The morning of September 11th, 2001 I was 23 years old, sitting at my desk as usual at ANF, on the computer, working as I typically would be on a Tuesday morning. In the background, coming though my phone on my desk, was FM96, where Pete, Jeff and Mindy were doing their morning show. Shortly after 9am, there was a break in the program where Mindy came on and said that a plane had hit one of the towers of the World Trade Center in New York City. Prior to this moment, I had heard of the World Trade Center, but didn’t really know much about it. If someone had shown me a picture of the skyline of New York, I wouldn’t have been able to say that the twin towers were the World Trade Center, or really any details about them. Shortly after, she came back on again to say that a second plane had struck the other tower. Again, I couldn’t really put together in my mind what was going on, but of course knowing that two planes had struck two buildings, especially in a city as busy and populated as New York, this was certainly going to mean a massive loss of life.
Shortly after, my phone rang and it was Joe, calling me from another part of the building to tell me that there had been a further update, the Pentagon had been hit by another plane. At this point, my stomach sank. This is when the gravity of the situation began to set in and I realized that this was not just a horrible accident or a fluke, this was an act of terror, being carried out on US soil, not oceans away as they usually were, but not so far away from where I sat at my desk in Ailsa Craig. I knew that this was big, that this would likely mean war, and that somehow, life would never be the same.
Everyone has their own story of where they were that day. It’s the catastrophic moment of our generation. The older generations have theirs, my Mom says that she will always remember where she was when she heard that JFK had been shot. I’m sure that older generations still will always remember when they heard about the attack on Pearl Harbour.
For me, there will always be life before 9/11 and life after 9/11. The weekend before the attacks, our good friends were getting married. Joe and I were both in the wedding, and we had a wonderful time dancing and drinking, never imagining what would play out before our eyes a few days later. I remember thinking that we will never get that back again. Never have that “pre-9/11” feeling of freedom, the feeling of not knowing, that blissful ignorance that you have before a major event like this opens your eyes. It has never been the same since. It has affected the way we do so many things in life that before we just did without thinking – boarding a plane, making travel plans, packing a bag, visiting certain places. My son who was born in 2008 will never experience that – this is the world that he was born into. And he learns about 9/11 the same way I learned about WWI and WWII – as an event of the past that helped shape the society in which we now live.
In the weeks and months and years to follow, we have never forgotten the events of that day, and how many lives were lost, how many fallen heroes there were. So many individual stories that we could never hope to hear them all.
This year, I will remember the events of 9/11 in a different way. Last November, I travelled with my friend Jolene to New York City for the first time as my Birthday present from her, to attend the Book Riot convention. It was my first time there, and we were there for three jam packed days. I took in so much, and my list of what I want to do next time I go grew with each passing minute. It is safe to say that I fell in love with this city in the short time that I was there. Of all the places that I want to travel, I want to go back to New York so badly, I know I will make it happen again. I want Joe to be able to experience the things that I did. I want to be a part of the city again.
While we were there, we visited the 9/11 Memorial. If you ever go to New York City, I would put it at the top of the list of things you must do while you are there. Seeing those fountains, walking through that museum, moved me in a way that I can not fully describe. I barely used my camera the whole time we were there, because it just didn’t feel right. There is a section of the museum where you go through the day so to speak. You see broadcasts of the day, there are timelines of what was happening on the ground and in the sky. There are artifacts from the site of the WTC, they play voice messages from people on planes left for their loved ones on the ground. There are things that were found in the rubble – shoes, glasses, notes scribbled on scraps of paper in the hopes of being rescued from the top floors of the building. It brought everything home for me in a way that watching it on TV could never do. It was different than visiting a WWII museum, this was something that I remember happening, I remember it unfolding. As I left there, I remember feeling a numbness in my body, as I walked down the street and looked up and saw the new One World Trade Center, there was a quietness in my mind and I knew that I would never remember 9/11 the same way again. It was a life changing moment.
The next day, while walking through Central Park and down 5th Avenue, it really started to resonate with me and I could see why terrorists that wanted to strike at the very heart of Western Civilization would choose New York as their target. The city is alive. It actually breathes. It embodies the life and spirit and values that make our civilization what it is. Yes, it is a financial hub, and it is heavily populated and everything else that goes with the goal of crippling a nation, but more than that – it is the symbol of the life, and the freedom we enjoy but don’t often think about. You walk down the streets of New York and you see every type of person imaginable. All races, creeds, lifestyles, etc. and they all share one thing in common by being there: in New York you are who you are, and you don’t have to be sorry for it.
So we commemorate the 15th anniversary of 9/11, and remember the lives that were lost in New York, at the Pentagon, and in the field in Pennsylvania, and remember the courage of so many that day and in the days and weeks following. We move forward in the hopes of a brighter tomorrow, and say thank you to those that fight to protect our freedom. Every year, on this day we take a moment to remember, to reflect, and to be grateful.
And as for you New York, we will meet again – that I promise you!