Eleven years ago it was September 11th. The September 11th permanently etched in our minds.
In New York it was a gorgeous morning, spectacular azure skies and early Fall temperatures. It seemed a beautiful day was ahead.
Eleven years ago the world as we know it changed. Changed forever. Changed in horrible ways. Thousands of lives lost. Hundreds of First Responders ill or since dead from breathing in the dust. Countless others wounded in NY, Washington and Pennsyvania.
Here in New York City and throughout the metropolitan area the chilling effect of September 11th stays with us. The aftermath, the days and months immediately following the day's events, were unforgettable.
A business associate of mine overslept, and didn't make an 8 AM meeting in one of the Twin Towers. He was on a Path train to the rescheduled later meeting when the first tower attack took place. A close friend working there had decided to take a sick day, and never got to call in due to the attacks. Both of them have varying degrees of survivor guilt. Two other friends, by luck of the moment, managed not to have to be at work at either of the towers that day.
What stays with me is the streets filled with people holding pictures, searching for their missing loved ones. I recall driving past the active morgue truck by NYU Medical Center, where people were lined up outside of it, seeking either closure or hoping to not learn that DNA or identifiable body parts had confirmed identity of their loved ones.
Calls came from all over the world inquiring if we were alright. I had internet access and was able to blog, to be in contact, and was acutely aware that this was not the case throughout much of the city. In those years I lived just outside of the city, and my immediate area was unscathed. But some neighbors, including a man who lived across the street from the Elementary School my children had attended, were killed in the attacks.
Public transportation --in NYC and the metro area a lifeline, an aspect of daily life to millions each day-- was barely operational in the aftermath. Landline phones were out and cell service was minimal. NY had become a war zone.
The fires at the crumbled towers raged for weeks. The dust, the damage and inaccessability struck a prolonged blow to the city, and by virtue of the interdependencies of the metro, all across the area.
In this, the most connected and hustle-bustle city in the country, where millions of people rub shoulders, share the streets, the buses, the subways, the commuter rail lines, and where car and truck traffic in Manhattan is always in high gear, almost all came to a halt. The city was not the city we always knew. City media immediately and instinctively went into 24 hour coverage mode. Nothing was the same. Nothing was as it used to be.
It was as if everything came to a halt, or a near halt. Life as we knew it changed.
Eleven years hence the city mostly flows well again. But when the anniversary approaches the memory and the feelings come on, and come on strong.
New Yorkers come in all shapes, sizes, colors, national origins. religions and every sort of polyglot element of the melting pot one can imagine. Languages and customs of every sort are here each day, accepted and welcomed as part of what makes New York such a wonderful place. Nobody stands out as different, because different is not so easy to spot. All manner of dress can be found here, all types of beings and cultures. New York is no place for the xenophobic.
Much of the rest of the country came to embrace this about New York in the wake of the attacks. The economic core of the country was brought to its knees as a result of the attacks. Damage New York, and the entire country suffers. New York as a critical and essential aspect of life of every US citizen became apparent. For the most part, the country responded in support, with love, passion and caring.
Love was what struck me the most after the attacks. The people I love were all okay, unhurt. Some were shook more than others depending on where they were and what they were doing. One of my coworkers watched from an elevated subway train as the second tower was hit. She'll never forget that.
The city, and the country, came together in support and with love.
Love is what I recall, being expressed openly. The sense of loss or potential loss of loved ones was overwhelming. Hugging, caring, crying, appreciating each other and trying to help those in shock, in mourning, or in extemis of some sort became standard fare.
Eleven years later I recall the love in the aftermath. The pain remains, the reminders are keener as the day draws near and then it is September 11th again. Love and loss are permanently interwoven on this day.
We recall the losses, and are thankful for the love, which has grown in the aftermath.
Here are links to posts from September 11, 2001, some follow up afterward, and anniversary links through the years.
9/12/01 The Day After
9/15/01 A Deep Breath
9/24/01 From Terro to Horror
9/25/01 Predictions and Observations
9/30/01 The Unknown Enemy
10/17/01 Respond, Recover, Return
10/30/01 Be Frightened, Do Nothing
11/03/01 War Etiquette
12/12/01 An Eerie Big Apple
9/11/02 9 11 + 365
9/16/02 Short Takes
9/11/03 Two Years Hence
9/11/08 September 11, 2008
There are what seem to be "missing years" but in some of those cases the writing was not focused on September 11th. More often than not, as the anniversary is so close to the High Holy Days, writing about the holidays has in some years takesn more priority than writing about the attacks.