Since the attacks of September 11, 2001, a collective consciousness surrounding the events has formed. No matter one’s political views, or how close in proximity one was to the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, or the field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania; no matter whether one chooses to ignore history, or immerse oneself in remembrances; or if loved ones were lost, or if there was no personal connection to the events at all – the date, no doubt, provokes personal recollections. Here are ours:
I live 15 minutes from Newark Airport; 15 miles from Manhattan. I was speeding downhill in my car about two hours after the towers collapsed, to not only get to my sons at school to bring them home, but because I had a fight-or-flight, duck!, fear piercing me from my throat on down. I believed that at any moment, planes were going to start falling out of the sky on top of me – no matter where I went. It was then, and still is today, the most out of control I’ve ever felt. And the closest I’ve ever felt to death – not only my death, and the death of everyone I loved, but the death of our civilization; our world.
Every September 11 since then, I’m reminded of the ignorant complacency that comes with passing time. I mourn the loss of clarity that I felt that day, and in the weeks and months after. Clarity that only comes with a first encounter with something that has never happened before, and bears nothing else in comparison.
Since 1997, I have walked east to west to go to my gym in the morning. Looking south from 6th Avenue and 20th Street, I had a perfect and direct view of the Twin Towers. I would debate with myself whether I liked them from an architectural standpoint. I would remember the controversy surrounding their erection. I could never decide. All I knew, for sure, was that they were big, and I had eaten a lovely wine-filled meal at Windows on the World.
On September 13, 2001, I walked east to west, and looked south from 6th and 20th.The sky was black – a plume of smoke and ashes. And the Twin Towers were gone. The emptiness in the sight-line can still catch me. Their nonexistence is an unending reminder of their existence. The Ground Zero Memorial and Freedom Tower fill the space but, for me, do not heal the wound of September 11, 2001.