I had The Today Show on that morning as I got dressed, and heard Katie Couric say something about a plane hitting one of the Twin Towers. “Wow, bad accident,” I thought, finished doing my hair and dashed out. I lived in Hoboken at the time, and usually took the bus to work. But the bus stop was crowded, and I decided to take the ferry across.
“Did you hear the plane hit the tower?” I asked the ticket seller.
“No,” she said, “but I heard the second one.”
Oh. That was the first moment I realized something was wrong. But I boarded the ferry anyway and headed to the top deck. There weren’t that many people onboard. As it chugged across the Hudson, the Towers came into view, smoke and flames were pouring out of both of them. I was so horrified, all I could do was gasp. But I had hope the firefighters could contain the flames. During those first few minutes, we all had hope. After all, it appeared that only the top part of the buildings had been affected, and I had faith in New York City’s firemen.
On the shuttle bus to my job, everyone who had a cell phone (they weren’t quite as prevalent back then) was on theirs. And that’s the first moment I heard the word “terrorism.”
At work, we sat in the conference room watching TV. I watched the first building collapse. “Did that just fall?” I asked the guy sitting next to me. My mind could not believe what my eyes had just seen.
Eventually, I made it back to Hoboken by ferry. When I got off, people who had been at the World Trade Center were getting hosed down; there was concern of chemical warfare. Then someone shouted “RUN!!!” and suddenly, all of us there were running as fast as we could. There had been a bomb scare. I walked the twelve blocks home, my heart beating fast, fighter planes in formation over my head.
For most of the next week, I sat in front of my TV and sobbed. I was fortunate not to have known anyone firsthand who had died, but it was all personal. It was all tragic. There were a lot of young men and women from Hoboken working at the Trade Center that day—I think Hoboken had the biggest proportion of people from one city to have been killed. Flyers papered the telephone poles and bulletin boards of Hoboken with smiling faces beaming out and the words “MISSING FROM WORLD TRADE CENTER.” Most were never taken down, the tatters grave reminders for months afterward.
This Saturday morning I woke up to the sound of my little girl wailing “MOMMMMMMY, WHERE ARE MY BLACK SHORTS?!” I had two little kids to dress and feed, and then we had to get one off to gym class and suddenly, it was 11:00 a.m. and I hadn’t even turned on my TV. I ran over to the paint store to pick up a stain for a fence. The TV was tuned to the 9/11 memorial, and families read off the victims’ names. I stood there at the paint counter, crying. And then I realized that I hadn’t thought—really thought—about 9/11 in quite some time. My days are busy, my life is busy, and what happened that day is not something I often ponder. Which troubled me.
Those 2750 victims should not have died in vain.
Their families and loved ones should not suffer in vain.
I need to remember them more often.
I need to be grateful to the firefighters who gave their lives.
I need to be grateful to the countless emergency workers and other people who risked their health to help.
And I need to honor them all, too. By being thankful for the firefighters who keep our neighborhood safe. By being thankful for the freedoms we have. And by raising children who care about community and doing good in this world.
Next year is the tenth anniversary of 9/11, and there will be many major commemorative events. But it shouldn’t take till 9/11/2011 for me to memorialize the victims and heroes again, or to honor life in their wake. So today, on Monday, 9/13/2010, I am thinking of all that. And I am going to do my best to think about it throughout the year.
I hope you will, too.
This is an original post to JerseyMomsBlog by Ellen Seidman. You can also find Ellen at Love That Max.