Seems like a strange thing to be thinking about in the middle of February of 2007, but I wanted to capture these emotions and thought I might blog about them. Particularly in the run up to the 2008 elections, as we begin to have daily reminders that we live in a "post 9/11" world, I thought it important to reflect a bit, take stock on emotions...
I overslept on the morning of 9/11. I woke up to my best friend calling my cell phone. I hit ignore because I realized I was late for work. Really late. It was about 8:45am Pacific. I threw on some clothes and ran out the door to catch the bus. I called my office and spoke to the receptionist who told me that there had been an attack on NYC and that the World Trade Center was bombed. I had to ask 3 times if she was joking and she told me to get to a TV. I ran into a corner store where they had the TV playing and saw the awful news. In a state of shock, I proceeded to go into work because I didn't know what else to do.
My family was directly impacted by 9/11 - my sister and brother-in-law were living 2 blocks away from Tower 2 and my brother-in-law was working within a block for Tower 1. My family is a New York family. My dad's family and my mom's family are both from Brooklyn and then later Long Island. My grandmother was still living in LI and several aunts, uncles, and cousins were living in the greater NY area in September of 2001.
I had just moved to San Francisco and hadn't changed over my DC cell number yet. By the time I found out the news, the towers had already fallen. The Pentagon was already smoking. And by that time, all phones from DC to NY weren't working. I remember calling and calling and calling to see if my family was ok. My mother was on a train headed to NYC that morning. My brother-in-law and sister were within blocks for the WTC when the planes hit. At 11:23am PT, I finally got an email from my father that said the following...
>Subject: New update
>Date: Tue, 11 Sep 2001 11:23:59 -0400
>Adam is OK. Just a little dusty.
>Mom is stuck in the city (Penn Station was closed).
>I have not gotten to your grandmother.
My mother has Lupus and was stuck all day in the lobby of the Hotel Pennsylvania. Strangers made her a place so that she could lie down. I think they found her a table. My brother-in-law hiked about 100 blocks from lower Manhattan to his father's office uptown. By the time he got there, he was covered in the soot that was covering the city like snow. My work sent me home. I went home and watched the horrible scenes on TV. Waiting for someone to call or for the phone lines to open up.
I got the following email from my father the next day:
>Spoke to mom. Trying to get her to take your grandmother to the beach.
>Rachel is at work. David has no class (we know that). I worked out this AM
>and came in a bit later.
>You should consider doing the following:
>1) Take a walk
>2) Listen to a Phish tape
>3) Give blood
>4) Find a minyan for mincha/mariv.
A few hours later, I got this one:
>Subject: Re: New update
>Date: Wed, 12 Sep 2001 13:13:40 -0400
>Speaking to mom in new york as I am typing this. She sends love and wants
>me to tell you that two carrier pigeons are being sent to pick you up for
>Don't forget the therapeutic benefit of a good walk.
>I will calm her down.
These three emails still have the power to make tears well up in my eyes. It's the rawest of emotions. The panic. The feeling of complete lack of control. Of being 21 years old and moving across the country with the idea that home was no more than a plane ride away. And then having the idea of a plane ride change overnight from something easy to something horrifying.
My sister and brother-in-law never got home. It took a full eight months before they were permitted back into their apartment and even then it required a police escort. But at least they came home. Many didn't. I cried the first time I flew back to New York. Tears streamed down my face as the flight attendants got on the speaker and said "And if New York is home for you, welcome home." New York has been my second home since my first visit when I was three weeks old. I remember in the months after 9/11 that people applauded after successful flights. I still remember this every time I fly and I fly often. That once, as a nation, we clapped our hands in gratitude after successfully landing.