9/11 Twenty Years Ago

September 10, 2001. It was 20 years ago …the day before the world changed forever; and one in which my own world went through a life-altering change of its own.

I had just moved into a newly built house in Huntington, Long Island from my beloved N.Y.C. It had been a decision fraught with doubt, as I was an urban creature through and through. That day, still shell-shocked from the new reality of living in the suburbs, I comforted myself knowing that I would return to the city the next day, the 11th to finish cleaning out my apartment on the Upper West Side.

September 11th would be my husband Hersh’s first day of commuting to his office in downtown New York. My plan that morning was to take a late morning train and meet at his office at the end of the day. Stumbling around a collection of floor-to-ceiling boxes, my normal morning routine of listening to The Today Show was decidedly off-kilter. Without cable set up yet, my TV reception was limited. But I had no inkling how very off-kilter it would truly be.

When I heard Katie Couric announce the first report of the North Tower of the World Trade Center being hit by a plane, my initial assumption was it was likely a small private plane that was an accident. I could not contemplate the unthinkable. Still, I wondered if the city subways might experience delays because of this incident and maybe not the ideal time for me to go into the city.

The Unthinkable

When Hersh stepped out of the subway to his office blocks from the World Trade Center he called me to discuss the feasibility of me coming into town due to the concerning incident at the WTC.

It was 9:01am.

We never had a chance to continue the conversation because while on the phone a second plane hit the South Tower and Hersh watched in disbelief as a giant fireball exploded. I listened to the crackling and then our call was abruptly ended.

My heart was in my stomach. I knew it was no accident and that America was under attack.

Suddenly my beloved city was under attack and I was not there. It was unbearable.

Without the internet, Twitter, Facebook, etc to get second by second news updates and limited TV  I was really in the dark, in the dark of the suburbs. Stuck in the unfamiliar suburbs by myself boxed in my hundreds of boxes, worried about city friends, and not knowing how Hersh could get home let alone when was nerve-wracking.

The city shut down suspending all transportation in and out of the city. Eventually, Hersh joined the throngs of confused and frightened souls slowly walking uptown. By evening, limited commuter train service returned. I was fortunate to welcome him back home that evening, his suit bearing the dust and ashes that permeated the skies of N.Y.C. A privilege far too many would not have.

He never wore that suit again and we never had it cleaned. It remains hanging in a closet as a reminder. The dust of that tragedy remains embedded in the suit and in my heart.

7 comments

  1. I was working from home with CNN in the background. The world stopped and has never been the same. That fall I had a college student in one of my classes whose father was on one of the WTC flights. Years later, I touched his name at the memorial. We are all connected. Many thoughts flooding in today. Thanks for sharing yours, Sally.

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  2. Sally, I have been watching the ceremony as various pairs of loved ones read off a group of names who lost their lives, including their losses. One just mentioned a woman with her unborn child who lost their lives. This example highlights the lack of humanity of people who did this. When civilians are targeted, to me it is cowardice, regardless of who does it. Keith

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  3. I was at work, the start of the day. A co-worker from another department stopped by my office and informed us a plane had flown into the first tower. We turned up the radio to learn details, only to learn the second plane flew into the second tower. “Oh my god!”, I thought, “this is an act of war!”

    The rest of the day – the Pentagon and the field in Pennsylvania – and the next few weeks I would stay attached to NPR and cable news for updates and the hope something, anything, would be done to reduce the whole Muslim world to irradiated ash. Of course, my father, with whom I discussed my irrational feelings about the whole situation, reminded me we would be no better than the perpetrators if we did anything like that.

    The initial actions in Afghanistan helped screw my head back on straight, though we know how that got out of hand.

    The Iraq mess didn’t make sense, though I tentatively supported it thanks to a British government blue [paper and the endorsement of Colin Powell, based on the fantasy weapons of mass destruction. I didn’t believe Bush or Cheney’s contention they existed, so feel very much duped by Powell, whom I respected, and the Brits, whom I felt were credible then.

    Once no weapons of mass destruction were found, I felt the whole mess was more Bush trying to avenge his father or maybe take the war to Baghdad to prove he was a big boy. Who knows? Let the historians sort it out!

    Oh yeah, and Iraqi oil was going to pay for the war, right?! Another big lie by the George W. Bush crew.

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    • Did you listen to George W Bush’s speech yesterday? It was very moving, but there is too much revisionist history for me in trying to redeem his reputation. He embroiled us in a war we had no right to be in. Yes, Powell was a major disappointment, and his credibility was always tarnished after that.

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