Today pains me. As my dad watched part of the memorial ceremony this morning before we left for church, my eyes filled with tears, so I had to just walk away. Though I didn't lose anyone I knew personally, there are so many around me that have. Hearing the names being read out loud makes me sick because it just makes the reality of each individual life that was lost more prominent. I think all New Yorkers carry this day around with them day in and day out.
In September 2001, I was a senior in high school. It was going to be a great year finally being at the top of the school! I remember walking from one side of the school to the other through the hallway that passes the library. My friend walking in the opposite direction said, "Someone just flew a plane into the WTC," and I casually replied, "Probably terrorists." When I heard "plane," I didn't think about the large passenger planes; I was thinking about the really small ones that you take to islands or even a 2-seater.
When I arrived at my next class, however, I began to understand what really happened as my teacher shared with the class what he knew so far. There was no way we could do any work especially since one of my fellow classmates was in tears trying to call and locate her mother who worked there. That day, it was difficult to get in contact with anyone by cell phone. Then I realized that WTC was very close to where my father worked, and I started worrying. There was nothing we could do at that point but just wait for more news. It was a really uneasy feeling as we didn't know if that was all of it. Was anything else planned? Were we safe where we were?
We weren't allowed to leave the school and go home. The only way we could leave was if our classes were done (we had to show our schedules) or a parent had to pick us up. I went to each class, and all we could do was just sit there. I remember my AP Biology teacher tried to make us work because he said there was nothing we could do about it. I don't know if he was trying to distract us or trying to distract himself.
When I finally made it home and saw that my dad was home and okay, I was relieved. He made it on one of the ferries after meeting up with my aunt, and they came back to Staten Island together. My aunt worked MUCH closer to the towers, and when the planes hit, they were told to stay in place. My aunt disregarded that and left right away, thank God. They were in the city when the towers collapsed, and they couldn't see a thing in front of them. My dad said that when he held his hand right in front of his face, he couldn't see it. I can't even imagine what that must've been like. I had to stop watching the news footage after a while because it was day after day of sadness. I do remember that I started watching the TV show Third Watch during those next few months as they included 9/11 in their storyline as they film in NYC.
I saw the news footage, and I knew the world would never be the same again. That Sunday before, I had my eyes closed while on the Manhattan Bridge. Every other Sunday before that on our way to church, I'd look out the window to stare at those two buildings and how they soared over all the other skyscrapers. I couldn't believe that I would never be able to lay eyes on WTC again. I thought about the time when my aunt took my mom and me to Windows on the World at the top of the North tower. I remember how they at first didn't want to allow me to go up because I was wearing white Keds with my summer dress instead of fancy shoes. I ordered chicken pot pie, and it was the fanciest chicken pot pie I had ever eaten. Looking down at the streets was a view that I'll never forget. But knowing that there were so many that jumped from the building from that height makes me nauseous.
My middle school students don't remember that day. They were too young. Even my younger brother doesn't remember it because he was just a baby. When we had memorial ceremonies at school during the prior years, they'd fidget or act as if it were a lighthearted issue even though our school family would go up to the microphone to announce the names of those loved ones they lost. I hate that they don't respect the day, and I also hate that they have to grow up in this world (even if they may not know it as any different).
Year after year, the world remembers what happened. For those in NYC, it's more than just an annual memory.