Saturday, September 11, 2010

Always Remember, Never Forget

Nine years ago today, my life and the entire world as we knew it, changed forever.

September 11, 2001.

I was but a week away from starting my Freshman year of college in Boston. I had planned on spending the remaining days before I left enjoying my freedom and taking in the sights of my beloved New York City. My parents had just gone down to the World Trade Center the weekend before to see some cruise ships that had come in. They walked through the lobby of WTC 1 and thought to themselves, Wow, we've lived here our whole lives and never been to the top. Should we go now? Nah, it'll still be here another day. So, my ex-boyfriend and I had made a plan that we would wake up early, take the train into Manhattan, and spend the whole day doing fun, touristy things.

Thankfully , I hit my snooze alarm at 7 am.

My mom woke me up at a quarter to 9. Her voice emanating from the bottom of the stairs, "Come downstairs - you have to see this!" What the hell dumb shit on Regis & Kelly was she trying to show me now? I looked at the TV and she told me, "A plane just flew into one of the Twin Towers." As I stood there, watching this burning building, the news was interviewing a woman who was out on her porch when she saw the plane strike the building. My mother and I pondered what had happened - maybe the pilot had a heart attack? As we listened to her recap and watched this building burn, a giant fireball erupted on the screen; What at first seemed like an instant reply soon was soon determined to be a second plane, as the woman who was on the phone with the news yelled, "Another plane just hit! Another plane just hit the 2nd World Trade Center!" My mother and I looked at each other and now we knew: our nation was under attack.

I immediately called my boyfriend on his cell phone. No answer. I moved on to his house phone, SCREAMING into the answer machine: "PICK UP THE PHONE!" He finally answered, drowsily asking me what was wrong. "TURN ON THE TV RIGHT NOW! TWO PLANES JUST HIT THE TWIN TOWERS!" ....... "Oh Fuck!"

My father and my aunt both worked in Manhattan. My dad, directly across from Madison Square Garden. My aunt, but a few short steps from the Empire State Building. My Grandma, mother to both of them, unable to get in touch with each other her children due to the congested phone lines in NYC, called my mother hysterical. No, we hadn't heard from my dad. We had been trying to call his job and got nothing but busy signals, too. I sat on my couch watching these two landmark buildings, the icons of my city, burn before my very eyes. Thirty minutes later, word came that another plane had hit the Pentagon in Washington DC. My best friend had just moved down there for college - and that set off even more panic in my mind. And 30 minutes later, another plane crashed in the middle of western Pennsylvania. It seemed that there was no end in sight.

I sat on my couch clutching a stuffed animal and watching the news while at almost 10 AM, a giant boom! and then a rumbling occurred in the background as all news stations were broadcasting and a giant cloud erupted across the screen, chasing a mass of firefighters who had stationed themselves on the street near the World Trade Center. Watching those brave men run, as they had no clue what was going on, was even more terrifying than anyone would have imagined. When the smoke cleared, we all saw what we had feared: The south tower, WTC 2, had collapsed into a pile of ash. And then, another mere 30 minutes later, just as the camera cut back to the fiery scene, WTC 1 - with it's iconic antennae held high - came plummeting down, imploding upon itself into the rubble.  The Twin Towers were no more.

I cried and cried and sat in fear, awaiting more horrible attacks and bad news. But finally, it seemed as though everything had come to an end. All I could hear outside my window were fire trucks, ambulances, police cars - All the local and volunteer corps had been called down to assist in the city. But my father was still missing. I knew our Credit Union was located in the lobby of Tower 1. Could my dad have gone down there to make a deposit today and gotten trapped? Would I ever see him again? Who knew? My Grandmother called to tell us that my Aunt had gotten a ride home from her boss, but still no word from my father.

Finally, at around 1:30 in the afternoon, the front door to my house opened and there stood my dad. I ran to him and hugged him for what seemed like an eternity. He had had to walk from 33rd and 8th to 42nd st/Grand Central - where they were evacuating the building when he got there. From there, he walked all the way to Harlem, 125th street and luckily caught the last train that was running out of Manhattan for the day. And he made his way home. I was never happier to see my dad in my entire life.

But now my city was in ruins - a gaping hole left in its beautiful skyline and thousands of brave citizens and unsuspecting people lost and dead in this vicious attack. And I had to go away to college in just a few short days. How could I leave now when my city needed me most? We drove up to Boston and no planes were flying in the air. It was the creepiest, most solemn sight I had ever seen. I had heard horror stories of people jumping out of windows, body parts falling from buildings, limbs being collected by the Sanitation department in giant dumpster trucks, but not being reported in the media. I sat in Freshman Comp & Lit staring out at Boston's Prudential building thinking, "What if a plane just flew into that right now? Then what?"


Nine years later, the world around me has changed so much. Where a once angered nation sought to seek justice for the horrendous terrorist attacks against the "Camel Jockeys" and "Towel Heads", a now tired nation seeks to end a senseless war that has amounted to just as many unjustified deaths as that fateful day 9 years ago. We suffered through 8 years of an incompetent man's presidency, laden with corruption and conspiracy theories. We elected our first Black president, whose term is already tainted with criticism and racism from a nation of people who are supposed to be one of the most open minded in the world. There is still a hole where those 2 almighty buildings used to stand, but we are slowly rebuilding, making ourselves stronger than ever before. But we still suffer from an insensible hatred towards a religion in which only a small percentage of their followers, extremists,  have destroyed any hope for a peaceful unity with our citizens.

Can there ever truly be peace or justice for those victims of September 11? Maybe not. But we will never forget those who risked their lives on that fateful day nine years ago. The acts of courage and selflessness that occurred by all involved will always be remembered. And as two beams of light illuminate the Manhattan skyline this night, I will remember the prayers I said then for all the people inside and continue to say to this very day and every year on the 11th day of September.

Always Remember, Never Forget.

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