Saturday, September 11, 2010

Then and Now.

Today: I woke up this morning at 5:30 to hear my daughter calling, 'Mommy! Mommy!' I went into her room, changed her overly wet nighttime Pull-Up and crawled into bed with her. I worked hard at getting her back to sleep! It took time, maybe an hour, maybe more, but we both fell out, slept soundly. My husband woke me after my cell phone alarm went off.

Then: I woke up, as usual, probably later than I was supposed to. Shut my alarm clock radio and moved through the motions of the morning. Fed the cat. Yes, there was only one for me at the time. Left my apartment, walked to the subway, hopped on board.

Today: I took my shower, dried my hair, got dressed and woke up my daughter. Let's get dressed, let's get ready. We have a birthday party to go to this morning! Grabbed some Pop Tarts from the pantry and we hit the road. It was a beautiful morning, if slightly overcast. Maybe it was just early. I'm rarely outside that early these days.

Then: I rode the train (or two, actually, I think back then it was three) into Manhattan. Made my way up the stairs once I reached my destination. My ultimate subway stop was literally one block, if that, away from my office. I crossed Varrick Street, stopped in at the McDonald's and grabbed a yogurt parfait. At least I think I did. I haven't eaten McDonald's in years, so I don't remember exactly what I used to eat there.

Today: We got in the car and drove off. 'We're going to be late,' my husband said. I know. I told him. It's okay.

As I walked out of McDonald's to cross back over Varrick I stopped to let a firetruck speed by. I looked up at the sky. It was a crystal clear blue sky that morning. Perfectly blue, and not a cloud in sight. I may have said a small prayer for the firetruck as it went by, for the men and women inside it as they chased down a blaze, or so I thought.

Today: We got to the museum for the birthday party and my daughter clung to my husband and I. Shy? Her? Rarely. But today, just a little bit.

Then: I sat down at my desk, turned on my computer -- and shortly after that a colleague came in and said the few words I'll surely never forget: "A plane crashed into the World Trade Center." What? Seriously? When? What? We were there together, me sitting at my desk, trying to connect to CNN. It wasn't working. What on earth is happening? It must be a private plane. Some jerk had recently jumped out of an airplane to land on the Statue of Liberty. That. It must be just like that.

Today: It wasn't. It wasn't at all like that. And today is the day, above all others, that we remember what truly happened that day.

Today we'll all move forward, go on with our lives. Remember those we lost, or those we never knew. But for me, for me it'll be a little bit different. Not than all of you. I'm sure some of you were there. Some of you know what it smelled like to live anywhere within a certain mile radius of the city. Some of you know what it looked like after the crash, the fall, the pain.

For me, I'll remember so much. I'll remember my friend coming into the office in a frenzy because the trains were delayed and she was late for a meeting. "Wait," I told her. "Wait. There is no meeting."

I'll remember the feeling of frenzy as we all stood around a radio, listening to hear what on earth had happened. What was happening? We were only a short distance away. Not close enough, but almost too close, all at once.

I'll remember IMing my husband, before we lost connection, to ask him what he knew. He had been on the phone with his friend in DC, before he watched the second plane fly past his office. I remember the quick text from him saying, *I have to go. They're evacuating our building.*

I'll remember watching the second tower fall, from the corner office of our company's CEO. Watching and looking around the room at my co-workers. Not realizing at the time that one of them was watching the building cave in around his own son.

I can remember walking past my ex-boyfriend's office, and making brief eye contact. Isn't it the oddest thing the things you remember? I somehow knew it was his twin nieces' birthday that day. They would be turning three. I kept walking as I held onto a friend who leaned on me for support, devastated after watching the tower fall.

I'll remember my phone ringing as somehow one of my closest friends at the time was able to reach me at my office. And somehow I was able to find out she was alright, being closer to the site than nearly anyone I knew. I'll remember calling her sister to tell her she was okay. Letting her know she was fine, and out of danger. And her mother. I'll never forget the sound of her sister's voice. The relief. The tears.

I'll remember talking to my own mom. Telling her we were okay, but that I had no idea what was happening, or how long I'd be in my own office. If my husband's office - so much farther North - was being evacuated, would we be far behind? We were not. And I'll remember walking out of our building, so many of us, together. I'll remember the voice of my best friend's wife, screaming his name. She had walked so far. I can still picture them connecting, in the midst of chaos. We said our goodbyes, as I walked uptown.

I'll remember the faces of the people on the streets of Manhattan, walking together, hovering around television sets. My friend and I walked through the streets together up until we hit Grand Central Station, when she found out there was a chance she could get home. We split up, quietly. Carefully. I can still remember the shoes I was wearing that day. My feet ached. My heart churned. The tears flowed freely.

I will never forget the relief I felt when I realized that the subways were running again. Having just walked from Houston Street, to about 53rd, and from the West Side to the East, I wasn't sure I'd make it across the bridge if I had to. I felt the familiar rumble beneath my feet, and wept with joy. I'd make it home, after all.

And when I did, when I walked into my apartment and saw my husband (though we weren't married yet) I cried. I cried and cried and cried. I lay down on our bed, looked out the bedroom window at a skyline that was no more. I watched the smoke, I could smell it, even in the outer-borough of Queens, and I knew the world had changed. Permanently.

The next day there was no work. My office would be closed for at least a week, maybe two. Give or take. Anything below 14th Street was closed for a while. I mean, totally shut down. 100%. My husband and I walked around Astoria, headed to McDonald's (amazing to me how that place fits into my memories of this major event, and yet I don't eat there anymore. EVER!) and ended up having a fight of sorts with their manager because they still had their flag at full staff. Is that even the way to describe it? Either way, it wasn't at half-mast. They said that their corporate office hadn't ruled it. My husband said, it doesn't matter. The White House has their flag at half-mast. Your flag needs to be adjusted. NOW. We left there unsuccessful, but they did eventually make the change.

The things you remember. The aching and the hurt. The tears and the shock. The fear and the terror. One year later I spent the morning mourning. I sat home, decided I'd go into work late, and watched the memorial service with tears streaming my face. Nine years later the memories are just as clear, but there is no hiding out. My child, my beautiful 3-1/2 year old daughter has no idea what the world went through that day. So I woke up this morning and I was Mommy. The same way I will forever be, the same way I've been the last 3 years.

I do also remember a special experience at a pottery place, though. Our Name is Mud. I honestly don't remember exactly when I did my piece, but I definitely remember doing it. I think I waited until the one year anniversary, when I was walking home from work, walking to the subway station, and passed the tiles hanging. A memorial. If you've never seen it, my goodness, you truly must:
Tiles for America - NYC. I'll have to see if my tile is visible in any one of these pictures, but in the meantime, just check out the top of this post. That's my small piece of me to help get through the memories of these moments that changed our world forever.

The day the world stopped turning. Where were you?


  1. WOW- quite the memories for you! AND both you and hubby working right down in the thick of things.

    Today we all remember how the world changed.

  2. Amazing story. I was in Chapel Hill in the journalism school -- TVs everywhere and many of my friends former NY reporters. The first student who came into class to tell us... I thought it was some kind of joke. Four days later, I got married. It's a strange thing to have my wedding anniversary so connected to this anniversary -- but in a way, it seems just the right sort of reminder of how blessed we are.

  3. Oh My God, I can't believe how close we were, both in the city walking and both in Queens in the weeks that followed. I am so grateful you and your hubby were about to talk right after the event. Those moments were so scary. I cant believe you saw the tower fall so near by. The images on TV just make me cry. I only made it through 10 minutes of the service this morning. I just couldn't. The first girl who read her father's name made my heart hurt.

    For two weeks after 9/11 I was glued to the TV. I watched it all unfold.

    The first year anniversary I watched it all. I cried for hours and every single name that was read.

    A part of me died that day but a part of me knows how lucky I truly am. It's a hard feeling to process.

    xoxo Thank you for sharing your story.


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