Yes, this is an anonymous relationship blog, but I must touch on this today. Today’s the 17th anniversary of 9/11. I was 17 years old the morning it took place and exactly 17 years have lapsed in a mirror image of time.
I hadn’t given New York City much though before 9/11. I’d visited at the age of 14 and distinctly remember feeling very grown up when I cross the street from the hotel I was staying at in Times Square to the hotel across the street to have breakfast with my uncle who was in the city on business. I’d been visiting with my best friend and her mother. We did the open air bus tour three times that trip. It stopped at the WTC but we didn’t feel the need to check out the view. It was a whole $25 to go up – a small fortune for a 14 year old. I blew my spending money on a Tommy Girl zip up instead.
Fast forward three years later. I was in class, it was the second week back in my final year of high school. It was a Tuesday. I don’t even know how I remember that. The class was called Writer’s Craft and we were in an unconventional segment of the syllabus that called for the teacher to take us on a babble walk. A babble walk is when you walk around the school and write down exactly what you see. We saw nothing of interest. The hour long class ended at 9:45am and I went to my spare period to do what most seniors did best. Nothing.
A bookworm-y know-it-all type classmate of mine sat down beside me at the common room table and said, “Did you hear a plane hit the twin towers”? “What?” I said? “No way. That’s impossible.” Although I knew it wasn’t impossible. The year prior in a current affairs class I took we studied the first WTC attack (1993). It didn’t go as planned. If the bomb detonated as expected, one tower would have taken the other out. Even at the age of 16 I thought that was too far-flung to actually take place. I hustled off to the computer lab (RIP) to search the interwebz for answers.
First I went to cnn.com. Down. That never happens. After refreshing about 10 times, only a single photo came up. A firey World Trade Centre with no articles to read. Had they been hacked? I gave up and went back to the common area.
A slow but well meaning girlfriend of mine asked me the same question the know-it-all did. “Did you hear about the Twin Towers?” Sort of. But I still didn’t know much. In fact, we wouldn’t know much for the rest of the day.
An emergency assembly was called by our shiny, new headmaster. He was the WORST. He handed out letters to us essentially telling our parents why we weren’t being sent home early. Something about the terrorists winning. Actually I can’t even remember if we knew it was terrorism at that point.
I went straight to the same best friend’s house after school that I went to NYC with a few years earlier. We watched hours of footage of the towers falling and caught tower 7 fall live. I went home that night and was sure the world was going to end so I stayed up until 2:30am. In my uniform. Because I’d rather be fully dressed when I die than not. Anyway my uniform was cute. Think Britney Spears’ first music video.
A question I like asking people to determine the type of person they are is, “where were you on 9/11?” My first serious boyfriend – who was from Florida – spent the day at the beach. And he was particularly proud of this. He was a moron. Another friend of mine was in her first week at Pace University in lower Manhattan. She went to class like normal that morning but no one showed up. Not even the professor. Another student ran into the room panicked and told everyone in the class to leave the building. She and her classmates went up to the roof to see one of the towers on fire and the other getting hit. She remembers how the ash fell like snow. She pulled out of school that year to start over again the following Fall in Boston. She’s one of the bravest people I know.
My first job was with a financial publication on Wall Street, yards away from Ground Zero. At least it was still called that in 2007. The IT guy from work asked me out. We went to a rooftop bar in midtown and I asked him how long he’d been working at the magazine. He said he’d started three weeks before 9/11. I pushed for more information. What was that like? The publisher was a tyrant, he said. He wouldn’t let anyone stop working as neighbouring buildings fled. Eventually the new IT guy had to drag the publisher out, bellowing the whole way down the stairs. The elevator had long since been switched off. By the time they reached the street the towers had already fallen. The roads were covered in ash. He said what he remembered most about fleeing the financial district was the women curled up in balls underneath the ash crying. He said all he could do was pick them up as he saw them and lead them across the Brooklyn Bridge.
I still don’t understand how any of this could have taken place in our lifetime.