Yesterday was difficult. Seven years ago and still the wounds are raw. Although I am not a NYC resident I’m 30 miles as the crow flies from ground zero. And I remember. I remember the moment I first heard that a plane had hit the North Tower. My husband, his voice strained called and said, turn on the TV, a plane just hit the North Tower. No need for me to ask what tower, the Twin Towers had been a part of my view of the NY skyline forever. And then his voice saying, “this is no accident, look out at the sky”.
I did just as he asked. I walked out my front door and looked up at a sky that was so blue it hurt to look at it: a perfect, crystal blue sky that is so rarely seen along the Jersey Shore. In that moment of inattention, I missed the second plane colliding. But the screams of my children still inside were reason enough to rush back inside to see the South Tower engulfed in flames and black smoke. For hours we clung to the TV hoping against hope that somehow this nightmare would end differently.
Hundreds of books, movies, documentaries and magazine articles have been written about that day of national tragedy. CNN’s timeline is the best minute-by-minute capture of that tragic day: http://archives.cnn.com/2001/US/09/11/chronology.attack/index.html
What I share is the view of someone on the fringes of the eye of that firestorm. Here then are the snapshots from my memory of September 11, 2001
· Doctor’s appointment at 1 pm. Dr. cuts it short; he’s on his way to Riverview Hospital just 12 minutes away to triage the injured who will be brought in by boat. In those moments we are still hopeful that he would be needed. No boat ever arrived with survivors.
· Driving up the shore road towards Atlantic Highlands watching the black plume of smoke drifting like a huge python along the horizon. Black smoke from the funeral pyre of thousands of innocents.
· Nearing the Highlands and having to detour on road after road to find a way to climb the hills and see the NYC skyline.
· Finding a huge section of land roped off and guards silently inviting us in to park.
· Silence as we leave the car and start our climb upwards toward the high lands through familiar streets suddenly unfamiliar in their mourning.
· Silence of the people coming down the hills, tears streaming from eyes both young and old.
· Silence at the zenith where we join hundreds lined up along the ridge watching across the bay at the black smoke rising from a suddenly unfamiliar skyline.
· Silence; prayers; whispers; tears; soft sobbing as we make our way back down the streets to our car. Patience as the line of cars await to fill spots as they empty.
· Silence in the empty streets; empty stores; closed malls.
· Silence as we finally locate a restaurant still open and are quietly shown to a table facing the TV.
· Silence; whispers; tears as we watch the telecasters grimly recounting the events of the last seven hours.
· Silence as we drive back towards home and stop at a convenience store to purchase editions of newspapers with screaming headlines.
· And finally the silence of that blinding crystal blue sky. No planes flying, just silence and tears and a blue, blue sky that we East Coasters now refer to as a 911 sky.