When September Ends ..
Here is another post. This one is somber. It has no swears words, but I sill don’t recommend it for kids.
Remember September 11th, 2001?
I do ..
I’m headed away from my favorite refuge in New York City.
The lake is to my left as I walk underneath a blazing sun. It should be setting soon, but summer days are always longer than I expect. I forget about things like summer solstice and the tilting of the earth as it spins on its axis. Who thinks of those things unless they’re astronomers, meteorologists or the like?
As usual, it feels as though I’m walking against a tide. People are walking further into the park during the evening, and I am walking toward the Columbus Circle exit. I’ve already had my meditative, transcendental moment. I’ve seen the ripples of the water underneath the sun, and I’ve let my being float as the visage takes over me. I’ve seen the expansion of the Universe.
I’ve seen it and I remember the 3000 plus people who died that day.
September the 11th 2001.
The day lives on in my head, and I cannot let it go even after all this time.
I was here when first plane hit. My aunt called my apartment that morning. She called and told me what she’d seen and heard. I woke up my parents at seven AM, wondering if my aunt was being fooled by some Hollywood stunt.
An airplane hit the Twin Towers in Downtown Manhattan. It had been flown into the building as though the pilot were on some Kamikaze mission to kill and to die in Pearl Harbor. It happened in one of the busiest, most famous cities in the country, and nobody could fathom the reality of the situation. I’ve spoken to other New Yorkers who were around at that time. Most were convinced that it was some sort of Hollywood stunt, as though some remake of King Kong were being made, but footage was being filmed without the CGI of some giant ape.
Three thousand people died in the twin towers. It was hard to fathom as the buildings collapsed on themselves like two houses of cards. People were being mangled, maimed and killed before my eyes. It was impossible to fathom even when names were being shown on a television screen days later. I had no idea people were capable of such things.
The effect of such a day was far reaching for people.
I haven’t been ready to talk about it, to write about it until now, and it’s been more than a decade. I can tell you all what happened to me during and after the fateful event.
I can tell you all how it changed my life permanently.
The first thing that I can write with certainty is that I was here. I had just gotten my second surgery for traumatic cataract formation. I had my real eye lenses removed and replaced with plastic ones. I was able to see clearly when the second plane hit.
I never got to see the first plane.
The second thing I can tell you all is that my mom and I had had a massive argument just days before and were not speaking with one another. I can’t tell you what the argument was about because I can’t remember. We both forgot all hostilities when the planes hit. We called a cease fire as we smoked our cigarettes together and stood glued to the television, wondering and afraid.
My father had to go retrieve my little brother from his school program in downtown Manhattan that morning. From what he tells me, people abandoned their cars and their homes to flee from the carnage. Hours later, people walked as though in a daze. They were zombies in the terrifying new world that would soon yield a War on Terror and thousands upon thousands of deaths in the Middle East.
An ex girlfriend of mine was the first of my friends from out of state to make contact with me. I was unable to call my partner at the time as she was living in Minnesota. None of the rest of my friends knew my whereabouts or what had become of me until I posted an update on Facebook.
It’s one of the only reasons I respect the website to this day.
The night after the attacks, I went to Ground Zero and volunteered my services. It was all that I could do not to scream at the massive Military Serviceman who turned me away. Sporting fatigues, a beret, and a rifle that would have scared even the most battle hardened of New Yorkers, he smiled as he told me my “services were not required.”
I’ll never forget the man.
I’ll never forget him because I met his brothers and sisters in arms as they guarded Kennedy Airport during my flight back to Minnesota.
And I’ll never be able to fly again without some sense of trepidation.
My flight back to Minnesota was one of the scariest days of my life. I learned what fear could really do to a person’s judgment. I called home to tell my parents I was terrified because there were Middle Eastern business men on my flight. What I didn’t realize until years later was that they were being closely guarded by U.S. Air Marshalls.
I don’t know who they were, and to this day I don’t much care. I landed in Minnesota in one piece. I got to spend time in my ex’s arms again. I got to live.
I lived while so many others did not.
I can’t forget that.
A flag with the names of the deceased sits in a plastic bag among my artifacts from that day. I still have a New York newspaper that chronicles the incident, and another newspaper that commemorates the one year anniversary of the attacks. I still can’t watch footage of those attacks without a sense of sheer panic.
I don’t smoke anymore.
And I know now that I have no excuse not to live life to the fullest, to hold fast to my dreams and to those whom I love.
This is just a taste of what the events of that day have done to change my entire being. Someday, I may write a more detailed account of the day’s events and their aftermath. But for now, I choose to remember what happened, the victims, their families, and what life itself means to me. Different people will have different memories of September 11th, 2001. They can do what they did in light of Kennedy’s assassination. They can ask that question that I have grown to understand more fully as an adult in this world.
“Where were you when it happened?”