Tomorrow is a day to remember. It was a beautiful Tuesday morning…
I had left Staten Island the year before in search of a more structured life. Sounds a little backwards…I left a city of opportunity to return to the Lehigh Valley. Funny how things happen, though.
I had just changed jobs and was teaching my first software class to a room full of nurses. They had no faith in me and I was definitely scared of them. I started my class at 9 am. A short while later one of the secretaries, a friend, came into my classroom to deliver the news of a plane hitting the World Trade Center. Then, another one…
I left my class and sat in the secretary’s office staring out the window listening to news radio detail the events over and over…breaking in with the latest updates of other hijackings. I remember jumping out of my seat to call my mom. She was doing some housework and didn’t have the television on. She immediately called my grandmother who lives in North Jersey, about 45 minutes from the Tunnel.
My personal life was complicated then. I was trying to end a relationship with a train-wreck of a man while developing one with a stable gentleman. I called the latter first. Our cells wouldn’t connect. I tried the other…same result. This was a time of coming together and these goddamned cell phones…
I called almost every friend I had in Staten Island…I thought of the worst. How couldn’t I? I was oddly appalled that work wasn’t cancelled. In hindsight it was a dumb thought; I worked in health care. Health doesn’t stop. Besides we were anticipating a surge in patients due to the disaster. We were on alert.
From a work perspective the rest of the day was uneventful. Yeah, I taught my other class and I guess it went well. I just don’t understand why nurses couldn’t understand dose versus quantity. I digress. After returning to my apartment I got a message to meet my then boyfriend at TGIFriday’s. What a disaster. He had left work after the towers collapsed and spent the rest of the day drinking. Wonderful. He was devastated. It’s interesting, actually. He was one of few people I met who had such passion for NYC. And he was passionate about everything. He lived for the city, longed to be in the city, always was a part of the city. I never fully understood why he left.
It was at that moment that the events of September 11th punched me in the face. I didn’t know where my true friends were and I was stuck in my own personal ground zero. My ‘stable’ life had crumbled and I was left behind to pick up the pieces. I needed to make the most of what I had and move on.
That weekend, I kicked him out. It took some time for the dust to settle, but I eventually recovered and left him behind.
About three weeks later I went to Staten Island…up to the Wag… parked my car, illegally of course, and just stared at the jagged city skyline. Almost every day of my college career I looked out over the Hudson and gazed, admiringly, at the city line. Those two shining towers reached towards the heavens. I didn’t know the skyline any other way. Now, it’s changed forever.
I took a cab to the ferry and hopped on the 25 minute ride across the choppy waters. No one spoke. Occasionally, you’d hear a crying baby, or a sniffle, but other than that…silence. After getting off the ferry I immediately headed to the subway, but it was shut down. I followed the mass of people headed north toward ground zero.
There was still dust and debris all around, people wearing face masks, and hundreds of flyers posted to places of business. These flyers were those of the missing. Their pictures showed them with a beloved pet, or a newborn baby; maybe a spouse or on a fishing boat. Some people were holding the flyers of their loved ones asking strangers if they were seen.
As we got closer to the site, the silence fell upon us like a heavy cloud. Again, no one spoke. There were no cars with blaring horns or sirens. People were walking so slow; even stopping to lean on a wall and silently sob.
And there it was…a big gaping hole in the soul of the city. You don’t realize how large a city block is until it’s vacant. Thousands of people were in the bowels of the site pulling up debris in an effort to search for any sign of hope. I walked up to the fence, held on and cried.
I cried for all those who had their lives cut short, here and at the other locations. I cried for the families who had lost their loved ones. I cried for the heroes who gave their lives to get people to safety – they knew their outcome, yet continued on. I cried for the souls of the terrorists who will burn in hell forever.
Tomorrow…September 11, 2009…I’ll never forget.