The Kennedy assassination. John Lennon’s murder. The Challenger Explosion. These are all historic events that were so big in their time, that they’ve transcended and are just as remembered now as they were then. These are days on which people remember where they were and what they were doing when they heard the news.
The attacks on September 11th can be added to that list.
On they 10 year anniversary, I thought it would be appropriate to share my memory. It’s not earth shattering or jaw dropping. It’s probably comparable to what many others experienced. But every story belongs to its owner so here is mine.
I woke up and headed to my apartment complex gym to work out. It was later than usual because I had the day off from work and let myself sleep in. There was one other person in there. I walked on the treadmill first and then decided to do the stationary bike, which happened to be parked right in front of the TV. I had it set to the morning news and when that was over The Today Show came on. I was reading a magazine as I pedaled and only half paying attention to the news. I would glance up occasionally and then back down to my fashion mag.
I looked back up and saw footage of the World Trade Center with a gaping flaming hole in one of the towers. At first I thought they were showing clips from a movie until I turned the volume up and realized it was real. I can not describe to you how mind boggling that was to me. I had lived in NYC for a year back in 1998 and knew those buildings well. The thought that a plane had crashed in to one of them was just crazy. I stared and stared.
Then the second plane hit and I saw it happen. The Today Show happen to have the live footage up of the North Tower when the 2nd plane hit the South Tower. I gasped along with Matt Lauer, and the rest of the country, as we all realized what was happening. That our world was about to change forever.
I didn’t dare pull myself away from the television for even the 2 minutes it would take to run back to my apartment. I didn’t want to miss a moment of it. I literally sat and pedaled on that bike for 2 hours. The other person in the gym left at some point but I didn’t notice. Finally, after learning of the Pentagon crash and the one in Pennsylvania, I managed to slip away and head back to my apartment. I immediately turned on the TV. I had messages waiting from my boyfriend who wanted to know if I’d heard. I called and begged him to come over right away. His bosses had told him not to come in to work so he rushed over to my place. While I waited for him I called my parents. They hadn’t heard yet. When I told my dad he didn’t understand at first. I think he thought I was making it up or something.
When my boyfriend arrived we just clung to each other on the couch and watched the coverage. We were scared. We were confused. We were saddened. But mostly we were in shock. The idea that someone, some group, could and would do this to the United States was unthinkable. What would come next?
Around lunchtime I got a call from my friend at work asking me a question about something there. She needed me to come in and I said I would. When I got there we sat in my office and just talked about the day’s events. Suddenly that work project didn’t seem so important.
I left there and went back home. The rest of the day is a blur. At one point I remember getting out my photo albums and looking through the pictures of me in New York. I couldn’t believe so many were dead. I couldn’t believe the Towers were gone. I thought of all the times I had spent downtown. The summer I lived there I went to a free concert at the WTC plaza every Friday night. I kicked myself for never having gone up to the top of them. It cost $8 to go up the Empire State Building and $12 to go up the WTC. That extra $4 just seemed like too much for a struggling college kid so I picked the Empire State Building. $4 seems like nothing now.
I’m saddened that my daughter will never know “that New York”. It’s a different city now. But someday I’ll take her to the memorial site and explain what happened. Those that died should never be forgotten. Those that gave their lives to save others will always be symbols of what this country stands for. I want my children to know that.