As I was running up 6th Avenue, I looked back and saw the destruction behind me, almost as if I was watching a television screen. There were tons of people, all confused, unsure of what to do and where to go. Only a few minutes before I found myself on the street, a vision of a plane slamming into the Twin Towers was burned into my mind forever. Unsure of what was happening, our office decided it would be best for everyone to evacuate our midtown building and I headed uptown to escape the chaos, along with the rest of NYC. The realness of the situation became apparent as acquaintances, an old friend of mine from high school (R.I.P. Peter C. Alderman*) and a friend from camp, became part of the missing, or held up signs on television hoping their loved ones would walk in the door any minute. It was a very puzzling, sad and emotional day for everyone. It was very hard to process how something so terrible could happen to good people who had simply started their day and went to work, and had been in the wrong place at the wrong time.
The people of NYC have so much pride and I know I feel so lucky to have lived there and experienced the amazing life of food, fun, culture, diversity and so much more the city had to offer me. The night of the terrible incident, at 7PM, every resident of the Upper East Side came out of their apartments, holding a candle and without anyone saying a word, we all knew that we became part of a special club that day. Later that night, people were on the streets talking and discussing what they had seen earlier in the day, and it was not uncommon to see two people, sometimes strangers, hugging and sharing tears. We were craving each other’s company, not wanting to be alone with our sorrows. The streets that were once filled with yellow cabs and crazy NYC drivers were empty, until a parade of fire trucks, whose men had spent the day at ground zero, were heading uptown. As they drove along 3rd Avenue, the world stopped for a moment, and everyone started clapping for them. It was an indescribable moment that I will never forget. Over the next few weeks and months, life returned to somewhat “normal”, but there were always reminders. I would be at the grocery store or buying a morning bagel and there would be a request for a moment of silence, and without hesitation, all heads in the store would be bowed. Like many, I was seeking laughter and happiness, which seemed to have exited NYC. A few weeks later on 9/30/01, I married my husband, and provided our guests with a much needed mental break. Our wedding was a symbol of new beginnings, however we were often reminded that only a few weeks before, the world had changed forever. On our honeymoon, we were greeted with an empty plane and barely filled resort, realizing that “normal” wasn’t something that would occur anywhere for a while.
September 11, 2001 was a day of destruction that changed lives forever. It was also a day of new beginnings that changed lives forever. I cherished my time as a NYC resident and am glad that I was there on 9/11 to share the mind-boggling experience with my neighbors, friends, and strangers. People needed our support and as New Yorkers, we were willing to do anything, to give it to anyone that needed it! On this day, I offer my love, my prayers, and my thoughts to the families affected by the terrible and heartless tragedy.
For me, the date of 9/11 is not just a day of sorrow but also day of joy. On September 11, 2006, another life changing event occurred and my son, Harrison Miles, was born into the world. People often give a weird look and a sigh when I tell them his birthday, but to me, 9/11 is a great day to be born, filled with hope, love, new beginnings and pride; all qualities that I want my son to possess. One day he will learn the significance of his birthday and realize how lucky he is. It’s not a connotation of death but of life, re-birth and optimism. Happy Birthday to my son, the most amazing, loving, kind, and wonderful little person a mother could know.
(Added 9/11/14: This is the first year my son is old enough (eight) to understand this day is not just about him, but also signifies a day of tragedy. He says he hates that his birthday is on the same day that planes hit a building and doesn’t want people to be sad on his day. I told him it is a happy day because of him. Celebrating life and growth is what the world needs to heal from a day of death and destruction, and his birthday represents that.)
Whether you were in NYC to experience 9/11 or you watched it on television, we have all been affected in some way, shape or form. Please take a moment to remember those we lost that day and think about something good and positive in your life that you are appreciative of. Thank you for reading and sharing these memories with me. Where were you when you learned of the attacks and how have they changed your way of life?
*Here is a wonderful example of turning tragedy into something positive: http://www.petercaldermanfoundation.org/