I wrestled long and hard about today’s post. It’s September 11, 2012. Eleven years have passed and yet the day remains quite clear in my mind.
As a New Yorker and one who was here before-during-after, I wrestle with it all.
The right way to answer people’s (to me) prying questions, seeing tourists scooping up memorabilia and wanting to tell them “this ain’t Disneyland”.
Don’t get me wrong, I do understand the need to see and, to attempt to understand. But no, I don’t want to take your photo in front of the site. I find your curiosity morbid. You grinning into the camera in front of… nothing. Breaks my heart.
Please understand, it’s me, it’s not you. If you weren’t here there is nothing (in my mind) that you can do or say. Silence is your best response.
So today, eleven years later I woke up to a beautiful crystal clear blue sky. A crisp fall day in New York. It made me smile. I went to the gym, stopped for coffee on my way home and hustled when I realized I would be late for work. On my way to the subway, it finally struck me – it was the same exact type of day as eleven years ago. I even posted on Facebook: “Today even the weather remembers.”
Trying to gage how late I was, I checked the time on my phone and watched as 8:45am clicked over to 8:46am. Eery. I stopped, stood stock still and observed my own personal moment of silence. The minute clicked by and I moved on down the steps pressing on to work. Glad to have had my own moment all unto myself.
I got a seat and was reading a great article when just as my subway pulled into 14th St & 7th Avenue with only one stop to go before my destination, a woman was hit by the train.
The train that I was on. Of course I didn’t find that out till much later.
Instead I was having the usual New Yorker reaction when the train doors don’t open: I-don’t-have-time-for-this… why now… why-aren’t-we-moving. Then as the minutes ticked by with no intercom announcements about why we were delayed – a problem with the locking system, train congestion or one of the other hundreds of reasons the MTA generally provides in such cases. But no. Nothing. Radio silence. Except that it was September 11th and I watched as people, myself included, started to get nervous. I re-read the same sentence in my magazine over-and-over. I didn’t dare call attention to what was on everyone’s minds.
The doors to our train remain closed. We were at the platform. WTF let us out! Passengers waiting on the platform moved away. WTF!?! That can’t be good. The minutes continued to tick by and then the FDNY & NYPD arrived. Oh shit. A woman held her hand to the emergency intercom and screamed what we were all thinking: let me off this fucking train, what is happening, let me off now! … please?
What seemed like minutes but was probably just seconds later, a door opened at the end of our car and in the cars on either side of us. People rushed out and then I heard an MTA agent yell: “ladies & gentlemen, they are here for a customer under the train” and to the FDNY “the current is still on! don’t go down there”.
A weird sense of relief washed over me and as my fellow passengers and I boarded another train we wondered aloud – was it an accident? was it a suicide?
I arrived at 34th street and took the first exit I found. I needed out.
Standing in the sunshine by the Sbarros on 33rd & 7th I burst into tears or to be exact: I bawled my eyes out.
Eventually recomposed and sunglasses on, I headed over to my office. Entering my building I bumped into a colleague who made the mistake of asking how I was. As the first person I would speak to today all he got was sobs as I relayed the story of my morning. He suggested I “sit this one out”, I rallied and went to the meeting I was over an hour late for. I slipped into a seat and sat there. Numb. Around me people discussed key metrics for our upcoming season and I sat there blank.
I posted about the above on FB and also this comment in response to a friends’ concern: “I had stopped before entering the subway this morning to observe the moment of silence. I stopped upon exiting to have a good cry. Rattled but pressing on. Never forgetting.”