Sunday, September 11, 2011

9/11: Ten Years of Tears

It is now 10 years. For all the "time heals all wounds" logic, it doesn't. The images are still as vivid today, the horror has not diminished, the tears still come way too easily.

I recently heard an interview with Brian Williams of NBC, in which he was asked about the differences around the country, of how people moved on after 9/11. One instance he mentioned was how 3 months after the attack, someone in California told him "New Yorkers need to let it go... after all it's been 3 months. " Well now it's 10 years and for those who live in the NYC area, it is still very much... an unwanted presence.

So, for those who cannot imagine what we feel, here are some of the reasons why we cannot and choose not to let it go.

If you had ever taken a bus or car ride into the city from the east or west, the Twin Towers were visible. From September 11, 2001, for at least a month, the lower part of Manhattan was a cloud of smoke, obscuring the horrible reality of losing two of the largest buildings in the world. When the smoke finally cleared, the new skyline presented a void which made your stomach turn.

I remember the start of the news crawl at the bottom of the TV screen. This was something new and you could not turn your eyes away. Vividly, I recall a blurb that ran throughout the night. It was for employees and families of Cantor-Fitzgerald, directing them to meet at a hotel. It seemed to have a desperate tone, and later we would learn virtually the entire company was killed as a plane destroyed their offices.

There were the pictures of the lost posted everywhere in the downtown area. Posted by friends and relatives with haunted faces, desperately trying to hold onto the hope that their loved one would be one of the few to make it out of the towers alive.

The TV shots of all the medical workers outside the hospitals. All brave men and women who rushed to their ERs to assist with the injured. But there was no one to help. The towers did not give up many injured, nor did they easily give up the dead. Of of the 2823 people killed in the World Trade Center, only 291 bodies were pulled from the rubble. A little over 1100 remains have been identified. Most families were grateful to have even a finger of their loved one to bury. Just think about that for a minute.

Watching someone make a conscious choice of a quick death over slowly burning to death, is an image that will never be erased from those who saw it first hand. A friend who witnessed this cannot speak of it to this day, nor can he watch anything about the attacks.

Manhattan was closed. Except for the water ferry, no one who lived in New Jersey made it home that day. Even if you made it across the river, traffic was closed for miles into New Jersey. If you lived in the outer boroughs, you walked with thousands of others in a state of shock, but with comfort that you were not alone.

And the silence. Planes stopped flying for 3 days. Hearing a plane for the first time after they started flying was unnerving.

The first year commemoration brought the Tribute in Lights. For some reason, I had been in Manhattan and was driving back to Jersey after dark. Coming out of the Lincoln Tunnel there is a turn where the lights are visible. It looked like a path for all the lost souls to find their way to heaven.

And that is why we will never forget.

1 comment:

  1. kathi - that was beautiful. thank you - you know i will never forget. thankfully i had a place to stay overnight in the city that day and was able to make it home the next day with a friendly face next to me on the train. to this day, i have not been down to the world trade center site - except to drive past going in to Brooklyn. For years I could not even look to my left - my heart would start pounding so hard and my hands shook on the wheel - as I was heading down the west side highway - the grief and pain still so strong.