I awoke today and didn’t even realize that it was September 11th.
Eighteen years ago, at about 10:30am I was standing outside on the street at Park Avenue and 49th Street–Midtown.
Looking south down Park Avenue, Helmsley Building blocked my view to see the smoke coming from Ground Zero. For me to see the smoke and the destruction I had to walk east. My exit strategy was to walk north to the 59 Street Bridge and cross over into Long Island City, Queens. There was a friend who worked in that part of Queens and I thought it would be a good start for making my exit from the island on Manhattan to my home in Far Rockaway.
I said goodbye to my co-workers (we were coming off of a Midnight to 10am shift) and I headed north then east.
It was when I neared 3rd Avenue that I could see down the canyon of buildings and saw the cloud of ash.
Prior to that, around 8:30am, a co-worker announced that a small plane had crashed into one of the twin towers. The offices we were in did not have any windows and we were on the clock, so we stayed at our desks. Sometimes I wandered to see another co-workers computer screen as they watched the news.
Shift change was coming and we were starting a new type of schedule that had an hour overlap between shift workers. This meant that we had to give up our desks to the incoming shift workers and we didn’t have a place to sit. We were placed in a space where desks were not being used on another floor. In our eyes, it wasn’t a good managerial move, but at this moment it didn’t matter.
It was now 10am and two buildings had already collapsed and we were to focused on the instability of the situation to care so much about seats. We were talking about leaving and getting out of Manhattan. We were far from ground zero, but who knew what would be next.
So we waited to get clearance to leave. Permission to flee. If there is a next time, I will not wait, I would get out regardless of the threat of job loss.
Now, I was walking across the bridge and it was a different experience. I normally would be driving across the bridge but now walking, I felt the incline as we walked up the 12 story high bridge. The road was closed to in-bound traffic, so we walked on the in-bound lanes. The new “We” were about 10,000 people who were using the bridge to flee the city. Some people stopped to look at the plume of steel and concrete slowly drifting away. I didn’t have a camera phone so I couldn’t take a picture, but others had disposable camera’s and a few had camera phones like the Razor. I felt like those fleeing in the exodus.
It took me 8 hours to get home that day. I wouldn’t return to work until three days later. That same day my uncle Jimmy died. He would be the dead that wasn’t memorialized because their deaths were overshadowed by the disaster.
Eighteen years later and I woke up not even remembering. That doesn’t make me a bad person, does it? Life goes on and although I haven’t forgotten (as you have read), I don’t live my life thinking about it every day. Our remembrance should be for the lives left behind, not the dead. We should remember that we are not safe, although we try so hard to believe that we are. We should remember that more soldiers have died than people at the World Trade Center on September 11th, 2001.
We are forgetting the important life lessons learned, but remembering the dead.
I think this is why Jesus said, Let the dead bury the dead. Those who are dead care nothing about the living. We who are alive need to care about the living.
I’m alive. I am caring. September 11th, 2019.