Thirteen years ago, on that crazy Tuesday afternoon in September–after my dad had told me about the terrorist attacks and I’d seen the planes and smoke and crying on tv and we got ready to head to my after school piano lesson–I vowed that I would never, ever go to New York again. Ever.
I also vowed I’d never leave my room, or the house, because nowhere was safe.
Obviously, my nine year old, frightened and confused self didn’t realize that would be impossible. What my nine year old self did realize, at that moment, was that even in my bed, when I was asleep at night, someone could harm my family and me. And there was nothing I could do about it.
There are a lot of things my then-self wouldn’t be able to realize or fathom, like the fact that thirteen lucky years later, I would not only be living here but I would actually be working one block–thirty seconds away, in plain view–from the World Trade Center.
Getting off the subway today at Fulton street, I couldn’t help but feel haunted. Every now and then when I roam the financial district, I wonder if the seat I’m sitting in or the store I’m going in was obliterated thirteen years ago, or smothered in rubble beyond recognition. I wondered if the older people waiting with me at the cross light were working their same jobs in 2001, and if they were haunted by the utter chaos. I actually started imagining it all in my head, how it must have been. People running and screaming and crying. It was a lot to handle.
I got to work and my thoughts temporarily subsided.
But then, when I was looking up articles to tweet for my job, I looked at the comments for one about college students remembering 9/11. I was struck by the fact that the article was claiming most students in college don’t remember it at all.
I was about to protest, but then I realized I’m not a college student anymore.
I do remember.
There’s a big difference between the age of 4 or 5, which was the age of many current freshman college students at the time of the terrorist attacks, and nine. And frankly, I don’t know if I’m really glad I do remember it all.
I scrolled down through the article and haphazardly read a comment, then read it once more to make sure I had read it right: “Another article about September 11…” it said in a mundane voice. It was a voice that was not unlike the ones I’ve read by people who comment on my dad’s Hartford Courant articles about race.
They say my dad talks too much about it. That we as a country complain too much about it. This person, I assume, felt the same way about 9/11.
It worried me, and made me wonder. When are we supposed to stop talking about it? I feel scarred in some sense from that event and I wasn’t even physically in the area. I was nine and played piano and did karate and went to the fourth grade everyday. I had fun for a living.
What about those people who had to witness people jumping from the Twin Towers? What about the families of lost loved ones? What about the fact that terrorism seems even more prominent now than it did then?
The low feeling continued through work, hanging over me like the remnant of a bad dream. And then I got a Skype message from a coworker (we use Skype to quickly communicate without having to walk back and forth):
Hi guys. I brought in black and white cookies today, just as a little “hug” for you. Nothing says New York like a black and white cookie, right? Enjoy:)
I wanted desperately to run to her office and ask her if she was working here in the area when it happened. What it was like. Yesterday she’d been the one to come around to everyone at the office and verify our emergency contact info was accurate–“just in case of emergencies, like 9/11.” She’d been very persistent about it.
But I didn’t. I thanked her profusely, and went to grab one.
It’s gonna sound corny, but her Skype message filled me with so much warmth and reassurance. And let me tell you, that little bite of New York tasted amazing.