On September 11, 2001, we were living 45 miles north of Manhattan, in a little hamlet less than a mile from the Hudson River. We had just moved from San Diego to New York 2 months earlier. Don was acting in a play in Calgary, Alberta. Like everyone else in the New York area, I was struck by the vivid clear blue sky that morning as I took the dogs outside. I was supposed to go into the city later that day to see the Broadway musical, Urinetown, which was directed by a good friend of mine.
I didn’t know what was beginning to happen until I saw something on my computer about a plane hitting the World Trade Center – at that time the news implied it was a small plane. I quickly turned on the television. With dawning horror, I realized that it was not a small plane and I frantically tried to call Don. Phone service was already erratic in our area but we finally reached each other and proceeded to watch the unfolding events ‘together.’ Don said he’d never felt so far from home.
The planes flew right down the Hudson River, passing by our neighborhood.
As the day went on, I was struck by how eerily quiet it was in our neighborhood. Not a sound. Until I heard a loud drone coming out of the sky, flying right over my head. They were fighter jets. Somehow that sound, those jets, made the whole thing even more real for me.
I didn’t get back to Manhattan for a few weeks. I had to start a teaching job in late September. As I walked through Grand Central Station I saw all the flyers that had been stuck up on walls throughout Manhattan in the days after September 11th. “Lost,” “Please find,” “Missing” – all the faces; young, old, every ethnicity, each of them someone’s loved one. When the flyers were first put up, they were full of hope that that missing loved one would be found. Now they were memorials to all the loss and pain that occurred that horrible day. I, like everyone else around me that day in Grand Central, wept. The magnitude of September 11th was not only in the collapse of the buildings, but in those faces, never to be seen again.
I took these pictures of Ground Zero last March, when I was working in Manhattan.
As we stop to reflect on the tenth anniversary of that horrible day, it is important to remember that we must not ever assume that all people of a certain faith are terrorists and that a few evil men do not represent a whole. If we start thinking that way, we have lost our humanity.
It is also important to remember that this tragedy brought out the best in people. For a while we were one. Now, of course, the government and its citizens have descended again into petty, selfish squabbling. How quickly we forget.
The way to honor those who were lost that day is to love one another, to realize that we are all one, to move beyond the negativity that runs throughout so much of what we see and hear on the news and work toward good. Good for everyone. Compassion for all. Equal rights for all. And I mean all. For if we judge another as ‘less than’, we are, in the end, only judging ourselves.
We cannot go on in the way we’ve been going. We cannot live in fear. We cannot fall prey to the fear mongering that is routinely used as a political tool. We must strive for something better. We owe that to all of those who lost their lives that day.