For as long as we’ve been here, at 8:46am on 9/11 a bell rings throughout my daughter’s school. S-I-L-E-N-C-E. A second bell sounds 8:47am and classes resume. My son’s school, according to him, treats the day like any other.
In my own class yesterday morning at Columbia University, the professor, who’d been at work on Wall Street on September 11, 2001, briefly but strongly encouraged us, at some point in the day, to take a moment to reflect. We should speak with someone who had been near or at the World Trade Center in 2001. He said we need not head downtown immediately but sometime during the course of our journalistic studies, we should.
I’ve been near the site. I’ve read the Man Who Walked Between the Towers more than 25 times with my school boy. I can’t go to the site. I can’t watch the news clips that run the same footage over and over and over again.
Our world changed forever on that day. For all of us, your generation especially DT, time is now defined by where we were on 9/11, pre and post.
I’ve been alive for as long as the towers have been standing. Longer.
Pre: I visited the Twin Towers when they were a new addition to the skyline. I dined at Windows on the World with my parents, grandmother and great aunt and uncle. It was very fancy. I worked for Cantor Fitzgerald in Los Angeles but spent time in One World Trade Center with Mr. Cantor and art department colleagues.
On September 11, 2001, I lived in Los Angeles with my husband and two kidlets. Our children’s godmother called from Chicago before 6am PST. She called because I had been an employee of Cantor Fitzgerald until 1997. We both knew people in the towers.
Post: Often, not just on September 11, I remember the people I knew who died. I remember what it was like to visit New York months after September 11 and see American flags hanging all along Park Avenue. I remember the sense of kindness people in New York and Los Angeles extended toward one another. I recognize how strange it is feels when an airplane flies over the center of Manhattan. I always stop when I see a fire house or engine and look for a 9/11 plaque. I take a breath in remembrance of the fallen. I try not to ride the subway without a tiny flashlight. (that’s a holdover from Los Angeles though, earthquake land = it’s good to have a flashlight). And on the subject of light, I’m repeatedly entranced by Tribute of Light.
For my kids, well, I don’t know what they recall. The then toddler’s school closed for the day. We stuck together and went to school with the then second-grader. We sat in a circle in her classroom and talked about truths vs. rumors. We didn’t know any truths at the time except that the sun came up as it did every day. We were safe. Our family, near and far (LA and NYC) was safe. But something horrible had happened far away. It was something that had never happened in our country. Planes crashed. People died. But we were safe. Safe was the operating word. And this was a day that was unlike any we’d ever known. We didn’t/I couldn’t watch or listen to any television coverage. I didn’t want my kids to catch any glimpse of the images.
A few months later when the physician/scientist/husband flew to Washington, DC on business, our little one had it in his head that his dad was going to be speaking with the President. His idea that the dad would talk about making the world a safer place. We explained that wasn’t the aim of the trip and that there wasn’t a meeting with the POTUS. But the boy persisted and we indulged his simple pleasure.
And that’s it. Simple. Thank you, dear DT, to remind me to cherish the good moments and take stock and remember, especially on September 11, that la vie est belle.