September 2001, we had a trip planned to NYC. We love NYC. We love live theatre, the busyness of the city, the museums and art galleries, Central Park. So much to see and do and never enough time. We hadn’t been there in a while and it was time for a repeat. So we put in on the calendar. NYC is so easy. We take Amanda out of school only about an hour early on a Friday, catch a direct flight, no need to get to the airport early, no security lines way back then… Get there is plenty of time for a show and dinner, then if it’s a Monday off kind of week, like her school offered all through the fall, way back when, we had 3 nights in the city and more fun than we could handle. Let’s do it! So I booked a hotel, airline tickets, made some dinner reservations, at favorite spots, theatre tickets and started making *the* plan.
Then, that morning of September arrived.
A day of celebrating in our family. It was my sister’s birthday! The best, older sister a girl could ask for! Yay!
Turned on the TV, got the youngest off to school. Hubby had already left for work and I’m sipping another cup of coffee while planning my day. We had a big ta do event coming up on the weekend and I needed something to wear. My plan was to get to the mall as soon as I got around.
Then *it* happened.
Just another Tuesday morning as I was watching the Today show.
You know the rest of the story. Everyone remembers where they were and what they were doing. Well, as soon as the plane hit the Pentagon, my heart sank.
My older brother was working at the Pentagon, at the time.
Not sure you can imagine what it feels like to have our heart hit your stomach like that. Maybe you can. But, I hope not.
He survived without injuries and later wrote a tear jerker of a story here. Read his story, it’s a good one…..
So what to do? But go shopping. I had a cell phone and couldn’t do anything but worry at home. No one knew anything, for hours. My stomach was in a knot. It was eery out on the highway. The mall was empty.
Of course, the younger’s first tennis lesson of the year, was cancelled, that evening, everyone feared leaving the safety of their homes. Our weekend ta do was cancelled, and for once I was glad I didn’t find anything to wear… Boy were those first days somber…
About now, you’re wondering where I was headed with this story….
Within several days the news was begging us to please not cancel your NYC trips. They needed us more than ever. They were desperate for the money visitors would bring.
September 12 the schools call in counselors to explain everything to the students. Our youngest was a middle schooler. I just learned, yesterday, that she announced to her class and counsellor that we were going to NYC. Of course, they tried to shoot her down and say no, not anymore, you aren’t.
Well, A is a smart kid and hey, we love NYC and will help out any way we can. It was a little nerve-racking not knowing what to expect. Broadway shows were being cancelled right and left, restaurants had missing and lost employees. The dust had not settled. There were still fires being put out.
But we were game.
We went. We love NYC.
The day after we arrived they opened up the streets down toward Ground Zero. When I say near I mean near in a very distant kind of way. For whatever reason, we decided to go down there. Crazy thinking back on it. But we did. We got a cabbie to take up as far as he was permitted to go and walked the rest. It was a long walk. Not as long as those who were trying to escape Manhattan on a random Tuesday morning, but it was a long walk.
The security gates were shut down over the shops, because when this all happened they weren’t open yet. The glass was blown out and the mannequins were covered in thick dust. Like nothing we had ever seen.
Police, Fire, Rescue and Security wore masks for filtering the air. I’ve never smelled anything like it. Have you ever mixed up a batch of Quikrete? That acrid powder + water? Well that is what it smelled like. That chemical dust that settled in your lungs and you hacked up. For days. I don’t know how the rescuers handled it.
Trinity Church, first version circa 1697, across the street from Ground Zero, survived. It became a safe haven for first responders who needed a place to pray and sleep during the terrible events on 9/11 and the weeks and months to follow.
This was the fence where loved ones left messages for their missing friends and families. This is where family members cried. And begged. Begged for help. Begged anyone for information on their missing loved ones.
This was also where you could sign your name saying that you were here and that you cared.
This is where a 12 year old could get an eye-opening lesson. As we all did.
And in the middle of it all. Flags of hope hung.
Though September 11 has now taken on a life of its own, happenings and experiences, loss and continued loss, that we don’t like to think about, when the anniversary rolls around, we have no choice but to remember. All the lives cut short, all the families whose lives have been forever changed, not just in NYC, Pennsylvania or D.C., but around the globe. We mourned. We still mourn. Our lives have been changed forever.
I know your birthday will never be the same, Kim, but you continue to be the bestest older sister in the whole, wide, world.
You look mah~vel~ous!