Sunday, September 11, 2011

10 years ago today (lyn)

I was on the No. 15 bus, heading to work.  Crisp sunny day and blue cloudless sky.  I had a job working three-days a week as a consultant in KPMG’s Entertainment Group for a high-maintenance brilliant woman. She once kept an out-of-town associate waiting over an hour while she got a pedicure, shamelessly arriving to the meeting with toes splayed, separated by cotton.  Another time she sent a town car to pick up a muffins for her upcoming weekend at the beach.  I was being paid a lot of money to do very little.

Someone on the bus said aloud to no one in particular, “A plane has hit one of the World Trade Center towers.”  The immediate response, like many that day, was one of disbelief.  “What kind of idiot didn’t see the World Trade Center?” people asked.  It seemed almost comical.  There was some chatter and then everyone went back to their papers, conversations, or whatever else they were doing before our world changed.

Several stops later, someone else shouted out, “I just heard that another plane hit the WTC.”  No one went back to their papers this time.  When I got off the bus at Lexington and 51stth, I could see the billowing smoke rising from over fifty blocks away.  

I got to my office and called a friend.  She knew nothing; her TV wasn’t on yet.  People were starting to exit their offices and make their way to the one floor that had a TV.  We sat around and watched the drama unfold, as if we were watching a made-for-TV movie and just waiting for someone to make popcorn.  Nothing about it felt real.

I left work around 11, barely able to tear myself away from the evolving news.  I thought I’d take the subway uptown to Alexander’s elementary school.  It hadn’t occurred to me that we were under attack and that of course all subways would be closed.  I started to walk, but then was lucky and got one of the few available cabs.

I later felt guilty that going to Alexander’s school was not my first thought.  In fact, another mom from the school had called and suggested we go.  I asked if she thought we were being overly cautious and she replied, “Maybe, but at least if we both go, we won’t be alone.”

By the time I got to the school, many other parents had already arrived. The basement was flooded with anxious adults.  Parents were not allowed to enter the classrooms, as the school wisely did not want to alarm the kids.  One by one, teachers would go to the classrooms and bring the kids down to their parents.  Many of us were crying.  No one knew if any of the children had parents who worked at the WTC.  Fortunately, no one did.

Alexander was in third grade.  He and his friends did not understand the gravity of the day, and were just grateful to be released from school early.  Like other mothers, I didn’t want my young son watching the ghastly images on TV.  A group of us took our then 8-year-olds to John Jay, a local park.  Were it not for the clouds of smoke filling our blue sky from 80 plus blocks away, it would have been a perfect fall day.

In the days following 9-11, Manhattan was a ghost town.  No one felt like being in restaurants.  Flyers were posted all over trees throughout the city.  Pictures of everyday people, and so many of them young, with bold titles of MISSING above their heads.  Local firehouses listed the firemen they had lost.  Bouquets of flowers piled up outside.  All activity stopped.  Streets were empty.  Bridges and tunnels were closed.  No one could get in or out of Manhattan.  And the sound of fighter jets pierced our sad and broken city.  They continually reminded us of our need to be protected.

I foolishly imagined truckloads of Islamic militants driving down my street, late at night, and randomly throwing bombs in our windows.  I worried how Alexander and I could escape Manhattan.  I packed an emergency bag to grab in case we had to flee.  Every time the alert code went up a notch, my fears did too.

When the anthrax scares began, I bought rubber gloves to open my mail, and purchased Cipro.  I escaped the city whenever I could.  I spend days in Connecticut  and New Jersey with my friends who lived there.  I even looked at townhouses in New Canaan and Westport.  I seriously considered moving.  But no home I saw felt right.

On the weekend of September 21, Alexander and I were invited up to Woodstock NY to stay at a friend’s house.  I felt safe in this small bucolic town, far from the reaches of Al-Qaeda.  I remember saying to my friend that I doubted I would ever get over my fear of being attacked again.  I didn’t think I’d be able to raise Alexander in the city I loved.

But I am lucky.  We all know someone who knows someone.  We all have stories of where we were and what we saw and felt.  I am grateful that no one I loved was lost that day.

It is now ten years later.  The city is back to being the great city that it is, and has always been.  The nation and New Yorkers pulled together.  Grief and resilience united the city for the days and weeks and months after.

I am glad I didn’t leave.  I am grateful that I raised Alexander here.  I am proud to call this amazing city home.  It is where I belong.

No comments:

Post a Comment