I originally posted this on September 11, 2011 -- on the 10th anniversary of the World Trade Center bombings. On days like today, I am reminded that New York will always be my heart and soul.
September 11th started off like any other normal day -- with two periods of AP calculus. I don't know why I was in an AP math class, because I hated every minute and understood next to nothing. I don't think I received higher than a 70 on a single exam but managed to ace the class. I was a senior in high school and just figuring out where I wanted to apply to college. All of a sudden there was an announcement over the loudspeaker that a plane had "accidentally" crashed into the World Trade Center. We were stunned. How does a plane accidentally slam into a building? Shortly after there was another announcement, this one explained that a second plane had gone into the other tower. What? How was that possible?
I went to school in Queens, not far from the city. We all rushed to the windows, where we were able to see the smoke rising from the towers. We were given permission by our teachers to try to call our families, as many of us had parents who worked in the city. Me being one of them. My dad was working at the pier near the WTC. I tried to call both of my parents but the cell phone lines were totally jammed. For the first time, maybe ever, there was silence in the classroom. We were numb. And terrified.
It felt as though an eternity had gone by when an aide came into the classroom. She called my name and told me to come down to the office. Immediately I thought that my dad was dead and I burst into hysterical tears. The woman took me into her arms and told me that it was okay, that my mom had come to sign me out of school. I ran down to the lobby and my mom had my little brother with her. She apologized for scaring me, and said that she just wanted us all home together. We still hadn't been able to get in touch with my father.
We arrived home just in time to watch the television broadcast of the first tower falling. I will never forget it. I felt a mix of shock and awe. When the second tower fell, I knew that the world would never be the same. We sat in silence for most of that day, because there were no words that could convey what we were feeling. Sadness. Loss. Fear. Pain. By the time my mother sat us down at the table to eat lunch (which we just stared at), we still hadn't heard from my dad. Watching the coverage of the exodus across the Brooklyn bridge, I wondered if he was alive. And if he was, was he trapped somewhere? Was he scared? Was he hurt? I knew that there would be so many deaths but I was selfish, and I just wanted my daddy to walk through that door.
Later that afternoon we finally got a call from my father. He was okay. Scared but okay. He explained how people came running into the indoor tennis bubbles, tinted grey from the soot. He spent the night there, on the floor of a tennis court, with others who had sought refuge from the hysteria. He finally made it home the next morning and we hugged him until he peeled us off so he could take a shower. He wouldn't tell us much about what had happened and still to this day doesn't talk about it. But he was home. He was in one piece. That was more than many families could say about their loved ones.
I hope that those who lost someone on 9/11 have found some peace today.