“I feel a little stronger than I did before as an American. As a New Yorker, I’m still fucking pissed off. I’m very proud to be a New Yorker. These people that live in Manhattan are as tough as they come.” – John Romita Jr.
Everyone has a story to tell about 9/11. This is mine.
Eleven years ago I was a freshman in college. I had started classes about two weeks before September 11th and I remember it being a Tuesday for because I had an early morning math lecture class that I hated. I suck at math. Some call it a math phobia; I call it just pure unadulterated hatred.
I had left the class pretty quickly and was walking back to my dorm room and I noticed that everything was sort of quiet. It was a Tuesday and there were classes going on but there were no kids. I filed that away as weird but I’ll be honest, I was tired. Exhausted really because the math class was at 8:30am and I am not a morning person. I also didn’t drink coffee back then so I was bleary eyed and my mind was full of visions of going back to sleep.
One kid was running back to their dorm but everything was still quiet. Again, didn’t think much of it but a feeling started in the pit of my stomach that I chalked up to my digestive system not knowing what time it was.
I get back to my dorm, I’m by myself, I can’t find my roommate (which in hindsight was a good thing) and someone tells me to put on the television. That the world trade center had been attacked. I wish I could tell you who told me. I don’t know if it was a phone call or if I heard it from someone out in the hall but all I thought was ‘yeah right’. I put on the radio and there was no music. Only reports of an attack in New York City.
I still thought it was some weird War of the Worlds thing. My mind just wasn’t capable of wrapping the thought of someone daring to attack my home around itself. So I put on NBC and I was in just in time to see the second plane hurl itself into the second tower.
Confusion. Anger. Shock.
I had been there a couple of weeks ago with my Uncle. He worked on Wall Street. We had taken the train from Newark and walked through the terminal where the shops and food stands were; where millions of people passed through every day.
My Mom had worked in 7 World during the first attack back in the 90’s.
I knew my Mom was ok. She was working in Queens at that point and my little sisters were in Queens and oh my god, someone just blew up the world trade center.
I don’t think I realized that tears were falling until the first sob. Until my body shook with rage and sadness at the realization that people were dead.
What looked like papers falling from the towers turned out to be human beings trying to flee a death by inferno.
Streets that I only knew in passing were covered in ash and god knows what else and oh my god, someone just attacked us.
I think I called my Mom immediately after, my eyes glued to the television soaking up every piece of information and image. My brain still didn’t believe it, there was just no way this could’ve happened. This was just a sick joke and I’d wake up and all those people would be alive and the WTC would still be standing there and when I grew up I could go shopping in the terminal.
I wanted to go back. Hop on a bus and help with the cleanup and taking care of the survivors. Two hours or so after staring at the TV, I needed a plan of action. I am by nature a fixer. I wanted to help fix this, this horrible wound on my home. I wanted to help patch it up and heal it. I wanted to heal.
My Mom wouldn’t let me. She wanted me safe. She didn’t want to worry about me getting hurt of if there was a second attack; she wanted me to stay where I was. All I wanted to do was go back home and help those EMTs, Firefighters, Cops and Doctor’s that were risking their lives downtown. I mean, what I knew about medicine could fit a thimble but I wanted to help so bad it hurt.
My brain, which doesn’t work well in the morning on the best of days, took that info and told my mouth to stop asking. It didn’t stop me from wanting to go but it stopped me from asking.
But if I couldn’t be there who would be able to stop my family from getting hurt.
My sisters were little. I wanted to protect them. I wanted my parents to take the kids and get the hell out of the city. Go to PA where my Aunt was and just stay there until this was over.
We didn’t know if there was going to be another attack and if there was one when it would be. The city and its residents were paralyzed in a state of not knowing. I was and I was nearly 4 hours away.
I was devastated. That’s the best emotion that I can come up with. I didn’t shut the TV off for three days. I barely slept.
Every morning that I woke up, I had that thought of oh, it’s such a nice day before reality came barreling toward me. No. It’s not a nice day. The city isn’t safe and thousands of people are dead.
We never stood a chance.
We didn’t know.
We weren’t prepared.
I was depressed for quite a long while.
I was angry. Very angry. I wanted those that did this dead. I never wanted a war. Just to kill those that had done this. I was hurt but I wasn’t blinded enough to think that a war, where other innocent would die, was good.
I just wanted the bastards that orchestrated this to pay.
I was grieving. Much like everyone else, I was grieving the destruction of my home, the senselessness of the violence and the loss of safety.
I was grieving for those that had lost loved ones.
I was grieving for those that had given their lives to save others.
I was grieving for innocence lost.
Everyone remembers where they were on September 11,2001.
We should never forget.
Never forget the determination and sacrifices of the NYPD, NYFD, EMTs and other safety workers who were lost to us.
Never forget the innocent lives that were snuffed out by a senseless act of violence.
Never forget the holes that never can be filled for those that have lost someone dear to them.
Never forget that as New Yorkers we can overcome anything. That we are stronger together than we are apart. That we will Never Forget this tragedy that occurred 11 years ago but we will move on from this.