I woke up this morning knowing what kind of day it would be – a hard one. For a good majority of my friends, it won’t seem that way anymore. Enough time has passed for them to treat this day like any other morning.
Perhaps it’s because they didn’t have an actual experience with 9/11 and just watched it from afar. Perhaps it’s because they aren’t from NY and didn’t see their city come to its knees for a while. Perhaps, it’s neither of those things and they just want to forget. It’s healthy to move on and to be honest with you, it would do my mind and soul GOOD to do the same, but it’s not that simple.
I don’t need to know their why. I just know that I am not a part of their camp.
Today feels different for me because I remember and, to be honest with you, I don’t think I have it in me to forget. I was changed on September 11th because I had such a terrible experience that truly personalized it for me. And since then, I haven’t been the same.
When the first of the month rolls around my family gears up for school. This usually drums up oodles of excitement. Once we are entirely settled in and reach the 7th, 8th, and 9th… I begin to realize where we are in the calendar and my mood sombers. It’s getting close.
Last night, I read a quote online and it struck me so hard that I just started to cry. It read something along these lines, “Tonight, 3,000 people said goodnight to their families not knowing it would be their last time. Put your phones down and go be with yours.”
We have no control over time. And I suppose September 11th serves as a permanent reminder for me. I don’t want to get into my entire story because this isn’t about me – it’s about us – but here are two points that you need to know:
- My father was in the tower that day and we didn’t know where he was for a very long time. Turns out, he was out for a smoke when the first plane hit. The phones were all down and I had no idea. It took him forever to make it back to Astoria where we were all waiting. We thought he was dead. If you want to see my video, it’s here but it’s very long and I don’t have it in me to give every detail again.
- My husband was a consultant at the time and he was sent to Chicago for his next gig but a good majority of his prior team was sent to the towers on another project. Some didn’t make it. A single choice could have changed my entire life. I wasn’t blind to that. He was one “Accenture upper management decision” away from being there. It was the luck of the draw. It could have been him.
So, understand when I say that I have PTSD when I think of that day. The two men that mattered most to me at that time were directly linked to 9/11.
On top of it all, I watched the entire situation unfold, minute by minute. I didn’t get a recap from a friend or the front page news the next AM. I was home that day because I had called in sick from work. What can I say? I was a kid and hated my job.
My grandmother and I watched people jumping off that building on live TV because the news didn’t know what else to do but FILM. They DIDN’T STOP filming because they were just as helpless as we were to watch. Of course, none of that is shown anymore. But I saw it. I saw it all. And I cried alongside my grandmother looking for my father – every face. Do you understand? Can you see it now?
Me up against the TV screen looking for my father’s face as they filmed men leaping to their death and me screaming to my grandmother if she sees him, too? Every body? Can you understand now?
So, 9/11 is not a memory. It is a scar. It is a wound that I carry. And I realize that there are so many other people in this world that carry this burden, too. But since so much time has passed, we carry it silently because people are forgetting – and that’s OK. People SHOULD forget if they don’t have such a load in their hands. They should always honor and respect, but it would be so great to let go of the crippling pain. I wish I knew the secret.
There is no reason to hold onto hurt unless you must. But, in this case, time is telling me that I must. There are 365 days in the year and today I will give myself over to this one. 9/11 screamed too much of an echo into my ear and has since become part of my soul.
And my story is NOTHING compared to those who actually HELPED. The firefighters. The policeman. The emergency workers. I cannot even begin to think about what this time must feel like for them. Haunting.
Or to the widows? To the children who actually lost a parent. Their stories must be heard as well. We all have stories that need to be lifted off of our souls.
I continued to work downtown for close to a year. I walked by the reconstruction of the Trade Center and saw countless bouquets of flowers and missing person signs and tokens of what once was. But I also saw something that I will never forget.
NYC gets a bad wrap. We are always noted as rude and fast and too busy for anyone because we have our own agendas. I, of course, know that’s not true. We are just “cut to the chase” kind of people. But during that time, everybody was ONE. And I mean everyone. Free food, free labor, other cities coming in bringing up their guys to lend a helping hand and the deli on the corner feeding them as well. I mean – I think I cried every single day.
And I cried for many reasons of course.
- I cried because I didn’t want to remember.
- I cried because I didn’t want to walk through it all and see it the way it was.
- I cried because I wish it didn’t happen.
- I cried because, while people could turn it off, I had to walk through it – twice a day – because I had to get off at City Hall and then walk all the way down to my current consulting gig.
- I cried because I hated my life.
- I cried because I hated that I hated my life because I recognized that there were people that no longer had a life to live.
It was all too much for a 23-year-old girl. My trauma continued. It didn’t just end on 9/11. It continued for 8 months longer. So, when 9/11 comes around, I remember. I remember it all.
In New York, it’s not uncommon for a group of people to suddenly start to reference “where they were” during 9/11 – out of nowhere. This happens to me about 20 times a year. It comes naturally, unexpected, oddly it bonds everyone in ways no one can understand. 9/11 hurt us all and if you still feel the need to talk about it, then do.
Time is relative. Someone important once said that, right? 🙂 If you need to still talk about it, don’t feel funny letting it go and releasing it into the universe. There are still people who are willing to hear you. Many, many people feel the same way.
So, I hope this open letter reaches whoever it needs to. I woke up this morning and was flooded with perfect IG poses and notes on FB about affiliate sales and the perfect Fall shoe and it just made me feel a certain way.
I know people move on – as they SHOULD. But the sale will be live tomorrow too, right?
There are many different people in this world and I hope this reaches the people who need to hear that they are not alone in their sadness. It’s ok to still feel it. We need every emotion to create the whole. And if you are buried in deep thought today, just know that you aren’t alone.