It has been more than fifteen years since I was officially a resident of New York. I lived in South Carolina for several years, and I have lived in Texas for more than a decade. Deep in my heart, though, I am still a New York girl at heart. The tragedy that struck our nation ten years ago shocked, saddened and angered us all, but I don't think, unless you were directly affected, you can really understand the "hurt" that the people of New York really felt. I am not, nor have I ever been, a resident of New York City, so I can't even imagine how the people that lived & worked there felt. Having grown up a hundred miles from that great city, though, means New York owns a piece of my heart, and like everyone else, my heart has and will continue to heal, but it will never forget.
There are certain events in American history that are forever branded on one's memory. People talk about knowing where they were when President Kennedy was shot, or when the Challenger exploded. I was seven months pregnant with my first child when the terrorist attacks happened. My mom called and woke me up early that morning to tell me that a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center. I immediately turned on my television and watched the coverage of the horrific events on September 11, 2001. I couldn't force myself to look away. At first it was like the bottleneck at a roadside car crash. Curiosity and a sort of morbid fascination kept me glued to my tv. When information came trickling in about just how horrid it was, I felt my heart break. A plane crashing into a skyscraper is a horrible accident, but a plane being crashed into a skyscraper is an act of hatred and terrorism that I cannot understand.
The terrorist attacks inspired many different emotions in me. I was so incredibly sad that there are people and nations who hate our country enough to do something like this. The loss of lives from that day is so unbelievable. I think about the passengers on the planes, and wonder what they thought as they could do nothing but watch their aircraft slam into buildings. The heroes of flight #93 who managed to overtake the hijackers and take their plane down before it could endanger anyone else have my everlasting admiration. The rescue workers (not just the firemen and NYPD but also the "regular" people who helped out their fellow citizens) inspired a deep and heartfelt patriotism in me, and in our nation. Watching the people of a city as large and diverse as New York dig deep, come together and stand strong in the face of such a tragedy is something I will never forget, and I will never cease to be proud of.
I realize that there was the plane crash in the fields of rural Pennsylvania, and also at the Pentagon. Many, many innocent lives were lost, and my heart bled for them and their families. The falling of the twin towers in New York City, though, hit me so incredibly hard. I remember standing on the observation deck of one of the towers while on a field trip in elementary school. The elevator ride up to the 104th floor was a huge thrill for a kid. You could stand on the roof and look at the other tower and actually SEE the building sway. The view of the harbor and the Statue of Liberty and the rest of Manhattan is incomparable, and I still remember it vividly, thirty years later. As a kid, when I thought of NYC, three things came to mind: The Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty, and the World Trade Center. That one of those is gone is just wrong.
This past summer we took the ferry out to Liberty Island and I took this photo of the lower Manhattan skyline. At a glance, it's a big city, a pretty city, and maybe to most people the glaring hole of what's missing isn't so obvious. It saddens me to this day, though, to look at that and NOT see those two everlasting (or so we thought) symbols of strength and power that epitomized the heart of New York City.
While watching the coverage of that terrible day, it was crazy enough, in my mind, that actual airplanes, BIG airplanes, just disappeared into those buildings in a billow of smoke and fire. I thought about the people on the planes dying on impact, the people sitting idly at their desks in the buildings caught totally unaware and trapped or killed immediately. Never in a million years did I ever expect that both of those skyscrapers would completely collapse. How does something like that happen? They are there, and two hours later they are gone? As I watched, live on tv, each tower fall, I felt like a part of my soul disappeared with them.
I have visited New York City several times since that day, but I have yet to venture anywhere near Ground Zero. We saw, from a distance, the building that will be called One World Trade Center (personally I liked the initial name "Freedom Tower" better) in the process of being built. It will eventually be the tallest building in America, and maybe once it is finished, New York City will be, while not "fixed", a little more complete. Someday I would love to see the 9/11 memorial. I am glad that nothing was built on the actual site aside from the twin pools where the bases of the towers stood - very symbolic. New York City, and our nation, were forever scarred that day. Lives were lost, landscapes were changed, and a large part of our innocence was lost. I hope and pray that the people directly affected have been able to heal, and I hope our country continues to grow stronger.
America truly is the home of the brave and the land of the free. I'm proud to be an American.
I wrote this blog entry last night on the eve of September 11, 2011. Today, on the tenth anniversary of that sad day, something just moved me beyond belief. I was watching NBC's television coverage from the 9/11 memorial and they were about to sing the national anthem when I realized the flag they were unfolding was the torn & tattered flag that had hung over Ground Zero during the aftermath of the attacks. What a profound moment.