15 Years…

I remembered coming into WTC station in the mornings and coming out of the towers. Looking up, you could almost swear those towers were swaying in the wind. It made you dizzy to look up to the top but fascinating to see the majestic twins from 110 floors below.

The Sphere Before 9/11 Click to Enlarge

The huge brass sphere would bounce the morning and afternoon sunlight and reflect off the pool that surround it like some weird aura of light.

When I first moved to New York City, I was in awe of everything about the city. In fact, I remembered getting my directions mixed up coming out of subways but knew if I always looked for the World Trade Centers, I could acclimate myself, knowing they were always South. I took it all for granted. I never thought in a million years anything could destroy those two rather dull looking grey towers or any of the surrounding buildings.

And here we are… It’s hard to believe it was fifteen years ago this morning – a hot sunny Tuesday morning – people still commuting. As some of you read this, in real time that day, the towers were about to make their descent, becoming an instant grave for 2,606 people.

Though I was a couple hundred miles away, I can’t help remembering the phone ringing early in the morning. My dad told me to turn on the news and stay calm.  By this point, the first plane had already hit the World Trade Centers.

united-airline-flight-175-crashes-south-towerWatching in horror, I remembered 1993 when I was living in the New York City area. A bomb had blown up in the garage of the World Trade Centers. So to see the second plane hit and then minutes later both towers collapsing to the ground left me stunned for more than just a day. The panic to get in touch with friends that still lived and worked on Wall Street began as cellphones and landlines didn’t even ring on the New York City end. It was dialing out into the void, hoping a call would connect with someone on the other end.

It wasn’t until much later that night that I even got in touch with people in I knew in the North Jersey area. It was a horrific fifteen hour period – not knowing whether or not my friends and colleagues were alright or if they were even still alive. I lost two friends that day. They worked in the building across the street. And while I hadn’t talked to them in a good two years, I was saddened that they were no longer a phone call away anymore.

I don’t know too many people from that area whom didn’t have that same experience or worse as a result from 9/11.

New York, NY, September 21, 2001 -- Rescue crews work to clear debris from the site of the World Trade Center. Photo by Michael Rieger/ FEMA News Poto
New York, NY, September 21, 2001 — Rescue crews work to clear debris from the site of the World Trade Center. Photo by Michael Rieger/ FEMA News Photo

It’s still hard to believe they’re gone, even when I went up there in 2002 for business, the smell of smoke still permeated the air. It was an odd smell, describable. There was something very different about it or perhaps it was mind knowing that so many people lost their lives – their ashes scattered to the winds around New York. Either way, it was a smell that was ever present when I stayed their for business two years later.

It’s not there now. The city – like the world, renews itself but the memory doesn’t fade.

I still expect to see those two plain rectangular buildings when I come around the Exit 14 to get off at the Holland Tunnel – and it’s always shocking to see there not there. They were a part of New York City for a long time. Even though they weren’t there as long as the Chrysler or the Empire State or even the Flatiron, they were so much a part of the city’s landscape, their iconic structures are ingrained in most people’s minds. It’s sad to see now – even with that new Freedom Tower, it’s just not the same.

New York City will never truly be the same, no matter how resilient the city or its people are — 9/11 is like an indelible moment neither distance nor time can erase the memory. I don’t know one adult alive who can’t tell me where as they watched the towers get hit and then fall into ruins. It’s a moment in a lifetime, nothing can fade – an imprint in our country’s history like Pearl Harbor – or so it would seem…

The Infamous Cross made from the steel beams after the collapse.
The Infamous Cross made from the steel beams after the collapse.

A year after the tragedy, the city put two lone lights coming up from the ground, showing the footprint of where they were – I remembered it being the saddest thing to see those two lone lights shining heavenward and knowing what used to be in their place.

Nothing can replace that day in my memory. Perhaps because it was so personal to me – as I didn’t just see the area from a bird’s eye view or as a tourist. I was once a part of those people working there. However, for the life of me, I can’t imagine anyone watching that day could ever remember the reactions of anchors and news people as they watched in horror. To this day, I still can’t bring myself to sit through the footage too long because that day, no channel on cable, ran anything but the footage all day long.

Which brings me to this…

Have we gone back to the pre-9/11 mentality so much that we would advocate so many unvetted refugees come into the country against all the warnings and advice of every intelligence agency here and abroad – saying the same like-minded people who perpetrated 9/11 are infiltrating this group?

Have we really forgotten all that we lost that day? All that everyone lost that day?

It wasn’t just buildings – heck, we lose them all the time to natural disasters and pathways to newer structures – but the people – yes, the 2,606 people we lost that day are irreplaceable. Yet, how can we ever memorialize them – the men and women who just went to work, going about their regular scheduled Tuesday morning – never to come home to their families and friends again, when we just let people who want to do the same to us into the country they wish to destroy?

How PC was 9/11/2001? Was it worth the cost we paid – or the people’s lives who were lost – blameless victims of a hatred they didn’t know existed?



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