I wrote this on the nine-year anniversary of the September 11th attacks. The memories are still the same, they are still as vivid as they were when I lived it. I always think of these anniversaries in disbelief that so much time has passed between now and then. The minutes tick by, time the ever humbling beast dragging us forward whether we want it to or not. 15 years…one can only sigh.
Every year on this day, I stop not only to remember those who died, but to think about how far I have come from that fateful day in September. It is still vivid in my mind: a college junior living in New York, already hopelessly in love with Mike, settling into a new apartment with one of my best friends, getting into the swing of a new semester, a new school year. It wasn’t cold yet, and we were holding on to those final traces of summer with both hands, though I secretly couldn’t wait for the colorful brilliance of fall.
That day plays out in my head like a highlight reel of quick, striking flashes: feeling sick just before my eight o’clock class. Knowing I was going to be late as I ran into the bathroom of the McDonalds to throw up. I’d find out later it was at about that time that the first plane hit. Seeing my coach’s face as he told me to go home, “something happened to the Towers.” Waking up Carolina, a Queens girl through and through, to tell her the news. Seeing her face crumble. Sitting in front of the TV holding hands, watching helplessly, knowing there was nothing we could do to stop the madness. Finally reaching my mom on the phone. Assuring her that I was alright, I was far from downtown. Telling her, “Mami, they just hit the other tower,” and hearing her soft sobs of fear and relief. Realizing that so many loved ones would not hear a voice on the other line.
I don’t think we got up off that couch the whole day. Not until later, when the highlight reel speeds up and I’m on the roof of Mike’s apartment building with our friend Aaron trying to see the smoke. Trying to see anything. We went together to give blood, waiting in a line with dozens more. Finding out midway through that they’d need less blood than anticipated. We gave anyway because we had to do something. Anything.
The rest is silence.
I couldn’t bring myself to go to “Ground Zero” for a while after that. Not until Mike got a job in the building right next door almost a year later. My heart breaks too easily. The closest I got for some time was on a bus coming back to school from an out-of-state tournament. Driving through the Jersey Turnpike, I could see two bright beams, shining up to the night sky. Two bright beams right where the towers used to be. I followed those beams as we moved closer to the city. They were beacons calling us home. I watched and wondered naively how so much evil could exist in the same space as so much good.
I think back on these days and still wonder the same thing. I’m a woman now, hundreds of miles away, thousands of hours older, filled with fresher memories, but I’m every bit that girl sitting in the back corner of that van. I’m still there listening to music, watching hope rise from the ashes and wishing, above all else, that I do whatever is in my power to make every day count.
Here is to remembering those lost that day. Today. Tomorrow. Always.