In speaking with people about their remembrance of 9-11, and the morning the twin towers came down, their recollections varied from sadness and sorrow, to anger and the need for retribution. As for myself, I can only remember this feeling of disbelief. The scenes shown to us on television were right out of some cinematic blockbuster as I had no other frame of reference to hold on to while absorbing the graphic live footage and incessant news commentary.
It simply didn’t make sense – this sort of thing didn’t happen in America – but it did.
While I live in San Diego, it so happened that my wife and I had already planned a vacation to New York City for her birthday. We were to fly just a few weeks after 9-11, and many friends advised us to stay at home. For us, it was not just an adult decision, as our son was only three at the time. We agonized over various options for days, and ultimately decided that we weren’t going to live our life in fear of such world events. In some strange way, we felt that we owed that to our son.
The taxi ride from the airport gave us a glimpse of what was to come. The driver was of Middle-Eastern descent, having moved to New York City ten years before, and two things were soon obvious – this man had not walked away from his family, his country or his culture…yet this man was the quintessential American immigrant, totally devoted to the country and city he now called home.
He was in tears as we drove across the Queensboro Bridge, thanking us for coming to New York City and showing our support. “We have been so worried that tourists would stay away because of what just happened on 9-11, so your arrival here is a blessing to everyone in Manhattan.” As he looked to the south, where the towers should have been, he continued, “We have lost something important to the soul of this city (pausing to catch his breath) it’s as though we’ve lost two of our children.”
My wife and I cried at his words, and hugged our son who couldn’t comprehend what the taxi driver had just said. We agreed that as soon as we dropped our luggage at the hotel we would journey down to ground zero. Once there it was extremely hard to describe how it felt to stand so close to the near total devastation of what had been the World Trade Center towers, nothing left but a few remaining remnants of what had been such glorious a tribute, to such a great city, in such a great land.
Much has happened in the ten years since 9-11, and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq still go on, but today we mourn the loss of nearly 3,000 innocent victims that died on that fateful day, as well as the hundreds of thousands of innocent victims who died in subsequent wars during the decade since. It all still seems too surreal, and I continue to feel that sense of disbelief, as well as a sense of sorrow, that so many have died in the process, and the world is not better for it having happened.