We were never safe. We just thought we were, and it's hard to remember what that felt like. As significant as BC and AD, 9/11 changed everything.
I've always been a morning news person, usually flipping on the TV as I get dressed for work, background music to the routine of my daily life. For some unknown reason, that day I got up, got Lucas and Emma off to school and went to work without turning on the television or even the radio in my car. (Because I work in CT, we had moved from the city to be closer to my job in 1995.)
A few months earlier, in July of 2001, I was heavily into the online dating thing and met a man who lived in Perth, Australia. As online relationships often do, it quickly progressed into a romance and he decided to make the 10,000 mile trip to see me in October. One of the plans we made was to go to the nightclub at the top of the World Trade Center. Since he had never been to NYC, he was excited not just to meet me, but to enjoy the city and see everything that he had only read about all his life.
On the morning of 9/11, as I drove to work, my cellphone rang. It was Roy, telling me that a plane had hit the towers. I started laughing, thinking that he was pulling my leg because of the plans we had made. He kept trying to tell me what had happened, and I almost hung up on him. Then, he told me about the Pentagon and my stomach fell. I knew, then, that he was serious. And that we as a nation were in trouble.
I don't remember the rest of the drive to work. I got there and stood in the lobby of our building, watching CNN on the plasma screen TV and seeing the towers fall. I remember one of the marketing managers saying, "We need to kill the fuckers!" We all stood there in shock, not knowing what was really happening, seeing the images of an enormous dust cloud chasing frantic crowds around narrow street corners. We tried to think of people we knew who worked in the towers, or who may have had meetings there that day. Mostly I remember thinking that this was it. That World War III had started and my children would not live to adulthood.
If you did not live in NYC or the tri-state area at that time, there are memories I can only try to describe to you. In the days that followed the attacks, the weather was almost inappropriately beautiful, and the skies without ANY air traffic left us in an eerily quiet state. Like when the power goes out in your house and all the white-noise is gone. People were extraordinarily kind to each other. We looked into each others eyes and felt a connection like never before.
Having grown up in the city and spent most of my adult life living in Manhattan and Brooklyn, I had to get down there as soon as I could. On the Sunday after the attacks, I took the train to Grand Central, with my camera and a notepad to record my experience. As the train made its way to the city, the doors opened at one stop and several menacingly loud "gangsta" guys got on the train and started banging on the doors, seeming to enjoy the fear that they could so easily instill in the passengers whose nerves were already frayed. The rise in adrenalin was plapable. The big bad thing had happened. Now, anything was possible. We got to the city without incident.
I walked from Grand Central Station to Canal Street, which is probably about three miles, taking pictures as I went. I made a short iMovie of them which can be seen here.
There was still a sense of hope, that the moms and dads and brothers and sisters and children on the flyers might somehow be found. But the prevailing sentiment, the most powerful and overwhelming hope, was that our government would not use this event, use our pain and our loss, to start a war.
There were two songs I heard that day as I walked. One was Kate Smith singing "God Bless America" (what this little boy is listening to on a gramophone in Washington Square Park).
The other was John Lennon, pleading that we "Give Peace a Chance."