons seem shallow
Families and spaces left behind with imprints still hollow
Rebuild and rise from the ashes like the phoenix of lore
Making peace with a world that will never be like it was before