September 11, 2001 dawned clear, sunny and seemingly perfect. A new chapter in my life had started just the day before: on 9/10 I accepted a job that would require me to leave New York for Washington, DC. Truthfully, I was crushed, but I really wanted – and needed – the job so I made what I thought of as the “grown-up decision” to move.
I had just twenty days to pack up my belongings and find an apartment in DC, a city I barely knew. Little did I know how physically and emotionally challenging the move process would be.
On September 11, I lived with a roommate in a cute old tenement on Cornelia Street in Greenwich Village. I recall getting out of bed, and going into the living room as she got ready to leave for work.
“I think I heard a plane crash,” I told Kelly as I rubbed sleep from my eyes.
“Go back to bed,” Kelly said with an eyeroll.
[OK what she really said was “go back to bed crackhead.” I don’t think Kelly liked me that much and while I was going out pretty much every night that summer, cocktails and beer were my inebriants of choice, thank you very much.]
I tried to go back to sleep but failed. Some time passed and I decided to go to Grey Dog, my local coffee shop. And that’s when the world started falling apart. I had been right, in a way, about a plane, but instead of crashing to the ground, it had been flown into one of America’s most recognizable edifices, the World Trade Center. Later I learned that the first jet’s path had, in fact, been right over my apartment, down Sixth Avenue.
The sequence of my memories has blurred. I remember calling my mother who asked me to stay home and avoid the subways. I also called my former roommate Kristen who had been staffed on projects based in the WTC for Andersen Consulting previously, but was now based in Chicago, leaving a message of gratitude that she no longer worked there.
And then I got coffee. The shop was abuzz with the news. Was it an accident? How did pilots avoid the tall buildings every other day, but not today? I was immediately suspicious.
I believe the second plane hit as I walked home from Grey Dog. I went home for my camera, feeling strange about doing so I only took three photos.
Days of horror followed. Lots of CNN. Trouble making or receiving calls to tell people I was safe and OK. And packing for the move to DC, feeling even worse about leaving.
Several days immediately following 9/11, I walked up to Union Square (no buses or subways ran for a while) and saw movies, as much for the air free of concrete dust as for the distraction. On 9/18 I took a few photos at the make-shift memorial there.
And suddenly it’s ten years later. I’m ten years older, but as happy as a kid to be back in my beloved New York. Now I live in Brooklyn. For as great as Manhattan is, I think I needed a fresh experience and as the sad anniversary arrives, I feel even more confident of my decision to try somewhere new.
I like to think that I don’t waste time thinking or worrying about events beyond my control, but today I have a single request:
Please let September 11, 2011 pass without incident.
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