It’s 3AM on September 10, 2011 and I can’t sleep. This hasn’t been the easiest week for me. It has taken me 10 years to admit to myself that I must suffer from a mild form of PTSD. I like to think I’m a strong and resilient person. I am. But, when the recent earthquake hit DC, my first thought was that it was a bomb, and I was terrified. And for some darned reason whenever the anniversary of 9/11 creeps up on me it’s like I relive it in my mind all over again. Images, stories, articles, or just mention of the day triggers uncontrollable chills and tears.
10 years ago, in the days following 9/11 I tried to be strong for my friend whose father was in one of the towers. And as I was coming home from her house one night – I had a moment of realization. It could have been my Dad. And in that moment everything I had been feeling just came out. I broke down. It was probably one of my most vulnerable moments.
I was only 17, but at the time I felt so grown up. It was the beginning of my senior year of high school, the world was my oyster and it was ironically such a beautiful clear day. I was one of the first students in school to find out, because my speech teacher had the radio on before class and when the bell rung she closed the door and informed us all. Few people in my 3rd period class had heard, so I had to break the news to them. For the rest of the day, lesson plans were tossed aside and it was the only thing discussed. Since our school was so close to the city, and within a 10 mile radius of the Indian Point power plant, we were on lockdown. We weren’t allowed to use cell phones in school, but I tried to reach my Dad anyway. He worked in Queens, and since no one really knew what was happening at the time I wanted to make sure he was safe. I also tried to reach my Mom, but since too many people were trying to call loved ones at the same time neither could be reached. I eventually got ahold of my mother from a landline in the school’s main office. My Dad was fine.
When we were finally let out of school, my sister and I drove to a high elevation area near our house where we could see the cloud of smoke from the World Trade Center. Then when I got home I found out my close friend’s father worked in one of the towers. It was real. It wasn’t a dream.
The following days were a bombardment of images and sounds that remain ingrained in my mind. Every station, including MTV was now the news, with images of people jumping, the towers on fire and then eventually crumbling down. The radio stations played mixes that merged 9/11 coverage soundbites in with popular music. And I spent evenings calling hospitals looking for my friend’s father, who was never found. My friend is and will always be one of the strongest people I know.
Less than a year ago I went to the World Trade Center site for the first time. And all I could feel was anger. Anger about what had happened. Anger towards those who preach hate, intolerance or violence. Anger that “it” was still a construction site almost 10 years later. Anger that most of the 9/11 Commission’s recommendations had yet to be fully implemented.
And now the day before the 10th Anniversary I still feel all those things . . . but, nonetheless I’m resilient and I do have hope and faith that things will get better. I am a New Yorker.
Always Remember, Never Forget.