Flipping through the TV programming guide tonight, I saw the familiar 9/11 documentaries and movies popping up in the listings, reminding me that, on Thursday, it will have been seven years since that day. I have little in the way of comment except to say that, as always, remember to treasure your loved ones every day.
I located an email I sent to friends and family the day after, having been reminded of its existence because of the proximity of September 11, and also from having had the chance this weekend to see an old friend whom I hadn’t seen in nearly four years. Its text follows below.
In life, we are sometimes treated to stark reminders of just how ephemeral our existences are and of how our futures are not at all guaranteed. As thousands of people awoke on what was sure to be just another Tuesday morning, no one could have imagined what lay ahead. They went about their daily routine as usual, going to work in the financial district, ready to face another day.
It was the day of the primary. News coverage centered on the merely-average turnout at the polls. For my part, I had woken up at around 7:30 AM and was getting ready for the day, taking a shower and dressing up, contemplating going to the polls before going into the city, hoping to arrive at school at 12:00 PM.
I had stepped out of the shower and was checking my email with NY1, the all-news channel, tuned in and playing in the background. Shortly after 8:45, the first shots of the World Trade Center were being broadcast. I felt no real sense of danger at the time, as the television tends to reduce the magnitude of whatever it covers. It was eventually reported that a plane had crashed into one of the towers; I was confused, since there wasn’t much reason for an airplane to be flying so close, but I decided to wait for further details and not to waste too much effort in pondering it.
The second explosion happened fifteen minutes later. Still confused, I proceeded to go about my usual business, getting ready and reading notesfiles by then. It, too, was eventually reported that a second aircraft had crashed into the other tower, but again, I did not think anything like what followed could have happened.
An hour later, the south tower collapsed. I was in a state of disbelief. How could this have happened? It seemed so improbable that the tower could not have withstood the impact. And half an hour later, the north tower followed suit. How could this have happened? I was so shocked. And I hadn’t begun to consider the number of lives lost in this enormous tragedy.
Of course, by then it was clear that I wasn’t going anywhere. And when they announced that not just had subway service been diverted away from the World Trade Center but /all/ service had been suspended, it was definite. I sat tight and kept abreast of all the happenings–the Pentagon crash, the Pennsylvania crash; I tried to get in touch with my friends who were in the city at school and make sure they were all right, even though they had no reason to be near the towers at that time. Checking up on them was slow in coming, as telephone circuits were tied up for much of the day.
Eventually, just sitting around feeling helpless got to be too much to take. I got up and headed out for the local blood center, but the line was so long that they encouraged people to come back the next day. I couldn’t do much else. The city was shut down. There was no way in or out of Manhattan.
Sunset eventually came, and with it was a sort of eerie quiet. I could only imagine what it was like in the city. I could only imagine what it would have been like to witness it with my own eyes, as many of my friends had. I could only imagine what it would have been like if, instead of during the school year, it had happened during the summer–a time when I would be working in that very area, a time when my commute takes me directly beneath the World Trade Center, a time when I would have lunch on sunny days in the shadow of the twin towers.
Everyone I spoke with could not believe what had happened. At least three of my friends had seen the towers ablaze, billowing smoke, and had seen them collapse. At least two people I know live a mere five blocks away from the World Trade Center and were an ashen fright as they evacuated the area. Thankfully, I knew no one who would have been in the towers that day.
No one I spoke with was their usual self. My normally lively friends were reduced to a sort of quiet stunned tone. My normally bitingly sarcastic friends turned deadly serious.
The implications of yesterday’s events are still continuing to sink in; I am still not exactly sure what to make of it, as I am still in quite a state of disbelief. Everything still has an aura of surrealism about it–picture the billowing clouds of smoke from the remains of the World Trade Center, one of the most famous landmarks in this city, against a backdrop of a serene and picture-perfect sky. The once-noisy streets have given way to quiet.
Only time will tell what the final death toll will be.
How could anyone have guessed that this would have happened? On a day that began with so much promise, the sun shining bright and not a cloud in the sky?
I can’t even begin to comprehend what this means for our futures. I can’t even comprehend the present, nor what has happened. Even though I live fifteen miles from the financial district and was well out of harm’s way, it still hit so close to home that I’m still trying to deal with the shock and disbelief. I can’t even begin to think about what our country is going to do in response. I’m still trying to deal with what is immediate to me.
I don’t really say this often to you, if at all, and I might even say that I sometimes take our friendship for granted, but I just wanted you to know that I consider myself blessed to be able to count you among my friends. I don’t ever want that to be in question. I love you dearly, I care about you deeply, and one of the hardest things I deal with on a daily basis is not having you in my life more. Tremendous, life-shattering events such as yesterday’s disasters shouldn’t be needed to remind one of the people they care about, but it is hard to maintain active ties with people that are so far away and, regrettably, they often drop from one’s active radar simply because they’re not there with you anymore.
Should something ever happen to me, as much as you or I might refuse to consider, I just wanted you to know this.
As New York and Washington and the rest of the country try to recover from the devastation, as the days go by, I hope that we always stay in touch and that we never, ever drop from each other’s active radar.
“In a minute there is time
For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse.”
-“The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”