No matter how old I get, there are some days I will never forget. The events are so etched in my memory, I can instantly be brought back to the exact feelings I experienced.
My wedding and the births of my three children are days that fill me with pure joy whenever I think of them.
Then there are the days that are just unimaginable, such as September 11, 2001. The panic and grief that overwhelmed me as I watched the towers burn and fall on that horrible Tuesday 16 years ago come rushing back each year on the anniversary.
It was a picture-perfect late summer day in New York. We had moved into our new home a few weeks before. The walls still had their new paint smell and were waiting to be adorned with pictures and decorations.
As happy as we were, 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 toddler and a new house could.
Despite all the turmoil, I woke up that beautiful September morning feeling hopeful.
Joe 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.
After living in Manhattan and Queens for 18 years, I was back in the town where I grew up, just a few blocks from my parents. My mother had stopped over to give me a hand with my two-and-a-half-year-old son, and I could hear them playing in the sun room.
As I was finishing making Tom’s brand new bed and arranging his stuffed animals, the music I was listening to on the radio stopped mid-song, and a news announcer cut into the broadcast. The newscaster said a plane had hit the World Trade Center.
As a born-and-bred New Yorker, I don’t jump to conclusions or panic easily. I figured it was a small private plane that got into trouble.
I put my office skills from my working days to use and wrote a quick note to Joe. I put it in front of him as he was talking on the phone. 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 watching Blues Clues and switched to a news channel. President Bush was on camera announcing that two commercial airlines hit the World Trade Center, apparently the work of terrorists. Our country was under attack.
Joe joined us and the three of us stood silently 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 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.
For close to half an hour, we watched in shock as the horror continued to unfold with the north tower.
Thirty minutes later the unthinkable happened again.
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 who had left for work that morning thinking it was just another day at the office, never to come home again. The first responders who rushed into a nightmare to help others, gone. Forever. All that suffering.
In an instant the world had changed forever.
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 each September 11th. My heart aches for all the lives that were lost and for all the lives who continue to suffer the lasting effects of that day.
The lesson I do my best to impart to my children about September 11th is that although we saw what 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 ran on the Dishwasher, September 11, 2016, under the title, The Day I Will Never Forget, Remembering September 11th. It has been edited.