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Day 120: Remember.

Cover art by
Art Spiegelman

Today. What can I say about today? It's not an easy subject to put into words. For starters, and at the risk of sounding trite, I can't believe that it has been 10 years. Looking back, I had just turned 20, and was hopeful for the future as I embarked on my first decade as an adult (if I only knew...)and while most years and events of my 20's are long forgotten in a haze of drama, drinks and unfulfilled dreams, I remember that day as vividly as if it happened just last year. 

By no means is my story as painful, horrific and as heart-wrenching as the families of the victims of 9/11 but all New Yorkers have their story of where they were and what they were doing, so here's mine: I was in a Tuesday morning Kundalini Yoga class in the West Village, and was focusing on the laborious breath of fire with my arms stretched out and thumbs up, when the sound of a slight ruckus going on in the lobby outside of the classroom was heard. The rumblings of activity were escalated to the point where our instructor had to go outside to inquire. Minutes later, she came back and turned on the lights to announce that the class would be ending early, and delicately informed us that there "seemed to be a situation" over at the World Trade Center and that it would be best if everyone went home.  

A situation? How mysterious. Obviously the situation was grave enough for our class to be canceled, I thought to myself with a shrug. Famous last thoughts where grave would be a heinous understatement. Never in my wildest imagination would I have imagined what lied ahead. Per her instructions, I grabbed my things and went outside where the towers were in full view on Greenwich Street to see the now infamous image that we are all familiar with; heaps of black smoke coming out of the North Tower. There was an eery stillness and silent confusion from on-lookers on the street. Nothing about this felt right and I knew it was best to leave Manhattan immediately. I jumped into my nearby parked Honda Accord and avoiding downtown, hauled up to the midtown tunnel en route to my mom's house out on Long Island.

I arrived to an empty home in under 40 minutes and turned on the television to learn the horrific details of what was really going on in the city. My mother, a flight attendant for one of the carriers involved in the attack, was supposed to go on a domestic flight out of New York. Clearly this instilled nothing but panic, but because phone lines were tied up, I couldn't call anyone. My brother and my mom's cell going straight to voice mail, and there was no one around to promise that everything was going to fine. I had no idea where my mom was. Where was everybody?

Two hours after watching the most horrible thing one can witness live on television played over and over by the news, a wave of relief took over when I saw my mom charging up the driveway in uniform, her roller-board in tow, cigarette in the other hand and the first words coming out of her mouth being "Holy shit!". She never made it out that day and was in La Guardia on the tarmac when the second tower hit. 

For the next week and a half, our home became a boarding house for flight attendants who were based in other cities and couldn't get out of New York. We had big Italian dinners, watched the star-studded telethon and like the rest of the nation, were glued to CNN for updates. It was a time of togetherness and feeling compassion for those who were truly suffering. 

I understand how fortunate I am to still have my mother who could have easily been on one of those flights (flight crew schedules are constantly changing through trip trades where it's a game of flight attendant chess and based on seniority, trips are moved around at random.) and that I didn't know any of the victims. Saying that, it doesn't mean that my heart doesn't ache for those who lost their husbands, wives, sons, daughters, parents and friends. 10 years later still the mention of 9/11 and thinking of what was lost and all those who sacrificed wells my eyes up with tears as they are now while I write this. 

No matter what city that I have lived, whether it's Seattle, Los Angeles or Paris, I have been proud to say that I'll always be a New Yorker. New York, you're in my heart and thoughts today. 

3 comments:

  1. I may never have been to NYC, but still... a day I'll never forget. And as an Ohioan, I will never forget the fear we felt when Flight 93 went off the radar as it headed in our direction. I live basically right in the middle of two nuclear power plants, and everyone feared the worst.

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  2. Wow Shannon, I can't even imagine how terrified you all were. Once nuclear power plants are nearby, that takes it to a whole different level. God bless that it didn't come to that. I hope all was ok with you, your family and friends on this terrifying day.

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  3. I remember having no idea where my mother was either; she worked across the street and we had no cell phones at the time. Being home, alone, for hours with no communication except my aunt calling to tell me, "Don't worry - we'll take care of you." still sends chills through my whole body. I can't imagine having lost the one parent I have left. Where would I be today? The whole day makes my heart ache for those who lost everything and also makes me appreciate how blessed I am to have what I do have...my heart will be heavy today, as I'm sure yours will too. But I will also be reminded of how this city came together in a way I never imagined possible.

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