Eleven Years Later

by Eileen, New York Guest Travel Planner

I love autumn.  I love when the weather begins to turn slowly but surely cooler and it’s time to take out scarves and gloves.  The night takes on a wonderful crisp tone and the sun begins to set earlier.  When I was younger I couldn’t wait to go back to school, and September always marked a new beginning for me.  I was in seventh grade when our school nurse interrupted our Spanish class to tell us two planes had crashed into the World Trade Center.  September took on a new meaning for me in 2001.

When it happened, the tragedy of it all seemed so far away from me in Flushing, Queens.  We lived in a quiet neighborhood that was 30 minutes outside of Manhattan.  I couldn’t believe what I was watching on tv and for two days it didn’t seem real.  The attacks happened on a Tuesday and school was cancelled for two days.  When we returned on Friday it seemed all too real; the wind path had changed and now there was a strong scent of debris and rust in the air.

I watched as the World Trade Center became Ground Zero, laying dormant for years.  For many years, I didn’t venture past 14th Street in Manhattan.  There was never really anything for me in Lower Manhattan.  After graduating high school, I decided on going to Pace University.  The Manhattan Campus of Pace is located right near the Brooklyn Bridge, across from City Hall, and just a few streets over from Ground Zero.  One Pace Plaza had served as a medical center for first responders and those injured on that day.  The University had strong ties with the NYPD and FDNY, and was a major proponent of revitalizing Lower Manhattan.  One winter day in the middle of a long break between classes, I bundled up and ventured outside.  For the first time I went over to the World Trade Center.  I’m not quite sure what compelled me to head in that direction, but I continued on.  It some ways I guess I needed to see that it was real; to see that such a tragedy occurred and that we, as a country, were still here.

As a New Yorker, I don’t really venture outside of the Northeast that often.  All of my family is sprinkled throughout New York, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire.  When I decided to head to Australia for a semester abroad, I realized I would be the furthest away from home ever.  All the students studying abroad had a departure orientation just a few weeks before we all went our different ways.  The study abroad chair person warned us that our country’s politics were an all too common subject being discussed no matter where we went in the world.  The topic of September 11th didn’t come up until about two months into my semester abroad in a discussion about Indonesian terrorist attacks.  I don’t even remember how it came up, but I remember the tutorial of about 20 students turn to look at me, the lone New Yorker.  For the first time, I shared what I had felt and gone through in great detail with a bunch of strangers.  I realized that they had felt the same terror and process of grieving that I had, nearly 10,000 miles away.  It was the first time that it struck me that this tragedy had spread beyond our domestic and geographic borders.  We were all still in the process of healing.

Last year marked the ten year anniversary of the terrorist attacks, a milestone for so many.  I was actually in Australia visiting the friends I had made a year and half prior.  At nearly 11 AM on September 12th, I watched the New York Jets host the Dallas Cowboys.  The pre-game ceremony and game were broadcast live on Aussie telly.

This year the anniversary actually snuck up on me.  With the week before shorted due to Labor Day and the week before that shortened due to my last summer vacation, I lost track of the dates.  I woke up and watched some of the reserved and respective news coverage and headed to my bus stop.  The air was cooler and I could see some of the leaves beginning to fall; September felt like a new beginning again.

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