My 9/12 Blog

Everyone except me did 9/11 blogs yesterday. A ten year anniversary of a day that truly changed life in NYC and the USA (hello department of Homeland Security and TSA pat-downs) gave a lot of people something to say. Jeff Jarvis, a journalism professor at the CUNY Graduate Center and media expert (twitter: @JeffJarvis), spent the day tweeting out memory after memory of all that had happened to him on 9/11 when he went to a meeting at downtown just about the time the planes hit the towers. Some people got annoyed he was tweeting a lot. But I found each tweet fascinating, and his story was more grueling than mine.

Ten years and one day ago I was puttering around, about to sit down at my computer to write something or other, when I heard neighbors yelling on the street about a plane hitting the World Trade Center and about terrorists. I turned on the television just as the second plane hit. It took the next hour for TV news to become focused on what was going on. By then the towers were about to collapse, a plane had gone down in Shanksville, PA, and another one had crashed into the Pentagon. My landline wouldn’t work: the main Verizon facilities were at the WTC and had been knocked out. My son was safe at college (though calling every few minutes to check on the safety of people we knew downtown); my husband was safe at the college where he teaches in Queens. My daughter was in high school up in the Bronx, which the FBI and NYC police closed off from Manhattan as soon as security measures began being implemented. (A recent article in the New York Times underscores how no one knew what was going on. The Airforce did not scramble until all the planes had hit, and at that point, our jets were flying without weapons. http://nyti.ms/qfKSwp.) The phone at her school was busy, busy, busy. Her Verizon cell did not work. At that point I had AT&T, so mine did. And eventually I got through to one of her friends with an AT&T phone. This was my drama: not knowing if my 15-year-old would be able to get home.

Meanwhile, I went outside into that beautiful day everyone remembers with its clear, remarkably blue sky. I offered my AT&T phone to passersby so they could make calls to loved ones. (And AT&T actually gave me all the minutes for that day for free.) Eventually we learned that doctors could get over the bridges. One of her friend’s mom’s drove up to the school with her MD plates and packed her car with over a dozen kids. Bewildered, they continued to hang out at each other’s apartments for the rest of the evening. Mayor Guiliani, in perhaps the most human moment he ever had, told us that the loss was going to be more than we could bear.

I went to the computer this morning to find a tweet from the wise and clever Amy Vernon (@AmyVernon, aka The Bacon Queen). It’s September 12th, she said. We got through that one.

And she was right in so many ways–the chance of an “anniversary” attack, the kind of paranoia that led to brown-skinned people being pulled off planes. (If you want to get riled up, read this: Some real Shock and Awe: Racially profiled and cuffed in Detroit | Stories from the Heartland http://bit.ly/pavTUM.) And all the sentimentality–though I must say that I was riveted by the article in Esquire about “The Falling Man” picture. (“The Falling Man – Tom Junod – 9/11 Suicide Photograph” – Esquire http://bit.ly/ncpNr1. Read the links after the article too.) Yesterday evening we took a walk out after dinner to see the “Memorial Lights” that fill the sky. Only it was too overcast. Looking downtown we could see that the sky was more aglow than usual, but there were no twin light towers.

If you had asked me about the Twin Towers on any day before 9/11/01, I probably would have snidely said, “bad architecture.” Sure, Windows on the World, had a spectacular view, but the food wasn’t even all that good. No one went to the World Trade Center except to work. Tens of thousands of people did that, every day.

I’m a runner, and my favorite route goes around the reservoir in Central Park. It used to be that from the north end of the loop one could see those ugly towers sticking up into the skyline. The view has changed–the photo at the top of this post shows what I see when I run. It’s jarring each time I jog around that stretch. Something is still missing. Like Amy, I’m glad it’s September 12th. But I think I wish even more it were still September 10, 2001, that the Towers still stood, that this act of terrorism had never happened, that more than 3000 people hadn’t died, that we hadn’t gotten into a couple of long, arduous wars because of our fears and the hatred we harbor toward others, hatred they happily return. I don’t mind that 10 years have passed. I, and millions like me, just wish it had all never happened.

So, in your comments let me know:

1.What’s changed for you in this decade? Yeah, we’re ten years older, but what else?

2. Did 9/11 affect Baby Boomers as a group? If so, how?

3. Will we ever be able to put 9/11 aside? How will this happen? What would it mean?

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