Hope on the Saddest of Days

On this the saddest of days, I think of all the children born on 9/11, and every 9/11 since, and they give me hope.

abc_sept_11_kids_jrs_110909_wgTonight we’ll talk, laugh, think, connect because we can and we should. Being alive is no disrespect to the friends, colleagues, acquaintance I knew, and the thousands I did not know, who were murdered on September 11, 2001.

No one can forget, nor should we ever, that most tragic of days. I was in New York City in my apartment two miles from the World Trade Center. My mother calls. It’s 9am. I am supposed to be on a bus to New Jersey. I pick up the phone, “I’ll be dressed and out of the house in 15 minutes.”    “Turn on the TV,” she says, “Something is going on.”  Right then, a plane hits the second tower. Was it 9:06? 9:03? Does it matter?

“Get out of the city right now,” she pleads. But I can’t.  All mass transportation is shut down. “Then get on your bike and ride over the George Washington Bridge. I’ll pick you up on the highway in New Jersey.”  My father grabs the phone, “Get in your basement, they are killing people.”

I don’t leave. I call my husband. He’s working in upper Manhattan about to make the four-mile trek home with his colleague, who will sleep on our couch that night.  I’m relieved when I reach my cousin who bartends at Brady’s Pub just blocks from the WTC. He’s been turned around before he could get there. I walk the streets of Manhattan with my friend to the hospital to donate blood. They don’t need any more. Thousands had gotten there before us. She’s Jewish, I’m Catholic, but together we duck into the nearest church, neither of us can recall the denomination; we need to breathe and pray. We watch the hundreds, thousands of people making their way uptown from Wall Street, bodies covered in dust, eyes covered in numbness, carry briefcases and shock. An eery quiet.

Soon every telephone pole is covered in pictures: Have you seen my brother? my sister? my mother? my father? my friend? Days later notes of love and pain are taped to the outside of buildings and to the doors of those gone: We’ll never forget you Chris”    “You will always live in our hearts Eileen”

Strangers on the streets, we walk by each other for days, weeks, months looking into each other’s eyes – I see you, I’m with you, maybe I even love you.

I’ve passed what used to be the towers hundreds of times, but I always avert my eyes. When friends come to town and ask if I want to join then at the memorial, I say no. I can’t bear it.  I can’t bear to recall the horrific sights of that day.  I can’t bear that it has become a tourist sight with a gift shop selling cups, caps and, yes, “cute Aprons.”   I understand the need for people to see it for themselves, to honor in their own way.  I respect that. But I do it in my way.  When I drive from New Jersey into Manhattan, I see the Liberty Tower rising high in the sky and I nod and give a faint smile.

When my friend posts a big happy birthday to her son whose birthday falls on 9/11, it makes me think of all the children born on every 9/11, and like the Liberty Tower rising in the sky, they give me hope.

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