September 11, 2012.
Eleven years since two hijacked airplanes were intentionally crashed into the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York. Eleven years and so much has happened, yet I remember the day more clearly than I remember yesterday.
My son was working for GTE which was then a big part of the backbone of the internet. They managed servers for huge international corporations and as he sat at work, he could always see a panel of lights, each light representing a server connection to a client. Many clients were located in New York, and a large number of the New York clients were headquartered at the World Trade Center.
I was living in New York when the original towers were built. We were proud of those towers. We didn’t build them with our own hands, but they symbolized the preeminence of New York, the greatest city on Earth, or at least New Yorkers thought so.
By 2001, I’d lived a few more places. I was now settled in New England, working for a company based in a suburb just outside Boston. Garry and I had moved to Uxbridge the year before. There are a lot of former New Yorkers in Boston … and vice versa. There has always been a lot of population exchange between the two cities, rivals in so many things, yet also alike in many ways too.
Most of my family still lived in New York, not in the city but in nearby suburbs. I was raised in the city and still had (still have) a not-so-secret affection for my home town. It was a great place to grow up. How much better can it get when your local museum is the Metropolitan Museum of Art and your local ballet is Balanchine‘s New York City Ballet? Or for that matter, there’s the New York Philharmonic Orchestra and the Metropolitan Opera. Any place you live after that, it’s never going to be better. Maybe good, maybe even as good … but not better. Not ever better.
Around eight in the morning of September 11th, my son called and said “Turn on the TV.”
I asked which channel and he said, “Any channel,” and I turned it on. I stayed on the phone for a while, but he had to hang up because everyone was calling someone.
My daughter-in-law was up in the room with me, in the bedroom, sorting through some clothing … and I said, sort of stunned, “Oh my God, the World Trade Center is on fire!” and we watched. We heard an airplane had crashed into the tower not long before. No one knew if it was an accident. Most people assumed it was an accident and then, we watched, and another airplane hit the second tower.
We just watched, now silent. More and more information was coming in and then, there was a cloud of dust and a tower was gone.
“It’s gone. The tower fell down,” I said because I couldn’t think, because it was impossible. Absurd. And then, the other tower was gone. Just dust. A huge cloud of dust and an empty horizon. The towers were gone. The towers were gone, they had fallen down.
I remembered, abruptly, that my boss was scheduled to fly to the west coast that morning and I called. It turned out Herb had been scheduled to be on Flight 175, but at the last-minute, changed his reservation to the following day. No reason, he just decided that this was not a good day to fly. God whispered in his ear that morning.
A lot more information would come in that day and in days, weeks, months, and years that followed, but that morning, it was strange, unearthly.
It was one of the days that changes the course of history and our lives.
My son said that when the towers went down, most of the lights on the big board, those lights that represented clients, companies, businesses full of people living lives and working in the World Trade Center suddenly went black.
Where there had been light, it was now dark, a dark board where the lights had connected life to life would never light up again. It signaled the end of GTE and my son’s career, the end of the company for which I worked and for many other companies.
It was the end of thousands of human lives, the collapse of the lives of relatives, friends, and first responders. Many died and of those that lived on, many lives were warped out of shape, deformed and never made right.
Sometimes, the end of something is the beginning of something better, but 9/11 was the end of trust and the beginning of a vast escalation of suspicion, war, hate, violence and fear. Time will heal. It always does … eventually … but not yet, not even close.
I hope life will be good again and soon, while I’m still here to see it. Because this world so full of ugliness is not a world I want to leave to my descendants.
- Status of World Trade Center site, 11 years later (riehlworldview.com)
- WTC memorial magnificent, but at a steep price (savannahnow.com)
- Status of World Trade Center site, 11 years later (rep-am.com)
- World Trade Center rises slowly (oddonion.com)
- Photos: America prepares to remember 9/11 (photos.denverpost.com)