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Remembering ..... 9/11 - Part Two
.......We never did get to take the kids to the Observation Deck.....September 11, 2001 started off as a beautiful day in New York. It was sunny, cool and dry, a picture perfect day. I dropped my son off at school and waited a little while before dropping off my daughter for her first day of Nursery School. Since it was the first day, the class was only going to be for one hour. A few of the other moms and I decided to go to the diner while we waited. The diner was around the block from the school. While we walked there, we saw a woman we knew who was crying. She told us that a plane had crashed into one of the towers of the World Trade Center. We thought it was just a terrible accident. There was a television in the diner, so we walked there quickly to see what had happened. We got there in time to hear that a second plane had struck the other tower. Everyone at the diner had their eyes glued to the television. Some were crying, others were just staring, mouths wide open. I heard someone say that the towers would fall and I was so confident that they would not. I told whoever could hear me, that the towers would not fall. But then, that beautiful day turned into a tragedy as the towers, one right after the other collapsed and the rubble took with it all those precious lives. Needless to say, we did not eat or drink; we walked back to the school in silence and disbelief. I wanted to be near my children. I tried calling my husband, my sister and my parents, but cell phones were not working. We picked up our children and told the nursery school teachers what had happened in hushed whispers. The other moms and I who had older children decided to stay near the school. I did not want to go home with my daughter and leave my son there. I worried that roads would be closed later and I would not be able to reach him. I let my daughter play happily with the other children; they were innocent and would not feel the impact of what happened on that day. Slowly, I noticed concerned parents, grandparents and caregivers arriving at the school; they were coming for their children, all of them with looks of shock on their faces. There were few smiles on this day. I did not want to disrupt my son's day, so I waited in the school courtyard with my daughter. When I noticed that quite a few of his classmates had been picked up, I figured I should take him home as well. The school office was busy with parents and ringing phones, but all of our students made it home safely on this day. Our principal stayed with the last boy until 7:00 P.M., until his mom finally made it there from Manhattan.
My son was only in the first grade, but after the news got out, the children had been taken to the church (it was a parochial school) and they were carefully told what had happened. I drove home in silence, wondering what I should do. I decided to stop at the gas station and fill up the tank. While there, who pulled up behind us? My husband had the same idea as me. His office closed because they heard that the main highways would be closed to all except for emergency workers. We figured we would pick up Burger King for the kids, but when we go there, it was closed. That in itself made the day seem even more eerie.
Once home, we made the kids sandwiches and put in a video for them to watch. We spoke to our parents and other relatives and friends and made sure everyone was okay; then we watched the news in shock as we learned that the Pentagon was hit and that an airplane had crashed in a field in Pennsylvania. The day had become even more tragic. We spent the remainder of the day in front of the television. I took care of my kids, fed them, bathed them and put them to bed, but that was all I could manage. I couldn't eat or sleep and everything felt surreal. I remember laying in bed and saying to my husband, "I can't believe the towers are gone." All day I was gullible and hoped that there would be great rescues, that people would be found alive amidst the rubble. My hopes remained the next day, but eventually my hopes died as the search and rescue mission had changed to a recovery mission and the reality began to sink in. Emergency workers had rushed to the World Trade Center site from all over the tri-state area, but their would not be any lives to save. We sadly found out that 2,977 people had died along with the people in the Pentagon and on United Flight 93. Our nation had suffered a great loss. Families and friends searched and waited for their loved ones to come home, but that would not happen. Children would never see their parents again. Unborn children would never meet their fathers. Our country had been torn apart.
I was fortunate that I did not know anyone that had perished that day. The bank that I used to work for had closed their New York Branch the year before. That doesn't mean that the random people I used to see on the elevators or in the concourse were not gone. Were the people who worked in the businesses I used to frequent when I used to work there able to get out in time? I'll never know, because I did not know their names. We were just faces that smiled our greetings each day.
For weeks after the 9/11 attacks, the skyline looked smokey. My daughter would look at the skyline and ask, "where's mommy's work?" We explained to her that bad people had hurt the towers. She eventually started telling her grandparents and others that bad people had "knocked down mommy's work." I didn't think my son was affected until he drew a picture of the towers. In his picture, it was a sunny day and the towers were intact. That fall, I organized the school's calendar in which we displayed the student's artwork. The theme of the calendar was Pride in the USA that year. I was surprised that many of the children's pictures were of the Twin Towers. Some were with the buildings standing, others were with the airplanes heading towards the towers and some with fire coming out of them. The children had clearly been affected by this tragedy.
The people were gone, the towers were rubble, the little church I had visited nearly every Wednesday for almost eight years was gone and so many other buildings had been placed in jeopardy. A whole city had been transformed and a landscape forever changed. There were security checks everywhere. There were police at the entrances and exits of the tunnels and bridges. We dropped my husband off at the airport two weeks after 9/11 and there were armed soldiers on either side of our car as we entered the drop off area. When we went into the city for a show, there were soldiers with machine guns on patrol in Penn Station.
As time passed, we noticed more displays of patriotism. There were flags in storefronts and in front of homes. People placed flags on their cars. The words "never forget" were imprinted in all of our minds. Songs like "Proud to be an American" made me tear up and I could not see footage of the attacks without crying. At the end of the school year at my daughter's nursery school graduation, the children sang "God Bless America." I still remember how cute my daughter sounded as she practiced the song at home.
Each year on the anniversary of the tragic events of September 11, 2001, I make myself watch the ceremony. I feel like it is my duty to my country and the only way I can pay respect to the people who lost their lives on that day. Although I cry each time, I must watch. Now, ten years later, I can't believe that so much time has passed and so many others have died as a result of the events of that day. I watched with my daughter today who now knows exactly what happened to "mommy's work" and we both cried as we watched family members read the names of their loved ones. I continue to think of the victims and the family and friends they left behind, the children who have grown up without a parent, a grandparent, an aunt or an uncle, the rescue workers who have died from complications attributed to 9/11 and the military personnel who lost their lives defending our nation and protecting the rest of us from our enemies.
I am glad that they are rebuilding the World Trade Center, although it will never be the same for me. I hope the family and friends of the victims find solace in the reflecting pools built in the tower imprints and in the waterfalls. I hope they find peace when they see the names of their loved ones imprinted forever in the memorial for all to see. I will "never forget" the lives lost and the destruction caused by the events of September 11, 2001. I will "never forget" the police, fire fighters, rescue workers and those in the military who protect us every day. I hope that we never witness such an event ever again. God Bless America!
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