I knew it would eventually come: the emotional fallout of September 11th. It always does. I fall apart at least one time on the eleventh of September, and have every year since, and surprising no one, it happened last night. Around six pm to be exact.
I don’t like Facebook, rarely use it. But I went on and checked around here and there and then discovered a video. A memorial to those awful, heart wrenching events 15 years and 1 day ago now.
And I broke down. I just sat there in front of my screen and cried – wept, really. Because I can’t believe it’s real sometimes. And those are the moments, the blissful in-betweens, when I can be strong and look at those frightening images and not crumble to pieces. I can distance myself from 9/11 through the passage of time and the finite, precious memories that have happened since and be okay.
But there’s always that one stab to the heart and I’m back to being 18 years old and woken up by my dad on my day off from work and being told that “people intentionally flew a plane into the World Trade Center tower. You have to come see the news.”
I did. I saw it all.
I didn’t see the footage from the first plane hitting the North Tower at 8:46 am until much later, don’t think any of us did. I also didn’t leave my couch until the sun set completely and the rest of the country tried to sleep, but the horror wouldn’t allow it. That day I stared, absorbing CNN’s reports until my eyes felt as if they might bleed out of my body and my heart broke into irreparable shards.
I cried so deeply, so much and no – I didn’t know anyone affected by the tragedy directly, but I do know my country bares its scar, as do I. I wasn’t there, I couldn’t help but I longed to so badly. Every moment I was sat on my useless ass was another moment someone might have died from not being found in time – it haunts me to this day.
I know rationally I shouldn’t feel guilty for not being able to participate in the search and rescue and later, recovery, but I live an hour away by trains that weren’t running and 2 hours by a car that would have. I could have done something.
Instead I watched over and over and over those planes crash into my buildings, in my city, in my country and felt everything change. Who I was before 9/11 and who I’ve been after are two very different people. This doesn’t suggest that the “terrorists have won” but rather, that I’ve been educated on how ruthless and ugly humans can be to one another.
I’ve also been shown courage beyond measure and the love strangers can share. And a passion and patriotism for my home and a will to defend it, no matter the cost to my own personal safety. (There were a great many years when I nearly enrolled in the U.S. Army and the U.S. Marines, but between being easily influenced by people unwilling to support me and health issues, I was never able to realize those dreams. That’s all I say about that, for now.)
As for September 11, 2001, I won’t ever un-see those videos in my head or the screams and cries from bystanders. I can’t forget the image of that fallen priest being carried away by his fellow Firefighters. I won’t forget the ashen, bloody, heartbroken civil servants that walked around aimlessly at one point, knowing they could literally do nothing to prevent those buildings from falling down.
I won’t forget the voicemails, the recorded emergency phone calls, the hole in the Pentagon, the splintered remains littering a field in my home state, or the people who leapt to their ends because all hope was, for the first and last time in their lives, completely lost.
I’ll never forget.
Above are a handful of photos I had taken in December of 2001, when I visited NYC for the first time with a few friends. We passed by the cleanup and in a city that never sleeps, it was completely silent. The only sounds were the moving construction equipment and they were so far away we could hardly hear them. There were thousands of people around, and no one spoke to anyone, no one needed to. It was eerie, uncomfortable, heartbreaking, and the …scents are something I’ll never, ever wipe from my memory.
There photographs aren’t much to look at, but 1: I didn’t care for perfection, 2: I just needed to remember it. (If by some chance you find yourself in need of these images, please contact me if interested in using them.)