9/11 – Ten Years Down the Line

I came to the U.S.in February, 1978. As the plane was about to touch the tarmac at the JFK Airport, I saw two landmarks. To my right, The Statue of Liberty. To my left, The World Trade Center. Obviously, one of the landmarks is missing for quite sometime. I still can’t believe the World Trade Center is gone, ten years and counting.

People say it couldn’t happen here, but it did. Terrorism arrived at our doorstep with the first WTC attack back in the early 1990’s. We’re not immune by a long shot.

What as I doing on that day? I was supposed to start on a client project, but it was called off. I was kind of pissed about it. I got a phone call from my friend, Roslyn. She spoke frantically on the cell phone. She asked me where I was, I told her I was home. She said she will speak to me later. I didn’t think anything of it, except listening to the radio blaring from her car in the background during our phone conversation. It mentioned something about the Twin Towers. Lo and behold when I turned on the television, the news of the planes crashing into the World Trade Center came to light. My step-father was with me at the time. We were both stunned and speechless. He said, “This sort of thing only happens in a Hollywood blockbuster movie…” His voice trailed off into a gasp. My reply was, “Only this is NOT a Hollywood movie.”

My mom called form work to let us know she was ok. She was sobbing on the phone. She told me she fell to her knees when she saw the second plane hit. She and her co-workers witnessed the disaster unfold from their office building on 39th and Third Avenue in New York City. She was given a lift home by one of her bosses. It took her forever to leave Manhattan, but my step-dad and I were just glad she was home safe.

My best friend was working in the Rockerfeller Center area at the time. She told me she had to walk all the way home from Midtown Manhattan, to her home in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn. My other friend was actually in the area of what is now known as Ground Zero. He remembered witnessing people jumping out of windows from the Twin Towers. What’s worse, both of my friends remembered the horrible stench of burning human flesh that lingered in the air for weeks that followed.

Three days after the disaster, my parents and I were watching the news reports that had unfolded. My mother suddenly burst into tears. She said, “I don’t know why I am crying! I don’t know any of these people, but yet I can’t stop crying!” I hugged my mom and said, “There’s nothing wrong with you crying for them. A rug had been pulled form underneath our feet and we didn’t know it.”

I drove by River Road around the area of Lincoln Harbor, in Weehawken, New Jersey. Two weeks had passed by and I still saw smoke burning from Downtown Manhattan. I even went for a walk in the area around Chinatown. It was such a sad site. All the buildings, windows and awnings were covered in ash and dust. Chinatown had been on a slow decline, business wise. The 9/11 attacks made things worse. Chinatown (along with lower Manhattan) still haven’t fully recovered to this day.

For a while, the country came together. Folks from out of town organized tours to New York City, hoping to boost the local morale and businesses. Workers came from around the country to help with the clean up and rebuilding efforts. The feel-good factor was short lived. It was back to political posturing and placing blame on immigrants and Muslim folks, which still persists to this day.

My most unforgettable moment from all this? I was walking around town with my ex-boyfriend at the time. A guy came up and started talking to us. He was very apologetic. He said, “I am so sorry to bother the both of you,  but I had just lost my brother at the World Trade Center. I am very lost and I just need someone to talk to.” He then looked at my ex-boyfriend and said, “Forgive me for doing this…” He reached for my face with his hand and began stroke it. I never forget the tears in his eyes.

He said, “Please forgive me. Life is like a rose. It’s only beautiful for a short time before it dies.”


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