A thought on September 11th.
I remember it all very well. I was in Dr. Zuschin’s Music Theory Class at Radford University surrounded by friends. He was a new teacher and I was a jerk so when one of the other professors appeared in our doorway and waved him over I said in a very snarky manner, “Someone’s in trouble.” I had no idea how right I was. The other professor came in and told us that we were under attack, that a plane had hit the first tower and they thought it was an accident until the second plane hit.
We had a TV projector in that classroom so I jumped from my seat and turned on the cable box, no one knew the station for CNN or any other news channel so I flipped until I found one and returned to my seat. My friend Sarah was sitting next to me crying, she had just finished an internship in the city and returned to Virginia only a few weeks ago. She was so scared for her friends, the not knowing became too much and she just got up and left. After she left more and more people gathered their books and went for the door. Students from other classrooms started coming into ours, because of the tv, and sat and watched in near silence. Reports came in about the other two planes and suddenly nothing felt safe. The darkened room was filled with most of the music department when they decided to cancel music classes for the rest of the day, most everyone got up and went home.
I was living in an apartment with my girlfriend Emily and we didn’t have cable, we couldn’t even pick up local stations. I called her and told her I was kind of glad I couldn’t just sit around and watch the news all day, it would just make you crazy. I didn’t know anyone who lived in New York, it didn’t affect me the way it did so many other people. I had band practice that night and I remember someone saying, “we have to play music tonight or they win” Wow that phrase got over used in the following years.
I remember flying to England after that semester, thinking is this ok, am I in danger. It was the day after Christmas and the threat of attack was still on everyone’s minds. I remember the new laws and restrictions, the way they tore through my bag checking it for chemicals with a q-tip. The color coded threat level announcements over the airport public address over and over again.
In 2004 I moved to Brooklyn and got a job in a music shop I could walk to from my tiny room in my new apartment. I took a week off to explore the city, let myself be a tourist, and to get to know my new city. I asked my new coworkers about going to Ground Zero, they called it “the hole.” “There’s nothing down there but a hole and a bunch of people taking pictures.”
Every year that I’ve lived here, you hear and see the same things. People telling their stories, everyone arguing about the wars, the overwhelming respect for firefighters, the never ending proposals for memorials and new designs of the Freedom Tower. In 2008 I was living on The Upper West Side and commuting to Brooklyn everyday. On September 11th of that year as the number 2 train headed downtown on the red line, everyone started getting off the train the closer we got to the Wall Street station we got. When we stopped at Wall Street there was no one in my car or in either of the cars beside me. It was just a weird way of New York making me think about the whole situation, my safety, how this could all go up in flames in a matter of moments. I’ve never been scared on terrorism, so in my book they failed. Then one night as I sat in a hotel bar in Times Square a girl ran into the room and demanded the TV be put on the news. I felt a lump in my throat. I never go to Times Square and here I am, what’s happening, I may die tonight right here.
We had killed Osama Bin Laden. The man who is said to be responsible for this whole thing, the Boogie Man, the Monster Under the Bed, he existed and now he’s dead. Everything is going to be fine.
I live in Park Slope in Brooklyn and from my bed room window the last few years I’ve looked out at lower Manhattan. Slowly I’ve watched it grow. At first I had no idea exactly what I was seeing, but there it is, clear as day today. The Freedom Tower growing up from the ashes. I look out my window and I see life, never stopping, always remembering, moving forward, love, loss, pain, beauty, friends, sorrow, death, newness, wonder, over and over again.