Written on 8:07 PM by Jack B.
There are some things one does not forget. The birth of a child, meeting the love of your life, the passing of a parent or grandparent. These are personal memories. Then there are the more “public” memories. The kinds that seep into the inner conscience of an entire population and become part of our national memory. The blackout of the Eastern seaboard, the exploding of the Challenger, the declaration of an armistice to a war. For someone from New York City (like myself) what happened 10 years to the World Trade Center, the personal and the public intertwine.
Yes, I remember where I was when it first happened. Listening to the radio as I was getting ready for school. I knew it was bad but I also knew I had to go just in case. The College was open (but on alert). Class (Intro to Art) was cancelled. In fact - all classes were cancelled. I went to my grandmother’s just a few blocks away and watched the news. My uncle worked in the South Tower and we hadn’t heard from him so we were all worried. My mother didn’t work in the area but she was supposed to meet my aunt for lunch that day in the city so were worried about her too. Slowly news started to filter in. My uncle had taken off that day and was home in Queens. My mother was in Manhattan and fine but due to the fact that they closed the roads, she (like so many others) had to walk home across the bridge into Brooklyn on foot. It was just as we heard this the two towers crumpled into dust and fell apart like a house of cards. The Twin Towers had never been beautiful building, they impressed by their size but there was no style or distinction like the Empire State Building or the Chrysler Building, yet their blocky rectangular shape had become part of the City’s fabric, as much as the Statue of Liberty. Yet within minutes, they and over 3,000 human lives were gone into ash and vapor. Somewhere the devil (or in this case Osama Bin Laden) laughed.
Later still small details like the fact that debris from the WTC landed in my sister’s old high school (a borough away) or that ash from the explosion covered the ground where my father worked (in Central Brooklyn) would tell how truly grand the scale of 9-11 extended. And there were losses as well. One of my elementary school classmates, a kid widely regarded as the most popular kid in our grade (and who was a genuinely nice guy), was one of the FDNY’s first responders to the WTC. He died there, leaving behind a fiancee and people who loved him. And people like me - of the same age & the same background who remain these 10 years later while someone who was probably infinitely better than me does not. It is a soul searching paradigm and one that will always be with me.
That’s what makes it impossible to forget. 10 years on we still remember. 10 years from NOW we still we will. 20, 30, 40 years. As long as there are those who remember that day on Earth it will never end.
You can go to the site now. A decade on and billions of dollars spend and its still mostly a hole in the ground (compare to the Empire State Building which was built in just a few years over 80 years ago). The so-called “Freedom Tower” still is not there and yet on the whole it’s not needed. We are in no danger of forgetting or losing our “freedom” (no matter what the terrorists intended). It’s hard to think of anything greater than being attacked to fuel an American’s resolve. We are largely an indolent, libertarian people - especially in New York City. As long as you don’t bother US, we don’t care what you do. But when you attack us - we attack back twice as hard. New Yorkers are street fighters by nature. Violent, dirty, hard. This is what Osama Bin Laden and Al Queda did not understand. For us the public is the personal and vice versa and NEVER forget. That’s why New York City still stands and those who did perpetuated and thought out 9-11? Not so much.
May those who were lost and who have lost in that atrocity take comfort from that at least.