I wore my gray pinstriped dress with matching overcoat. Â And black moccasins for some reason. Â I never wore that outfit again and packed it up for giveaway shortly thereafter. Â It wasn’t until I read Meg Cabot’s blog yesterday that I realized this.
I had a 9 a.m. meeting with IT and was a few minutes early (or perhaps everyone was late). Â Fred Smith (not his real name) comes in and asks me if I’ve heard that a plane hit one of the towers. But he says it in what I take is a joking way. I realize now he was probably thinking what everyone was: nah, it can’t be. Â I was playing with a pen that had a little race car video game at the top. It was fire engine red. Â I walk out of that meeting room knowing others won’t be joining us. Â Headed towards my desk to call mami. Â On the way there, I hear more rumors. Â Someone stops and asks me about my brother, if I’ve been in touch. Â I say no. I don’t feel nervous. Â My brother wouldnt’ be by where the towers were. His precinct is in the upper west side.
I call mami. She has the news on. Â Back then (I don’t know if you can remember this time) there wasn’t a lot of news streaming on the internet. Â And what could stream wasn’t coming up because everyone was doing the same thing I was. Someone was trying to locate a television.
The rest of the day is a blur of sorts. Â A small television in Sandy’s cube. The towers falling. Â The shock. Â A few of our colleagues were on a plane out of NYC that day. Â Were they in one of them? Â One of our co-workers from the New York office was on her way down for a meeting. Â Her husband worked at the towers. Â Did she know? I remember her coming in to the office in a flurry and someone making space for her, trying to reach her husband. Â He hadn’t been there that day, getting in late, I believe.
One of my favorite people had relocated to our New York office. She lived in New Jersey and her train would take her beneath the towers. Â She wasn’t on a train. Â I kept trying to remember the last time I was in the towers, by them, around them. Â But I couldn’t. Â What would cause me to commit something so common to New Yorkers to memory? Â I was young when I left but that would always be my city. Â I don’t remember working that day. Â I just remember a hollow in the pit of my stomach.
My mother called me later on in the day to tell me that my brother had gone to 1 Police Plaza that day with a buddy. Â That he’d been there. Â He ran to help when the commotion started. Â But, as they were about to enter the building he got separated from his friend and he went to look for him. Â The towers fell shortly thereafter.
At night, I became best friends with Peter Jennings. Â He will forever have a special place in my heart. I fell in love with him that day. Â And when he passed away, I cried for him as I did during those first nights. Â I didn’t sleep. I would lie awake in my bed listening to Peter. Â And when Peter was taken off the air due to exhaustion, I listened to Charlie, or Diane or George. I’d never seen news anchors cry. Â Never seen them lose their composure. This was a new day. Â I watched coverage day and night. Unable to peel my eyes away.
I heard my brother and sister-in-law, both proud members of the NYPD were working the site. Â They did that for months. Â Either the site at ground zero or the site in New Jersey where all the evidence was taken. Â They survived but those memories still haunt them today. Â My brother still wakes up to nightmares of finding body parts. Â It could’ve been them. Â I know in my heart that a part of them stayed with the rubble at ground zero. Â I see it. Â They are forever changed in ways that people cannot understand. Â I hear people comment that it’s been so long, that they should be over it. Â Haven’t they talked to someone? Yes, they have. Â And no they shouldn’t be.
September 11th is something I struggle with understanding, naming, explaining. Â For someone who was there, I can’t imagine how they feel and could never even try to relate. Â I give them their space. Â Listen when they feel like talking about it. Â Because they have something to say. Â Someone to remember. Â Someone to honor.
My dad insisted we fly to New York that Christmas. Â He said it was the patriotic thing to do. Â Even though he and my sister were profiled at the airport and searched to the side of the gate. Â When we got there, we heard story after story of heroism, of compassion, of love. Â For other humans and for the city.
I stayed up to listen. Â Wishing I could take some of the pain away but knowing that as bad as I felt it didn’t compare to what those that were there felt.
Today, I write for them. Â And for all those left behind with the guilt of still being here. Â Not understanding why. Â Feeling an inexplicable obligation to carry on the memories. Â I write for the families that lost someone but also for the families who never got the person back even after they walked out of midtown. Â I wish to remember those that were lost. Â The stories are countless. Â I see faces of people whose names I will never remember. Â All of those shown in those first few weeks. Â All those lost. Â The chaplains, the firefighters, the moms, the dads, the sons and daughters.
They will be forever remembered as long as we choose not to forget. Â It is painful and it is difficult but we must do it. Â And we must remember that solidarity that we felt on September 12th. Â I pray that we get that back without having to experience something like that again.
Mami has a glass house. In it you can see glass, mortar, a menu. Â All from the towers. Â Little things that were picked up in a daze but that later felt like such treasures. Â How could I still read a menu when so many people jumped from the very floors where the restaurant was at? Â It was her silent tribute to those lost on that day. Â This morning, I almost panicked when I couldn’t find it in its usual spot. Â I think my dad moved it to a safer spot. Â I took it out and looked at it, touched it, remembered. Â When the frog princess is old enough we will talk about that day. Â I will sit her in my lap where she feels safe and I will tell her about the day when I didn’t know if safety would ever touch my life again. Â I will pull out the books that were printed in remembrance of those lost so she can put faces to the story. Â And I will point to her uncle and hope that he will be able to share his account of that day. Â So that she can pass it on and others could hold the memory of the day we felt our most vulnerable and the time we felt our most together.