Thursday, September 11, 2008

I Remember

On the morning of September 11, 2001 I woke up late. I had just started law school and I was up late studying so I decided to sleep in a little. I was just waking up and half asleep when I was listening to NPR on my alarm clock talking about the planes. Then my father called me and told me to turn the TV on. I watched in horror. My mother was out on her morning walk. I watched the TV alone for about 5 or 10 minutes before she got home. I was in shock. I had just started dating my husband and he worked at Liberty Plaza directly across the street from the Trade Center. About two weeks before 9/11 we had told each other "I love you" for the first time.

When I heard my mother come back I ran downstairs and for a moment I forgot about it. I think I was just hallucinating or in denial or in shock or whatever. The first thing I said was "Why didn't you wake me to walk with you?" Then I followed it by "a plane just hit the World Trade Center." She looked at me like I made no sense. She replied, "I didn't want to wake you. What do you mean 'a plane?'" We ran into the den and turned the television on. We watched until the first tower fell. She left the room because she couldn't take it anymore and I just sat there crying and panicking. Then I watched the second tower fall by myself. My school was closed for two weeks after the attacks. To go into Tribeca we had to show our school ID. The smell permeated the air for months after it happened and the books in the library smelled like it when you opened them even two years later when I graduated. Most of my classmates from the day division were there and saw it all. Some of my classmates from the evening division were firefighters and police officers.

On that morning I tried to call my boyfriend for over two hours but I couldn't get through. Eventually I learned that he had reached his father by phone and he was about to walk across the Brooklyn Bridge to go back home. He was ten minutes late to work that day and it made all the difference. His colleagues watched the planes from the windows of Liberty Plaza. He saw it all with his own two eyes. He sought shelter in a bar that was open that early and below street level. He drank a beer to calm down. Everyone was drinking and he said the women were crying. When the first tower fell he said the whole place shook and the power went out. The lights came back on and they watched what was happening just outside on the television. He saw the rush of debris on the street. Then the second tower fell. A while later he went outside and he said it was so eerily quiet except for the sound of sirens and car alarms. He walked across the Brooklyn Bridge with thousands of people and everyone was looking down and silent.

We both had nightmares for a long while. I felt so relieved at the same time that I felt so angry and confused, bitter, shocked, full of rage, deeply sad and frightened. And, then, I felt so much comfort knowing that I had told him I loved him for the first time before that day. I felt guilty for feeling good about something. I felt guilty that I could tell him how much I loved him and that I could say it to his face while I hugged him.

In the afternoon, before my dad was able to get through the traffic and back home to us with my sister and her boyfriend Ozzy, my mom and I went to church to, I don't know, pray, sit there, cry, wonder. We went to the supermarket and it was packed with quiet neighbors just milling around mindlessly buying things they didn't need. I ran into a woman whose children I babysat when I was in high school. She said that she was there because she had to leave the house because she couldn't sit there feeling helpless. She wondered out loud how on earth she would explain this to her girls.

Later that night my friend called me at home and said that she had seen another friend's name in a prayer book at church. I got in the car with my mother and went to go read it for myself. He worked at the World Trade Center and he died that day. I hadn't seen him in almost a year but he was the kind of person who I wouldn't see for ages and then when we were together it was like we had just seen each other the day before. He was the kind of person who people wanted to be around. He was warm and funny and kind and adventurous and he made you feel special. I am special because I knew him. Every year for mother's day, Christmas and the anniversary of September 11th I send his mother a card. I love her and I think about her all the time. I will not ever forget him. His smile and his laugh. I can still see him sitting across the table from me at a restaurant in SoHo near where he lived about a year before he was killed. He made me laugh out loud. If he was here today he would probably be doing something amazing...that's just who he was.

My Heartbreak

Today's soundtrack

Bad - U2

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