Never Forget…9/11/01

I can still remember the night before the world changed.

September 10th 2001 I was living in an apartment in the Lower East Side of Manhattan. Not far from the fallen towers. I was going to school for fine art, and life was simple. Strange things happened that evening on the way home from school. I got on the wrong train and I ended up at the World Trade Center instead of my apartment.

After an 11 hour school day, this was a huge inconvenience for myself and my roommate. We were in the F train subway, but another train had come through and we got on. It was the last time I’d stand at the foot of those towers.

The next morning I awoke and got ready for an early morning school day. Jumped on the subway heading up to 27th street and everything seemed as it should be…

When I emerged from the subway things were eerie. People were standing in the street, unmoving, just staring downtown. Being a native New Yorker, I ignored the urge to look and kept running to class. [But this lasted for only a minute, or so.] I was going to be late again. There was something else odd about that morning, it was quiet. New York is always busy with bustling noises of commuters, but there was nothing but silence and sirens on that day.

I finally stopped and looked down the street. Smoke had begun billowing out of a building and an amber glow of fire was burning behind it, ever so faintly. A man in a business suit stood next to me, briefcase in hand, open mouthed. “What’s going on?,” I asked him. “A Plane just crashed into the Towers.”

The wailing of police sirens broke through my thoughts as I stood there watching the building breath fire. I said a prayer for everyone to get out safely and headed back towards school, still contemplating what occurred. I wondered if my parents had the news on, or if it would even be on the news yet. It was just after 8:47. Little did I know, that I had literally just missed witnessing the crash firsthand.

My friends were waiting out front for me, wondering what the hell took me so long. I told them about the plane and then walked around to check out the skyline. Disbelief set in for everyone and we all scattered to class.

My painting teacher was less than amused by my tardiness, so I grabbed my canvas and opened the tool box I carted with me filled with paint and supplies and got to work. He asked what the reason was this time for my tardiness and I explained to him about the plane. He looked at me for a few seconds, no doubt trying to find a crack in my story. I guess he believed me, because we were then told as a class to go up a couple of floors to see out of the windows.

From that vantage point we could clearly see the World Trade Center. We were all chatting and looking on and feeling sick to our stomachs for anyone that might have been trapped inside. Terrorism was not in any of our vocabularies. What would happen next would both stun and stay with us forever.

A plane that was flying too close to the buildings suddenly disappeared and a large fireball replaced it. Glass and papers blew out of the building on impact. Was this really happening?

We looked on in dumbstruck horror. Utter disbelief. How could a second plane have hit the building too? It wasn’t registering for any of us. My professor ushered us back downstairs to our classroom and commanded us to continue painting. He excused himself and ran out of the room. The second he left one of the kids that happened to have a portable radio with him for another class plugged it in and scanned the channels.

Newscasters were going crazy and we heard the words ‘possible terror attack’ on New York.

I won’t go on with the story, but I’ll share a poem I found on the internet that I feel to be moving. Remember this day for the innocent people who died, and the brave men and women who sacrificed themselves for us all.

I know, this is a day I will never forget.

SEPTEMBER 1, 1939

I sit in one of the dives

On Fifty-second Street

Uncertain and afraid

As the clever hopes expire

Of a low dishonest decade:

Waves of anger and fear

Circulate over the bright

And darkened lands of the earth,

Obsessing our private lives;

The unmentionable odour of death

Offends the September night.

Accurate scholarship can

Unearth the whole offence

From Luther until now

That has driven a culture mad,

Find what occurred at Linz,

What huge imago made

A psychopathic god:

I and the public know

What all schoolchildren learn,

Those to whom evil is done

Do evil in return.

Exiled Thucydides knew

All that a speech can say

About Democracy,

And what dictators do,

The elderly rubbish they talk

To an apathetic grave;

Analysed all in his book,

The enlightenment driven away,

The habit-forming pain,

Mismanagement and grief:

We must suffer them all again.

Into this neutral air

Where blind skyscrapers use

Their full height to proclaim

The strength of Collective Man,

Each language pours its vain

Competitive excuse:

But who can live for long

In an euphoric dream;

Out of the mirror they stare,

Imperialism’s face

And the international wrong.

Faces along the bar

Cling to their average day:

The lights must never go out,

The music must always play,

All the conventions conspire

To make this fort assume

The furniture of home;

Lest we should see where we are,

Lost in a haunted wood,

Children afraid of the night

Who have never been happy or good.

The windiest militant trash

Important Persons shout

Is not so crude as our wish:

What mad Nijinsky wrote

About Diaghilev

Is true of the normal heart;

For the error bred in the bone

Of each woman and each man

Craves what it cannot have,

Not universal love

But to be loved alone.

From the conservative dark

Into the ethical life

The dense commuters come,

Repeating their morning vow;

‘I will be true to the wife,

I’ll concentrate more on my work,’

And helpless governors wake

To resume their compulsory game:

Who can release them now,

Who can reach the dead,

Who can speak for the dumb?

All I have is a voice

To undo the folded lie,

The romantic lie in the brain

Of the sensual man-in-the-street

And the lie of Authority

Whose buildings grope the sky:

There is no such thing as the State

And no one exists alone;

Hunger allows no choice

To the citizen or the police;

We must love one another or die.

Defenseless under the night

Our world in stupor lies;

Yet, dotted everywhere,

Ironic points of light

Flash out wherever the Just

Exchange their messages:

May I, composed like them

Of Eros and of dust,

Beleaguered by the same

Negation and despair,

Show an affirming flame.”

-W.H. Auden

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