It was one of those beautiful autumn mornings, crisp and clear. The sky was the most magnificent shade of blue. I decided to take the bus to work instead of the trains. It takes 2 busses to get to work in Bay Ridge from Sheepshead Bay where I live, and when the weather is bad I take the trains to avoid waiting so long for the second bus. But to get to Bay Ridge on the trains I have to go up nearly to Manhattan, turn around and come all the way back down to the end of Brooklyn since there is no direct train route, and I just didn't feel like going through all that, and the weather was so beautiful anyway. Except for that enormous black cloud I saw over toward the city. "Damn", I thought, "it's not supposed to rain! And I didn't even bring an umbrella." I'd heard quite a few sirens and thought I'd smelled smoke and thought there must be a fire somewhere. Then travelling on the overpass over the Bronx-Queens Expressway, I saw that it was at a dead stop, bumper to bumber, and people were standing outside their cars. The smell of smoke was stronger now and I heard more sirens. It wasn't until I walked into work a minute or two later that I had any clue what was going on (I'd left for work about the same time the first plane struck the tower). I'll never forget the look on my coworkers' faces. I stood there in disbelief as what they were telling me tried to register in my brain. We were glued to the radio as more and more reports came in ("oh my god,... Oh my God,...") No one could get a hold of anyone even by cellphone. Finally at 11am we were told to close the store where I work and when I got home a half hour later the smell of smoke there was so strong it was almost unbreatheable, and that dark cloud over Manhattan had stretched like a slender arm of grief and was now over my apartment.
For the rest of the day and night, and for the many days and nights to come, I was glued to the one station on the tv that still worked, just like everyone else. And, just like everyone else, my brain just couldn't register what my eyes were seeing. I answered frantic emails from family and from friends all over the country and the world who couldn't get a hold of loved ones. And I watched as the world I knew crumbled into dust.......and I cried....and I cried...and to this day, just under the surface, I still cry.
Later that day I had to go outside - I had to reassure myself that some semblance of life still went on. It was so eerily quiet. No sounds of airplanes. No sounds of subway trains. Not many cars in the street even here in Brooklyn. Everyone looked dazed and numb. I walked by a Pakistani woman with a little girl in a stroller. That little girl smiled so big, her eyes so bright, I'm sure it was an angel sign that love and light will win out, that somehow, this cloud will dissipate, that somehow, perhaps when she grows up, the thought of one person doing such a thing to another would be unthinkable. I pray that little girl never has to know a day like this. I pray no child anywhere ever again knows a day like today.
This is a copy of an email I sent friends at the end of the day...
"There are a lot of people in churches tonight. Many people gathered close to their loved ones, thinking, "there but for the grace of God..." Many waiting for news, many mourning the loss of loved ones. Tonight I watched the familiar city skyline, and there is a gaping hole and huge black cloud where shining lights used to be. Someone on tv said, it's not the buildings, but the life force within those buildings--that is what we mourn when we look out over the river.
I thought back on the beginning of the day when I thought it was going to rain and I didn't even bring an umbrella. It seemed like a million years ago. This is what I wrote...
"A thundeous cloud left a stain
This is a brief outline of what was going on in my life on that unimaginable day. I've omitted a lot because still, one year later, I can't put the pain into words. Still, one year later, I see the towers, I smell the smoke. I imagine myself in those buildings holding the hand of a stranger or coworker and jumping from 100 stories just minutes after arriving at what should have been just another day at work. I think of what was going on in the minds of those on the planes, and on the minds of those they were able to call in their last moments. The pain in my heart, still, is unbearable.
In the next few weeks, I hope to walk through the next few days of my life back then. I'd tried to do this when I first began these webpages, but couldn't bring myself to do it. The day after when I'd gone to donate blood in downtown Brooklyn and the train mistakenly going over the bridge and stopping at Canal Street, very close to Ground Zero. The pictures I took that next Saturday when I somehow managed to get past the blockades requiring identification and ended up about a block from the remnants of Tower 7. Has a year really gone by? To this day, I still look out from the train window and expect to see he towers. A part of me still can't bear to believe any of this really happened.
On 1/11/02, the Today Show was doing a tribute at the end of the show. I was getting ready for work and had the tv on with the sound turned off, and was listening to Loreena McKennitt on the stereo. I looked up and they had video of the towers' collapse running in reverse. It was just this huge dust cloud, and then as they played it backward, one tower rematerialized then a plane went backward out of the second one, the whole scene played backwards until at the end it was there, just like it used to be and everything was fine. While I'm watching all this, Loreena's song, 'Dante's Prayer' was on, and she's singing "Cast your eyes on the ocean, cast your soul to the sea, when the dark night seems endless, please remember me", and there I am listening to this incredibly beautiful voice singing, "please remember me, please remember me", and I'm looking at the towers----- I just lost it. Maybe because I wished I could just rewind that whole thing and make it all better again, I don't know. I was telling a friend about it and she was telling me about the continued nightmares she was having about planes crashing. It seems we were all still more affected than we realized even though months had gone by and life seemed to be returning to some semblance of "normal".
Not long after 9/11, an artist friend of mine did a painting of the towers. After awhile she couldn't bear to look at it and painted over it- a pretty still life of beautiful flowers. But she said she still couldn't bear to look at it, because she knew it was all still there, just under the surface. I think that pretty much sums up what I feel, what many of us feel a year later.
An incredible amount of love and beauty came in the minutes and days and months after this horrible tragedy. Much of it that I saw and experienced firsthand I plan to include in this tribute to the memory of those lost on that day. Yet just under the surface still lies the pain. Still, one year later. Perhaps for ever.
The Day After
Photos from September 15, 2001
Forever In Our Hearts ~ For the Victims
WTC Main Page
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