I wasn’t sure whether I would write a commemorative post for the anniversary of 9/11 this year. I did, however, remember that I’d written something in an email to a friend on the first anniversary of that awful day. I’ve decided to share those reflections of the then 22-year old me. All commentary by my present self is done in bold type.
Last year on this very day, around this time (10-ish), I was home in bed (sleeping in cause school hadn’t started back and I didn’t have to be at work), only to be awakened by my then boyfriend, now roommate, with the words ” A plane crashed into the World Trade Center…and the Pentagon too.” For some reason…grogginess perhaps…it didn’t seem that serious to me at first, but I quickly woke up and thought to myself (I may have said it out loud too), “The Pentagon….this is deliberate.” I mean, the WTC crash could have been an accident, but the Pentagon? That’s an act of war.
I, in my naivete still didn’t understand the magnitude of all of this, until I started watching TV, and to my horror, one of the buildings collapsed. It was like slow motion…and all I could think of was…”all those people.” For a brief moment…one that temporarily paralysed my vocal chords and stimulated my lacrimal ducts simultaneously…I forgot that this was history happening right before my eyes. I only knew shock and sudden sadness and merciful compassion. Yet, I thought the worst was over…only to have the same feeling return repeatedly throughout the day as more lives were lost, and families were shattered.
Somehow, it only occurred to me later in the afternoon, that I had family right there in NY, some of them possibly employed in the vicinity of the WTCs. It was also then that a hint of personal panic set in, but it was luckily never given the chance to fully blossom. You see, by the grace of fate, or God, or luck or whatever, it was my aunt’s day off (she worked near there), my cousin had gotten a transfer to New Jersey (she used to work next to the WTCs), and my sister never got the chance to go to downtown Manhattan like she had been planning. Only my cousin’s boyfriend wasn’t so lucky…he was a fireman, one of the first on the scene…I heard he didn’t make it out. Funny how I had been in NY that summer for my other cousin’s wedding…I don’t think he [my cousin’s boyfriend] had been there, but if he had, I never got to meet him…what if I had? It’s an eerie thought.
I’ve always said I wasn’t American…and I still say that, but funny how trivial that distinction can seem on a day like that. A year later, I go on with my life, my own little trials and tribulations, and I scoff when I hear words like “war on terrorism” and “homeland security”…all buzzwords…but then I see a story on the news or in the newspaper and I remember what I thought had faded….not the day itself…not the horror or the sadness…but that gut wrenching “this is for real” heartbreak. I didn’t expect to feel like this today…and it’s a bit of a challenge to sound cheerful as I answer the phone [at my then job] while I write this. So here’s my little contribution to the memory of that piece of history I can say I lived, like the generation of Pearl Harbor, or the Titanic, or some other event I took for granted.