Given my initial reaction, you can imagine my surprise when I was reduced to a blubbering, weeping mess while watching the History Channel last year on the nine year anniversary of 9/11. What triggered the emotion that I didn’t have all those years ago? For me, it was watching the footage of dust covered people running past the landmarks I recognized from my everyday routine. There’s the shoe repair store and the eyeglass place, and here are the people taking refuge in a lobby that I walk by every day. Then there are the emergency responders talking about survivors and casualties in the foyer of 7WTC. Obviously the building is all new now, but I immediately recognized the way that the light filters in past the other buildings and the unchanged position of the security desk.
Suddenly NYC’s WTC was no longer a far-off or remote place. There I am sweeping past the security desk and taking the elevator to my 8 AM meeting. Here are my friends running dazed and dust covered through the streets of NY. There’s the man I love going into the lobby to rescue survivors.
The thing is that the effects of 9/11 are always subtly in the background, to the point that you kind of forget that things were ever different. I never thought that for the past ten years, my life would be moving in concentric circles closer to ground zero. I hadn’t considered that we would still be living with “specific and credible” terrorist threats, but it seems clear to me now that a war on terror doesn’t have a true beginning or end. It’s impossible to sign a peace treaty with an organization that is aligned only with hate so there are only more dangerous periods and less dangerous periods, but life goes on. People are still falling in love, finding new jobs and getting wrapped up in the mundane aspects of life such as finding matching socks and managing bad hair days.
So on the ten year anniversary of 9/11, I want to say thank you to the city of NY. You’ve given me an identity, a way of life and a future. Your courage and resilience has shaped my adult life in a way that I truly will never be able to forget.