Monday, September 11, 2006

To Remember

Today the nation and the world observes a somber anniversary. Five years ago, I was working in New York. My office was in Westchester County and I was living on Long Island. I had just arrived at work and walking into my office, I heard on the radio that a "small plane" had struck the World Trade Center in New York. I left my office and went to turn on the only TV in the building. As I passed the office manager's office I told her what I had heard and she followed me to the TV. I then returned to her office to get on the computer to try and get more information. A few moments later she came into the office and said gravely, "I just watched another plane hit the other tower." Suddenly we knew something very bad was happening.

My girlfriend was living here in Maryland and her office is across the street from the White House. I tried vainly to get in touch with her for most of the morning. I finally remembered that she had had a dental appointment and was not in downtown DC that day. My thoughts then turned to my parents, who were preparing to get on a plane in Houston, Texas. When I finally talked to them later, my mother told me they had been put on the plane only to be taken back off again. My father went up to a television and asked a pilot who was standing there what had happened. With a voice barely audible, he replied, "the planes hit the towers."

I finally left my office in the early afternoon, after talking to my girlfriend and learning she was safe. I was unsure how I would get home and how long it might take me. As I traveled south on the Bronx River Parkway, fighter jets crossed overhead. I arrived at the Throgs Neck Bridge and for the first and likely only time in my life, paid no toll. Police stood at the toll barriers waving people through. As I crossed the bridge, I could look to the left and see the plume of smoke still rising over lower Manhattan. I got on the Long Island Expressway and headed east. The westbound lanes into New York City were closed except for emergency vehicles. Many fire trucks, police, and rescue trucks (refrigerated trucks, spotlights, etc.) passed me. My commute home, which normally takes me an hour, had taken me just 45 minutes.

I sat in my parent's house and watched the endless coverage on the TV. I could not believe what I was watching, it was just too surreal. Even now, five years later, the memories are still so vivid in my mind. A month or so later, I had the opportunity to visit lower Manhattan and viewed Ground Zero, with pieces of the World Trade Center still standing on the site. Fires still burned in the wreckage, and recovery efforts continued around the clock. I wept as I looked at memorials, especially the one outside the chapel that had become a rest station for the rescue workers.

So five years later, the mantra has become, "America is safer, but we are not safe." I just finished watching the president's address to the nation and I know that our lives as Americans are forever changed and we must continue to honor the memory of those we lost on that day in any way that we can. Take a moment and remember what we lost that day. God bless.

1 comment:

Liz Dwyer said...

Welcome to the world of blogs and thanks for sharing your experience. It was so odd for me to be tooling around LA all day and only have one person acknowledge that today is the day such tragedy visited us all.

Keep up writing. I thought your to-do list was genius!