I remember being at a meeting at my daughters’ school, as the principal came into the room to tell us that–unbelievably–a plane had “lost control and hit one of the World Trade Center buildings.” We rescheduled the meeting, feeling unnerved.
I walked home, very quickly, hearing bits of conversations people were having in the streets about “terrorists,” “suicides,” “President Bush,” and on and on. I was almost running.
I remember trying to call my husband, who was on his way to the World Trade Center for a meeting, but no calls were getting through. The lines were overwhelmed with calls.
I remember getting home and to the television to see the second plan hit the south Tower. My husband called me. He was just reaching the area in a taxi when he saw the second plane hit. Miraculously, the driver was able to turn the car around and leave the area.
My husband went to our daughters’ school to take them home.
I remember having to pull myself together, after having been on my knees staring at the television, at the carnage, at the impossible sight of an airplanes sticking out of the World Trade Center buildings. This couldn’t be happening. Not here. Not here in New York City. Not a few miles from my home. Not anywhere.
I remember my husband coming home with the girls–not quite 4 and 8 at the time–ashen-faced from what he had just gone through, trying to look calm to protect our daughters. I made them a snack, and put them in front of the television so they could watch a DVD. They knew something big was happening, but we weren’t ready to discuss it with them, because we didn’t even know what was happening.
I remember going into my office with my husband, closing the door, watching as the south Tower started to collapse, at almost 10:00am. An impossible sight. Not possible. Sitting on the floor, holding my knees, and rocking myself back and forth for comfort that wouldn’t come, sobbing, sobbing, sobbing, uncontrollably. There were no words we could say to each other. No words.
I remember it all being a blur, watching the television, trying to call people, trying to wrap my head around what was happening.
I remember going into the bathroom to wash my face with cold water, and calm down, so I could check on the girls, and to especially make sure they were watching Pocahantas, not the coverage of the attack. Just at that moment, I watched the north Tower collapse.
I remember looking at Howard and seeing him go white. In that one moment, he and I both realized how close he had come to being in the World Trade Center. He had been running late that morning.
I remember sitting down with the girls, trying to explain what happened, and that the President and our government and the police were working to make sure we were safe, and that they were going to get the bad guys.
I remember watching from my window, the plumes of smoke emanating from downtown.
I remember feeling the need to be outside, to see other New Yorkers, to be with them. We took the girls to Carl Schurz Park, near the East River, to distract them.
I remember the stench that was coming from downtown, blowing toward us in the wind. As the adults sat on benches in the park, shaken, red-eyed, but trying to look calm for the kids that were playing around us, we tried to not cry.
I remember the days and weeks afterward, the memorial services, the concerts, the reports, the analyses. It all made sense. And yet, none of it made any sense at all.
I remember the anger.
I remember the deep, gut-wrenching sorrow.
I remember my four-year old daughter’s teacher calling to say that Elizabeth repeatedly built towers with blocks, and then, with one swipe of her hand, knocked them down. Over and over.
I remember how my 8-year old could not be comforted at bedtime, and would come into our room almost every night . . . for years.
I remember there was a fire in the building across the street from us a few months after 9-11 and how my older daughter screamed and could not be consoled. For months afterward she would panic if she heard a siren.
I remember my husband taking Sarah to visit Fireman Tony–one of the fortunate survivors of 9-11– from our local fire department. Fireman Tony told Sarah that it was a good thing when she heard a siren because that means that a police officer, or fireman, or doctor was on his or her away to save someone. And, Fireman Tony also assured Sarah that he was there, just two blocks away, to protect her and her family. Sarah stopped panicking when she heard a siren starting that night.
I remember reading “The Looming Tower” by Lawrence Wright, to try to make sense of why this could happen. It’s the closest explanation there is as to what led up to this point, bar none.
I remember knowing that our lives as Americans were changed forever.
I remember knowing that there is grief in my heart that will never go away.
I remember knowing that we can never let that grief change how we live our lives.
I remember that 9-11-01 introduced one of the darkest periods of our country’s history, including wars we should not be in.
Today, the 10th Anniversary of 9-11, we will do what we always do: honor the memories of all those who perished. We will visit our local fire department, bringing flowers in honor of those we lost, and cookies for those who carry on. We will respect the moments of silence at 8:46am and 9:03am.
And, we will cry.