I was sleeping soundly in the basement of my father’s house when I felt someone shaking me awake. My brother is a decidedly laid back person and had probably never bothered to wake anybody up in his life; for this reason the urgency and concern I sensed in his normally aloof demeanor caused an immediate uneasiness in my stomach.
“Dad called. He said to turn on the TV…something’s happening in New York.”
In a confusing haze of anticipation and dread I sprang upstairs to turn on the television, not realizing as I did so that I was being joined by hundreds of millions around the world. Nor did I realize that while I had been downstairs enjoying the peacefulness of a few sleepy morning hours in bed, the world was spinning out of control and would never be the same.
It had been a week since I started my vacation and much-needed break from my life in New York. During the previous year I had made the city my home, but I still enjoyed the occasional trip to see family and recharge my batteries amid a less hectic lifestyle.
However that morning simplicity had just been detonated into a million little pieces, and as my brother and I watched the second tower get hit I myself felt like I’d been hit squarely in the gut. In the confusion of anger, sadness, and fear, I continually asked myself a difficult question: did I have the courage to go back?
I did eventually return to live out several happy years, but obviously life in the city would always retain the memory of that morning when so many of my neighbors, whom I’d never met but was so closely connected to, were taken from their city. Their families. Everything they dreamed and planned for.
We visited ground zero this spring and saw the memorial. Two enormous basins where the foundations stood now serve as fountains which pour deep into the ground, seeming eerily symbolic. The names of every victim surround the edges.
It was a powerful sight for an ex-New Yorker for many reasons, not least of which being that I have a mother, two siblings, and numerous friends living in the city today. Any of their names could be sitting there carved into one of those plaques. I could have been shaken awake that morning with much worse news, like so many thousands must have been in the fall of 2001. Or it could have been my name, filling in the corners of tourist photographs and soaking up the mist of a fountain as breezes from Battery Park blow across the concrete esplanade.
Had it been me there instead, I’d like to know that someone, even eleven years later, would take the time to remember and send a few thoughts my way. It’s with that in mind that I post this today, along with a heavy heart, a lump in my throat, and the remembrance of how important it is to enjoy your damn life, even if it sometimes means getting out of your own way to do it. Today I’ll be trying to do exactly that, not just for myself but in honor of those who no longer can.
Do you remember what you were doing that morning? Let me know by leaving a comment below.