the first time I visited New York, the World Trade Center was just a gaping hole in the ground.
but I remember the day it happened.
history class, junior year, we were "reading silently". another teacher came in to whisper something to the teacher. she didn't tell us what happened, she didn't say anything. a few minutes later the bell rang and the hallways were full of whispers and rumors, but not enough time. some plane had accidentally flown into a building in New York? I walked into AP biology and the news was being projected onto the big screen in the front of the class. we all sat down, hushed, trying to make sense of what what happening.
and then the second plane hit. and we realized: this isn't an accident, it's an attack. and I was so confused. I couldn't understand, couldn't fathom, why someone would do something so awful. I was 16 years old and so, so young.
we watched as the towers burned and crumbled. we saw the pentagon on fire and flight 93 crashed in PA. we all started to panic as the news speculated they would sweep the country and hit iconic buildings in every major city. we knew the Chrysler building, a few miles from our school, was being evacuated. we knew all the airports were closed.
I remember watching and hearing the sounds of bodies leaping and falling out of the towers. I remember seeing a reporter with a camera running through the streets as the towers collapsed, trying to both outrun and capture the giant cloud of smoke and debris that chased him. I remember the days and weeks that followed, the search through the rubble for anyone left.
a year and a half after 9/11, I went to New York for the first time. we went to ground zero, and saw what was left. a big, gaping hole. they were still cleaning out debris. there were names and hand made memorials left along the construction fence. and that famous cross that they pulled out of the wreckage, I remember that was standing tall.
I never went back after that. even when I moved to New York in 2007, I just never went back. I've seen the Freedom Tower/One World Trade Center from afar, but haven't been back. last year, on the 10th anniversary of 9/11, I was at the Jets home opener. this year, I'm not even on American soil. but it still makes my chest tight to write this.
I still remember.