Some days I’ll never forget. The events are so etched in my memory I can at once be brought back to the exact feelings I experienced. My wedding day and the births of my three children are days that fill me with joy whenever I think of them.
Then there are the days that are just unthinkable, such as September 11, 2001. The panic and grief overwhelmed me as I watched the towers burn and fall on that horrible Tuesday 15 years ago.
That day started with so much promise. It was a gorgeous late summer day in New York. We had been in our new home just a few weeks, and everything still had a new scent to it. The paint was fresh and the walls were clean and waiting to be adorned with pictures and decorations.
It was also an extremely stressful period in our life. Five days after we closed on our house, my husband was laid off. I was five months pregnant with our second child, and the pregnancy was getting complicated. I had just switched from my regular ob-gyn to a high-risk pregnancy practice. I was going to need to be very careful and get as much rest as a mom with a two-year-old and a new house could.
Despite all the turmoil, I woke up that beautiful September morning feeling happy.
My husband is a financial writer, and he was busy with freelance assignments. I could hear him in his office interviewing a source for a story as I was in my son’s bedroom tidying up. I loved having him around. Because I was going to need extra help, I was starting to think that maybe it was working out for the best that he was working from home.
I was also enjoying living six blocks from my parents. I had lived in Manhattan and Queens for 18 years. It had been a long time since I was able to see my parents on a regular basis. I could hear my mom and then-two-year-old Tom playing in the sun room and listening to Blues Clues.
As I was finishing making Tom’s brand new big boy bed and arranging his stuffed animals, the music I was listening to on the radio stopped mid-song and the news cut into the broadcast. The announcer said a plane had hit the World Trade Center. My mind immediately downplayed it. I’m a born-and-raised New Yorker and don’t jump to conclusions or panic easily. I figured it was a small private plane that got into some odd trouble.
Not forgetting my assistant skills from my working days, I wrote a quick note to Joe and put it in front of him as he was talking on the phone: Two planes hit the World Trade Center.
He looked at me and said something to the person he was interviewing.
I ran into the sun room where my mother and Tom were playing. I switched the TV to a news channel. All of a sudden, there was President Bush telling the world that two commercial airlines had hit the World Trade Center, apparently the work of terrorists. Our country was under attack.
The three of us were glued to the TV.
Then the phone started to ring.
People called to see where Joe was. People called to see if we heard from my sisters and brother in-law, all who worked in various offices around midtown Manhattan.
We started going through a list of the people we knew and where they worked. Are they safe? More phone calls.
After what seemed like an eternity transfixed to the horror on the screen, the unthinkable happened–the World Trade Center’s south tower collapsed into a massive cloud of smoke.
None of us could absorb the shock. For close to half an hour, we watched the horror continue to unfold with the north tower. Then the unthinkable became all too real for the second time in 30 minutes.
Watching the towers fall as if they were made of Legos is something I will never forget. The thought of all the people in the building, gone forever. All that death. All those firemen, police officers, and paramedics just doing their jobs. All of them rushing into a nightmare to help others.
The world had changed.
We were extremely lucky that the horrors of that day did not take any members of our immediate families or close friends. But it was impossible to go to church, the stores, or the playground and not hear heartbreaking stories of loss and suffering. Our community, state, and country were in mourning.
Four months later our daughter was born on January 11. Five weeks after we brought her home from the hospital, my husband started a new job. All our elected officials encouraged us to move on yet remember. And life did go on.
Yet that day and the days that followed are etched in my consciousness. I still think about everyone who was lost as I watch the memorials on TV that are held every September 11th. My heart aches for all the lives that were lost that day as well as all of those who continue to suffer.
The one lesson I do my best to impart to my children about September 11th is that although we saw what real evil could cause on that horrible day, we also witnessed many more examples of what real love and sacrifice looked like. In the end, good triumphed over evil.
This piece is a re-working of an essay that ran on the Dishwasher, September 11, 2011 under the title, Remembering.