Six years ago, I was temping at Ladies' Home Journal magazine, across from Grand Central Station. H and I had just started dating, we were roommates who had just become a couple after a housewarming party the previous weekend. I remember getting coffee and hearing a co-worker remark, "A plane just crashed into the World Trade Center." Huh, I thought, that's odd. Suddenly, the news began to trickle in, online, by phone, and from co-workers who lived downtown and were on their way to work (they were fine, but saw some scary shit). Ironically, I had forgotten my cell phone that day, but Voicestream (now T-Mobile) was one of the few carriers with service. I called my mother in Tucson, waking her up with the news that someone crazy was going on. My sister lived in D.C. but was fine. H worked in Soho and was on his way from Brooklyn when he heard the news, so he returned home to watch the news. He heard a guy *before* the second plane hit run down the street of our Crown Heights neighborhood yelling, "Yo, Osama, you my n****!" which I find really bizarre.
After the towers collapsed, we all decided to try to get home, and I made my way across town to a friend's office in Times Square. We then went to find a friend working at Fashion Week, but we were turned away from the tents. "You won't let us in?! It's mass chaos across the city and you won't let us in because we're not on the list?!" we screamed. We then made our way to my friend's apartment in Chelsea to make more phone calls and get ready for the walk downtown/to Brooklyn. We tried to donate blood at St. Vincent's hospital, but the lines went on for blocks and they turned us away, asking us to come back. I continued on my own home to Brooklyn, walking with an elderly man named Frank (a good omen, I thought, that's my grandfather's name), who had been a few blocks from the WTC and had just been treated for a few cuts from debris. We walked past Canal Street, the borderline that couldn't be crossed except by emergency workers, and it looked like it had snowed. Cars were covered in ash, there was debris everywhere, and stunned people were walking away from downtown. Unlike many people who say that they still notice the hole in the skyline, I could only spot where the towers were by the smoke that would persist for days. We continued across the Manhattan bridge, along with thousands of New Yorkers, greeted in Brooklyn by Red Cross people who gave us juice and water. Frank decided to go to his former office in downtown Brooklyn (he had worked for the MTA, I believe) and wished me luck. The subways were working again and I got on a packed train, where everyone talked to each other like old friends, trading stories and rumors. I got home to an empty apartment, as H and my other roommate had gone to Brooklyn Heights to try to see what was going on. I remember being furious for some reason, that I had walked all that way to see H, and he wasn't there. We spent the rest of the day watching the news, and our other roommate (a trained EMT), went to volunteer in the hospitals but said as the hours went on, fewer and fewer patients came in.
I remember that in the next few days, on the days we could even go to work, there were constant bomb threats and evacuations of the building due to the proximity to Grand Central and the UN. I began carrying my purse even to the copy machine, in case I had to evacuate. My temp agency later screwed me by doubting the 40 hour time sheet I submitted that week with approval from my bosses, they couldn't believe I had worked those hours and paid my only for the few hours I was actually able to be in the building. The attack was all anyone talked about and everyone has a story. I was really, really lucky that I didn't know anyone affected by that day, but one of my best friends was there and saw colleagues jumping and her apartment was virtually destroyed because of open windows that let in debris and ash from a few blocks away. She's still not over it. I got another temp job in early October, across the street from the towers, and heard horrific stories from the people who worked in the building. I have photos of the site (I hate saying Ground Zero, it sounds like a tourist attraction, which it sort of has become) from the office on the 29th floor. I worked there for over six months, and all of us who worked there got sick much more often than before, despite all of the claims that the air quality was fine.
This weekend, I watched Oliver Stone's World Trade Center. It wasn't great (what happened to the conspiracy theory we were all expecting from him?!), but somehow, it made me ball like a baby. Despite being usually very unemotional about September 11th (I hate the term 9/11, it sounds branded, it's not like we call New Year's Eve 12/31!), the movie made me very sad and made me think of how hard it would be to lose my husband. Warning: rant coming. Then it made me very mad as someone refers to vengeance at the end. I understand why people feel the urge to avenge tragedies, but how is it helping to kill more people? How does it make it any easier for families who lost loved ones to kill soldiers and Iraqi people? Why would you want to have more widows and orphans? What happened six years ago was horrific, but the U.S. has been fairly fortunate compared to most countries who have faced far greater disasters and genocides. I just feel angry and sad not just about September 11th, but about everything that has happened since. I also feel a certain anger towards Americans who didn't live in NY or DC, who didn't know anyone who died, who hasn't been affected by what happened. I'm amazed they have the nerve to feel afraid, when I get on the subway everyday, don't bat an eyelash at flying, even when my husband often flies twice a week. Sure, sometimes we feel afraid (this morning I made it a point to get to work earlier than 8:46am and practically held my breath on the train), but we carry on because we have to and there's nothing I can do about it. I don't even agree with all of the airport security these days and the major loss of freedom we have, but that's another rant. As Ben Franklin said, "Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety."/end rant
This now concludes the obligatory "where I was on September 11th" post. Have a good day.