Thursday, September 11, 2008

Seven years later

and the emotions are still very easy to recall from that morning in 2001. I think I must have watched TV for 2 weeks straight in the aftermath. Seeing the planes hit the buildings over and over. Listening to news reports projecting up to 10,000 people dead, then hearing the actual numbers slowly roll in. Images of family and friends holding photos of the missing, stories of heroism, some with miraculous survival, but mainly ending in death. So many deaths, all at once, many witnessed 'live' via broadcasts as planes crashed and the towers collapsed surreally on our screens.

I sat on the couch with 9 month old Gabby on my lap that morning and realized that she would never know an America without this horrible act of terrorism. Of course, at that time, we had no way to know if this was an isolated incident, or if terrorist attacks would now continue to happen on American soil. Planes were grounded, bridges were guarded and suspicions arose toward anyone of Middle Eastern appearance.

My brother was in Germany serving as a blackhawk pilot in the Army at the time. What began as four years of service during peacetime, as repayment for his West Point education, ended with him serving two of his remaining years in Iraq and Afghanistan, away from his wife and infant son, and probably in much more danger than I will ever know in my lifetime.

I wanted desperately to travel to New York to help in any way, but with an infant that just wasn't possible. On the first anniversary, I remember wanting to go to Ground Zero for the memorial service. And each time business would take Jeff out to New York, I would wish I could go so that I could visit the site.

Finally, this past May, I was able to do just that.

We walked the waterfront that we had looked across the way at (from the Jersey side) when we had been out there in 1999 for my brother's graduation. (This is where I would insert the photo that shows the Twin Towers behind us, if I could find it!)

Being on the New York side this time, we would not have been able to see the Towers well, anyway, even if they had still been there, simply because of all the other tall buildings along the water. In fact, it was hard to believe we were as close to Ground Zero as we were, there was absolutely no signs of the attacks. But then we rounded a corner, and it was as though all of New York was under construction. Gaping holes where buildings should have been and entire sides of skyscrapers were being resided. The huge cranes visible in the main building area flew American flags from their 'arms', evidence that this was not just an ordinary building project.
The memorial center featured recovered items; clothing, briefcases, wallets, shoes. Particularly disturbing was the helmet of a fireman that died that day. Along with the items are stories, written on the walls, and playing from a television, telling first-hand accounts of those who worked in the Towers and those who lost loved ones.

The outside of the memorial gallery (above) has an enlarged photo of the WTC taken after the attacks as well as a mirrored surface that relects the re-building taking place across the street.

There is an opportunity, before you exit the center, to write your own recollections of 9/11 and post it on the wall.

I cried upon seeing Ground Zero for the first time in person. I cried as I toured the memorial center and looked upon the faces of so many lost that day. and I cried as I wrote out my thoughts that morning seven years ago that so paled in comparison to those whose husband, wife, father, mother, daughter or son walked out that morning never to return, but that are so important to remember...because they are what make 9/11 so personal to me. It is not just a day when bad things happened to people in four planes, and New York, and happened to every person living in America.

I will never forget.


Daniel said...

...nor will I. Well put.
Love you, Dad.

Lee Ann said...

It's one of those things we will all remember exactly where we were for the rest of our lives. It has definitely changed us. I'm so glad you got to go there. It's something I'd like to do. I almost feel I owe it to them....all those who lost their lives or the loved ones they left behind.

Dee said...

Well said! Someday I would love to go to New York and see Ground Zero as well. It's definintely on the wish list of places I would like to travel.

Mer said...

I can't believe it has been seven years. Thanks for posting your pics and thoughts.

Amy said...

I teared up just reading your post about it. You write so well. Thanks for sharing!