Ten years later, I understand the impulse of folks like Liz who would rather not think about that terrible day, and the ones that followed. Those days when the acrid smell of smoke hung in the air, the ubiquitous “Have you seen this person” flyers flapped in the breezes, makeshift memorials sprung up in Union Square, and everyone tried to come to terms with the reality of what had happened, what we had lost. But for some reason I feel compelled to think about it, to read about it, and now, to write about it — hoping that in the process I will exorcise the demons of fear that have arisen again of late.
It’s not just the anniversary, though hearing and reading coverage certainly brings it to mind. The fact that I’m flying to NYC on the anniversary date doesn’t help, of course. And these beautiful, blue-skied, cooler, September days we’re having in the Austin area don’t help, either. But what’s been especially disturbing have been the plumes of smoke and smell that have hovered over Central Texas in recent days, as tragedy struck more than 1400 families in Bastrop. It’s been the smoke and the helpless feeling that, at any moment, another wildfire could spark disaster for me and mine, too.
On September 11, 2001, I was at my desk in my company’s offices, at Fifth Avenue and Forty-Second Street, across from the main NYC public library. One of our co-workers was working from home, and watching TV — we didn’t have a television in the office — and he instant-messaged a colleague to tell her what was happening. As he typed, she’d read his words aloud to everyone around us. It was unbelievable. How could the South tower fall? And then the North? My brother called me after the first plane hit, before we knew it was anything more than an accident, and before the phones became hopelessly clogged, so my family knew I was safe. We were journalists, so our impulse was to cover the story, somehow. At some point, a group of us left the building and went outside, looking straight down Fifth Avenue to see the towers burning. (I wrote a bit more about my memories five years ago.) Someone took a picture, and posted it to the InternetNews front page. It’s a tame 9/11 story, when compared to some, yet I’m still incredibly sad these ten years later — I have a right to be sad.
As much as I’m dreading flying to New York on Sunday, it somehow feels right to to be there. (I wish I was flying on another day, but, what are ya gonna do?) But, as much as I love, and will always love, New York, I have to admit I will be glad to leave. Of course, you can’t be guaranteed of safety anywhere, but, in times like these, one wants to be close to family. Oh, how I love my family. And that, after all, is what 9/11, and its anniversary remind us of — the importance of cherishing the time we have with the ones that we love.
All of these photos were taken by a family friend, Ann Limerick. She came to New York with my Aunt Eva to visit me at Thanksgiving in 1998. My mother had been scheduled to come, but she died that October. Ann has since passed away, as well.