There are days you remember everything, every little detail of a routine life changed forever by some monumental event.
For me, September 11th, fifteen years ago, is one of them. I was at Liberty State Park with my eldest daughter, not far from the Statue of Liberty. The view there is magnificent, Lady Liberty looked upon the NY skyline, with two steel giants gleaming in the morning sun.
I remember what I was wearing that day, a black and white print shirt, jeans; it was a warm, beautiful day, no jacket required. The shirt is snug for me now, perhaps a little too youthful, but I have put it away somewhere. I just couldn’t throw it away, silly, isn’t it, the things to which the heart clings. For me, that shirt is that day, I cannot discard it nor can I discard the memories etched into my brain.
I remember being surrounded with many, many Asian tourists, all carrying cameras and video equipment.
I remember looking at an event so surreal, I sometimes don’t believe I actually saw it. It took me many, many hours to even realize that I saw thousands of people die in front of my eyes.
Now, fifteen years later, I will try to describe in written words what I saw.
The hole was monstrous. I remember turning to my daughter and saying no way is that tower going to stand. The flames shooting out of it, the all encompassing black smoke that filled the sky (luckily for us, the wind direction was in our favor, or that smoke would have engulfed us as well.) Soon that smoke would obliterate all else from view. But the size and depth of that black hole and the flames that shot out of it will always stay in my mind.
I remember the tower falling…….it just dissolved down into the smoke and was gone…….thousands of lives, gone………
Then, the second tower. I remember the antenna on the top swaying. I remember telling my daughter, it is swaying, it is going to go…….and moments later, it did. Just tumbling down into smoke……lives, mothers, fathers, children………
I remember the tourists all around me snapping and snapping photos…….I wasn’t carrying a camera. I remember panic setting in when we turned on our car radio and heard the Pentagon had been hit……Then reality set in, that this was an attack.
I remember the police cars coming, the loud speakers saying everyone had to get out of here NOW ……I remember the fear of not knowing if we would be able to make it home…….
I remember the peoples’ faces lining the roads, watching the sky. I remember passing Holy Cross Cemetery on the way home……the cemetery packed with hundreds and hundreds of people in mass among the graves, just watching the horror in the sky from across the river. It was so surreal, watching crowds of the living, standing among the dead, watching the dying. Fifteen years later, that image still haunts my mind.
I remember days of zombie like trance in front of my television, unable to focus on anything else, finding it difficult to fuse together what I was watching on the screen and what I had watched with my own eyes.
Fifteen years ago……this moment………..fused together forever…..and all those who didn’t make it home that day are not forgotten.