20 years have passed…
When the World Trade Center opened in 1973, the Twin Towers were the tallest set of buildings in the world. They were a dominant and recognizable attribute to the Manhattan skyline; it simply wasn’t New York without them. I remember going Downtown as a little girl and being near the towers. Standing below and looking up, it seemed the upper floors and tops of the towers disappeared into the clouds! Not only were they the bustling apex of financial business in the Empire State, but they were also an iconic landmark for the world, and especially for New Yorkers.
I watched the limited series “9/11: One Day in America” on Hulu in small doses over the last few days. Small doses because the evil that occurred on 9/11/2001 is so very heartbreaking for many reasons. It’s astonishing that this horrible event unfolded in a span of only 90 minutes under one of the starkest and clearest blue skies I have ever seen. This series is one to watch; it reminds you that there is a tapestry of stories that underlie that fateful day. We are reminded once again of the heroism of firefighters, police officers, civilians, and first responders. And that so many suffered from survivor’s remorse, PTSD, and other psychological reverberations. Let’s not even mention the physical effects of being in the presence of so much smoke and debris from the collapsed buildings that led to illness, disease, and death. Some survived that day only to die years later, almost like some terrible afterthought of the day.
To have grown up in New York and to be familiar with the love the city had for the Twin Towers; to watch them fall again brought tears to my eyes. It seems so silly – to become emotional about the demise of buildings – after all, they’re only structures of steel beams and concrete. Generations from now, the love for the Twin Towers, the dreadful events of the day, and the underlying evil, won’t dredge up the same emotion that it does for those who experienced it firsthand or watched everything unfold on 24-hour news that day. Or understand and know that for America, this watershed event created a dividing line – a “before 9/11” and an “after 9/11”.
Those who did experience it have vivid memories of where they were and what they were doing that day. I was nearly three months pregnant with my son. I still recall the shock and disbelief at what my eyes were seeing. I also remember the feeling of trepidation and fear about this mixed-up, messed-up world I was bringing a child into.
Those who are now in their late teens or early 20’s are the offspring of those like me who were pregnant or of those who had very young children on 9/11/2001. They are also the same young people who were in their final high school years or graduating when the Covid-19 pandemic hit. Born into post-9/11 times and “coming of age” in pandemic times … two eras of America that demand resilience and strength to negotiate. They have no firsthand knowledge of the more “innocent” times, the times before the Department of Homeland Security was established and when you didn’t have to take your shoes off for inspection before you boarded a plane. Theirs is a different world to navigate. I hope that enduring these times somehow gives them the birthright to be the generation that brings about the most change and evolution. There must be a reason for these events occurring in some of the most important years of their lives.
20 years have passed… and part of me wishes I could skip over 9/11/2021, to turn away and shield myself from reliving the pain again. But the reality is, we must never forget…because we have a responsibility to continue memorializing the fallen, the heroes, and the survivors, and to tell the story, no matter how painful it is.