Saturday, September 10, 2011

10th Anniversary of 9-11, Just been thinking about it non-stop

Here's me and my Uncle Wim in front of the WTC in the 1980s.

I was in the bathroom yesterday and picked up this commemorative 9-11 issue of New York Magazine that was sitting there and I started to read these stories. And then I came across one tale from a woman and the "goodbye" phonecall she got, and then another tale discussing that day, and I cried, and suddenly I started remembering being alive at that moment in time - everything it meant, and what that time was for me.

- I was in Washington DC, a Junior in college at GWU. That morning my roommates' sister woke us up with a phone call (people had house phones back then). At this time, the pentagon had already been hit, I turned on the tv and watched as the towers collapsed live. I called my boyfriend who was at American U. DC was being evacuated. My roommate's parents asked her to leave DC and go home.

I went over to see if my class was still going on and of course it was not, just confused people near the classroom, not sure what to do or where to go.

My boyfriend Justin and I decided we should meet, and that we would be safest and most mobile on our bikes. I lived on campus, which is right next to the White House and State Department. I went outside to the GWU quad to meet Justin. People were gathering outside, confused. A girl asked me "what happened"? The campus buildings had their alarms on and were being evacuated, and there was some idea that bomb threats were everywhere.

Then a college friend Brandy, a White House Intern, walked toward us, leaving the White House. She said they were ordered to evacuate. They were told that another plane was up in the air (flight 93), and it was probably headed for the white house. This was very scary because we were a few blocks away. At the same time, there were car bomb scares at the State Department, which was also around the corner.

Justin was a photographer and he took lots of photographs on his way to meet me. The city was emptying. It was quickly becoming a ghost town. The metro was shut down, and a sea of cars moved out. Within hours, still daylight, DC was quiet and still. At this point, all planes had crashed, and bomb threats had ended. Justin and I went on our bikes, him with photo camera, and me with video camera, to observe.

We biked up to the White House. One of the guards outside was dating my roommate, so we chatted him up. It was empty there.

We biked up to the Capitol building. We saw huge helicopters landing. We thought that the people getting off these helicopters must be senators who were convening to hold a meeting.

I had planned to visit home that weekend. I used to take the Delta Shuttle - an aiplane that was $50 each way from DC to NY, and was cheaper than the train. I flew home the weekend after 9-11. I was one of the first people to board the plane - which had no first class, it was all one. I sat in the 4th row and the other 3 front rows were off limits. A plain clothes man was already seated there. I asked "what are you doing here" He said "I'm secret service, a VIP is on this plane" I said "no way" He said "yes, the Clintons". I pulled out my phone to tell my dad, he said "no, stop! no one off the plane is supposed to know" so I put down the phone.

I had the chance to go up and meet the Clintons during the flight, and told them how much I supported them. I asked Hillary if she would speak at my school. She told me to go over to Huma and get her card. Years later I read all about Huma in Hillary's auto-biography, and unfortunately saw her in the headlines post-Weiner. At the end of the flight, Bill walked down the aisle and offered autographs to those who wanted them. He signed "Heather, Thanks for your Support, Bill". He remembered my name.

The Clintons flew that day to encourage people to fly again, a press junket waited for them as we exited the terminal.

When I arrived in New York City, the walls of buildings, subways, fences, were covered in "missing" signs.

- My mom worked in the WTC during the first bombing in 1993. I was at girlscouts when I got a call about it from my sister, saying mom was ok, she was on the 18th floor, she walked out, covered in ash, and was on her way home. The company moved their offices after that due to fears about terrorist attacks. I remember thinking it would be impossible to bomb it again after bombing it once. In 2001 mom worked in midtown. She walked to the west side and took a ferry across the water to come home to NJ.

I LOVE this town. I LOVE my home, New Jersey. And New Jersey is what it is because of New York City. The people of my small suburban town work in New York. NYC is "the city" and when you're a little kid, NYC is a magical land of endless possibility, fun, dreams, and excitement - and you just hop on a bus or train and you're there. Mommy works here. Dreams happen here.

The people of NJ and NY are wonderful people. We are tough, honest, diverse, educated, cultured, creative, and complicated. I LOVE these people. NY people aren't rude, they are just busy. They want to help you when you're lost. You just have to ask.

I lived in NYC the summer of 2001, taking summer classes at Fordham Lincoln Center, and spending my time at the old UCB theatre in Chelsea. I used to watch the UCB greats like the Robs - Huebel, Riggle, and Lathan, or the SNL stars, and then go to McManus and see them hanging out there when I was still too young to drink. I met Jake Lodwick that summer when he was still a dorky college boy. I had still never been to Williamsburg. I took comedy classes with Armando Diaz before the Magnet theatre had been formed. I studied with goga NYC, an all female comedy group. I went to a show in the Lower East Side and was absolutely scared of how sketchy the neighborhood was, and was shocked to find a restaurant that served something as sophisticated as lemongrass tomato soup. I bartended for a week at Julians on 9th avenue. I started reading the NY Times.

When I got out of the subway, I'd look up to find the tops of the WTC towers, to figure out which way was downtown. You could see them from everywhere.

When you would drive in from NJ, you could see these glorious towers the whole drive there. My favorite view was always driving into the Lincoln Tunnel, right at the waterfront.

I remember visiting mom at work in the towers, and looking up from the bottom. A straight line up into the sky, farther than you've ever seen before. I don't know if anyone will ever experience a view like that again. I remember riding the multiple elevators up, the feeling in your head and ears up there. I remember the winter garden, something I regarded as one of the most beautiful places- an indoor glass atrium with palm trees at the waterfront! Somehow, an all glass building, it survived. I don't understand it, but I'm glad.

I remember when they re-opened the WTC Path trains. I rode in to what used to take you to the basement of the buildings. The train pulled into a horrible, empty graveyard. You could see up to the sky.

When I look downtown, my mind has a casual knowledge of what's supposed to be in that empty space. Just this week, for the first time, I saw something new. A building full of lights is peaking out above other buildings. It's the "Freedom Tower" - foreign, new. Doesn't feel a thing like New York City. It feels invasive, and it doesn't look like those towers. I'd have loved to see them come back again, and instead we are left with graveyards, holes, and the tourists come to point, look, take photos, buy flags and tee-shirts. It's a historical spectacle.

- At a friend's beach house in the hamptons in the summer of 2004, 2 long island men had big tattoos on their bodies. "Hey what's your tattoo?" "This is a tattoo for our brother who died on 9-11"
- Hearing about a friend's father in a the secret service, he went across the street to go get McDonalds for breakfast when the planes hit. He survived. Many people's alarms didn't go off that day, and those people wake up today.
- There was a woman in my law school in 2004. Everyone said, "oh, she's the widow of the guy who used to own Hobson's Choice in Hoboken. He died on 9-11." His name was Wayne Hobson. Hoboken's WTC losses
- Every town in NJ has their own 9-11 memorial, and every town I've visited has their own home victims.

- One of the most significant communal experiences of 9-11 was that for at least a week or more after, nothing was funny, and there was no desire to joke or be funny - as an entire community, possibly nation. I've never felt that before and I hope to never feel that again.

Can you imagine what it's like to feel like, for days, all people share such deep morning that it's truly uncomfortable to carry on or laugh?

In this video, Conan and Jon Stewart capture it best:

THE WOMEN of 9-11
Who deserve respect.

If you feel like you should never forget. Here's one way.

Never forget. I'm not sure why I want to hold on to all of these things. Exchanging stories with others ...

I don't think I ever want to forget my New York City. I don't want to forget us, who we are, or how we got here.

It takes a lot of effort to remember truth - in the face of the chaotic, confused spectacle that followed 9-11-01.

No comments: