It was a Tuesday morning with not a cloud in the gorgeous blue September sky. A day not much different from today. An ordinary day.
If you looked at the front page of today’s New York Times, you wouldn’t know it was a day with such extraordinary history. A day of loss and sorrow and confusion. It seems eleven years later we are supposed to be ready to move on and go back to a life of pretending today is an ordinary day filled with schedules and tasks. Today has never felt ordinary to me. This day will never feel ordinary. Now, even more than ever, it is important for us to remember. To reflect. To vow no such thing will happen again.
I remember a seventh grade English class. A kid leaving to go to the bathroom and coming back to say the President had been shot. Teachers speaking in hushed whispers in the halls. Corralling us all into the cafeteria, no information and all speculation. Even the most imaginative mind of a preteen could not have accurately predicted the day’s events. That was the problem with a NYC public school on this day. You could not tell us what had happened. Every single one of us had a relative or close family friend working in Manhattan. And if they didn’t, they had a father or mother or brother or uncle who was a cop, a fireman. This was Staten Island. EVERYONE is related somehow to a cop.
So we sat. And we talked. Not realizing that so many of us would have parents who could not make it home that night because roads and bridges and tunnels were closed. We did not understand the extent of this destruction until we learned days later about the parents who would never be coming home.
Now, I remember all too clearly the dark, dreary grey smoke that blanketed every borough of New York City. I remember the continuous loop of the news cycle showing the planes hitting the Towers. I remember the inability to make any phone call for days because the cell tower had gone down with the Towers’ collapse.
The sudden slew of “I love New York” shirts and “FDNYPD” hats that became commonplace in our wardrobes. The America flags flown from every house, whipping in the wind of every car window. The learning of new words… Terrorist. Osama bin Laden. Cantor Fitzgerald.
Attending memorials, not funerals, for first responders whose bodies were never found. Hearing the bagpipes of Amazing Grace play in person for the first time at a service for a friend’s father, who was a member of the firehouse on Staten Island that lost the most men.
Years later, driving down side streets of Staten Island that have been renamed to honor lives lost and ordinary men and women who became heroes. The pride in the New York Mets for refusing to listen to Bud Selig as he said the team could not wear commemorative caps on the 10 year anniversary.
There is no way to entirely move on. It will not take eleven years. There is no way to accept an attack on your home, on your country, and continue to go about your day without remembering.
There is no way to diminish the price I feel every time I walk off a train to see the Freedom Tower rising proudly from the ashes, flipping off the terrorists who thought they could squash our New Yorker spirit and our American patriotism.
There is an obligation now to make sure the future generations learn about this day and its significance. It is our duty.
Because we must Never Forget.