September 11, 2001...a day in history, with today being the 7th anniversary, that none of us will ever forget. Nor should we.
It's funny, whenever I meet people for the first time they typically will ask "Where are you from?" within about 5 minutes. I guess my good ole New York accent is hard to hide. Once I say NY, sometimes I'll say specifically Staten Island, most often our conversation will turn to 9.11.01. (And for the record, I do not compare to the show True Life: Staten Island Girl, either. hahaha... They do exist, I'm just not one of them.)
I wasn't one of those people that were in the towers, or even in the adjacent buildings that morning. I wasn't one of those people that were stranded in Manhattan that morning either, although I have friends that were. I wasn't one of those people that were caught in that dust cloud as the towers collapsed.
But, like many of you out there, I was at work preparing for what should have been just another day at work. Just like all those innocent people that were killed that day...it was just another day. It was a beautiful day too. The sky was bright blue and the air had a crispness to it showing signs of early fall but the big bright sun still warmed up the day like it was summer. It was my parents 30th wedding anniversary that day. It was also my 1 one year anniversary working for Guess?. Before I even had a chance to open my store for business that day, that beautiful, 'just another day' was over.
I worked at Jersey Gardens Mall in Elizabeth, NJ, which is located adjacent to the Newark-Liberty International Airport, right off the New Jersey Turnpike, and across the river from Manhattan. An associate at a store across the hall from me called me to keep me posted with what was going on...I had no idea because we didn't have our radio on. I tried calling my mother because she was home watching my daugther but I couldn't a call through. I began to think of all those people because I worked for a short time at 5 World Trade Center and know how busy that area is in the morning. I have friends that work in Manhattan and began to worry about them. Finally I got in touch with my mother who had been outside playing. Her neighbor told her what was going on so she went inside to turn on the news and then called me at work. I began to panic because she said they reported the city was in lock-down...all bridges and tunnels leading into the city were closed. That was a problem because I was in NJ and required a bridge to get home. All of my NJ connections were en-route to Manhattan, in Jersey City, Hoboken and Weehawkin, so I didn't dare try to head that way. My last connection was my uncle who lived about 45 minutes south in NJ but he was out of town. My dad told me to head that way anyway.
When I got the OK from our West Coast office to close up the store and get home safely, I wanted to cry because I couldn't go home. I was stuck. As I left the mall and headed for the turnpike entrance, I peered over toward Manhattan and saw that smoke plume. The traffic was practically stopped. I tuned into Howard Stern and remember his voice...his normal sarcasm and dirty humor was not there...he was serious. It was quiet outside...eerily quiet. I ended up stopping at a service station in Perth Amboy, NJ because if they decided to open the bridges I'd be close and I needed to stop driving. I didn't have a cell phone and I was alone. I remember how insanely quiet it still was. A very nice girl in the convenience store allowed me to call my mother to touchbase...she also allowed me to give her the store's phone number so they could call me back. (See, there are nice people!) After spending the day alone and not really knowing what was going on, other than from the few phone calls I was able to make, I got home thanks to a neighbor who had a boat. He picked me up from the Perth Amboy marina. As I took that boat ride home around Staten Island to the Great Kills marina, the plume of smoke still rose high above the north end of Staten Island.
I'd say I suffered from some kind of post traumatic stress disorder for days and weeks to follow. I couldn't turn off the news. I'd wait for the newspaper to come so I could see if there was anyone else I knew that perished that morning...and I went to school with a quite a few. The days and weeks that followed included one funeral procession after another...the NYPD and FDNY that were lost, the people in the towers...our little part of the South Shore was greatly effected. I remember standing outside many times in reverance as those processions passed the house.
As I drove to work in the days that followed, taking the West Shore Expressway past the Fresh Kills Garbage Dump, which became the place for the sorting of the debris from the towers, I remember seeing the crushed emergency vehicles up on the hill, the refrigerated trucks heading towards it knowing it contained remains, and dump truck after dump truck of metal and concrete.
I also remember going to school, and I was taking an American gov't course at the time, and saying how everyone pulled together and seeing a renewed sense of patriotism among the community. Unfortunately, it takes a disaster for people to pull together and realize how good they have it. I think the lesson was to be grateful no matter what.
I guess I just want everyone to take a minute to remember. Remember all those lives that were lost. They woke up thinking it was just another day too. Whether they were on a plane or sitting at their desk, it was just another day. Their lives were stolen from them. They deserve to never be forgotten...that is the least we can do.
Even if you take a minute to remember where you were, what you were doing when you found out what was going, etc. Just remember. They aren't really dead until they are forgotten and I think we, as Americans, owe it to them to never let them die.
September 11, 2001