I had intended to write this essay about the starts of September: the first day of school, the smell of newly sharpened pencils, the slightest hint of color on the leaves. Yet, when I recall September days, it is the 11th day of that month that is indelible in my mind.
It was a crystal blue sky day. I remember crossing Second Avenue at 43rd Street paying no attention to the sirens blasting as police cars flew past me. This was Manhattan. It was to be expected.
My office was at 200 Park Avenue, just blocks away. I arrived at our elevator bank joining familiar faces patiently assembled to be lifted up some fifty floors. Each of us preparing to meet the challenges of whatever a normal work day constitutes at a major international law firm. One of my colleagues calmly asked if I heard that a plane had hit one of the Towers at the World Trade Center. Shaking my head no, I conjured up an image of a small private plane making a fatal pilot error. Then we all turn around as a shaking voice shouted into the group assembled: Another plane has hit one of the Towers. We are under attack.
Stunned, I got on the elevator, knowing that I had no idea what to expect. My one rational thought was my regret that I had not yet gotten my morning cup of coffee. I arrived on the 52nd floor to see a crowd assembled by the windows behind our reception area. The Towers were burning before our eyes.
All of us of a certain age remember where we were that day and when we first heard the news. The fear and uncertainty of what it meant continued throughout the days and weeks that followed. We lost neighbors, friends lost sons, a newly wed teacher lost her husband before their wedding album had been developed. Stories of loss that continue to weigh down my heart.
The next day, my husband and I went to the beach. Walking along the boardwalk, we could see Navy ships patrolling the waters while the skies were empty of the planes normally looking to find their way to and from our airports. He asked if the sight of those ships made me angry or frightened. I replied with one work, sad.
Eighteen years have passed since that day. It seems like a life time ago and only yesterday. Today when I hear sirens blaring in the streets, I say a prayer. I don’t need the reminder ‘never forget’—I never will.