Saturday, September 10, 2011
My September 11th
I lived in Hoboken at the time. When I saw on tv that a plane had hit the World Trade Center, I raced up my street to the river. A group of people watched the smoke rise, a mushroom cloud over lower Manhattan as if a nuclear bomb had hit. Someone with a radio said that the second tower had just been hit and the sickening truth dawned on us: this was no accident. This was a horrifying, intentional act. And there wasn’t a thing we could do to help those poor people.
As the sad day unfolded, we were turned away at the local hospital when we offered to give blood. The next day, every bus shelter in our city was covered with homemade posters, “Have You Seen Him?” “Have you seen my daughter? Son? Wife? Husband?” So many hopeful faces photographed at happy family occasions. Too much loss. There would always be an empty chair at the family dinner now.
We regroup and rebuild. We go back to work and life resumes. I always thought our freedom and openness protected us from terrorist threats. If anyone hated our values, they were free to criticize us to their heart’s content; lead a protest and march it up Broadway if you like. A feeling of “security” doesn’t mean the same thing anymore. We are now aware of our vulnerabilities, which is what the terrorists hoped.
I think it’s good news that life has largely returned to normal. Travel, especially air travel has been changed, but it’s amazing how little else has changed. Our freedom really is our strength. We call upon it in times of trouble and it sustains us. The terrorists didn’t “win” a thing. We’re still a free and open society and if you don’t like our values, you can criticize us in a loud voice from the highest hill. And people are willing to die to protect our freedoms. But the people of September 11th didn’t have a choice. Many just wanted to finish their work and get home to their family dinner.
There’s a hole in the skyline that can never be fixed. There’s an empty chair at the table.