I took this picture in April 1998…
This was my very first trip to New York City. I was 15, I had never seen anything like it, and I quickly fell in love! It was everything my home town wasn’t, fast and loud, diverse and cultural, dynamic and amazing. For a girl who did, and still does dream big, it was everything I had ever wanted. To this day I still feel an energy there like no other place I have been, walking down 5th Avenue for me, is like walking on glittery air. While I have never had the privilege to live there, it’s my city and I love it like no other!
Fast forward 3 short years to September 11, 2001… I was now 18 and had recently graduated high school. I was home, still sleeping before work when the phone rang. My mom said “Turn the t.v. on, a plane just flew into the world trade center!” I said “What are you talking about? Are you sure? What kind of plane?” she said “Just turn on the t.v. it’s all over the news.” When I saw what was flashing across my screen I simply said “Ok. I’ll call you back…” and I watched, like everyone else in the world. I was in a total state of shock and disbelief as I watched reporters discussing the origins of the event, was it an accident, could something have gone so horribly wrong with a plane that this could have happened by mistake? Or was it something worse, was it intentional? And then we all watched as our questions were answered. I watched with the rest of the world as another plane flew into the second tower on live television. It was hard to wrap my brain around what I had just witnessed, I’m sure so many people felt the same way as they watched, helpless. I continued to watch for hours as people fled the buildings, as news came that two other planes had crashed elsewhere and eventually as the towers fell and thousands lost their lives. It took me years to comprehend the magnitude of this tragedy and what had actually happened that day in lower Manhattan.
Crazy as this may sound, I wanted to go, I wanted to do something to help the city I had loved and dreamed about for the past 3 years, I needed to know it would survive. Of course I couldn’t, but 3 months later in December we made the trip. I was glad to see the amazing city I loved, strong and resilient, yet changed forever. And as we made our way to ground zero, emerging from the subway, I heard something I had never heard in New York City before… I heard silence. The streets were still covered in white dust, although there were many people nearby it was eerily quiet, and even as we got closer the only thing you heard were the sounds of machines moving metal. I remember thinking again that this, just like the images we all watched on t.v. that day, was something out of a horrific movie, lower Manhattan had been turned into a ghost town. Even then, standing inches away from tragedy, I couldn’t comprehend what had happened here. I took more photos, much different from the beautiful spring day pictured above, even after 3 months had passed it was still what seemed like an impossible job. I have debated as to whether I should post these personal photos, looking back it seems invasive to have taken them at all, now realizing this is where so many people lost those that they love and that this for many is their final resting place. I do however think it is important for us to remember what happened that day, those who were lost, those who survived and the resilience of this city to rise again.
As I said before it was quite a while before I could really comprehend what happened that day. It may sound crazy but it didn’t actually click for me until a few years later when I watched a documentary about the fire fighters who had rushed into the buildings in hopes of saving those within. I had watched it happened with the world, I had been to the place where it happened and saw the destruction, it still didn’t sink in. Only when I saw these people, real people who just went to work that morning expecting another ordinary day, did it finally process. Along with millions of others that day I had not only watched those towers fall, I had watched thousands of living, breathing souls leave this world. Maybe it was the ignorance of youth, maybe at that time, mentally and emotionally I was simply not capable of accepting such a tragedy, but watching it back now I am over whelmed each time by the weight of those moments as the towers fell and the loss of the lives within.
It has now been 10 years since the day the world stopped and watched as the skyline of New York City changed forever, watched as many lives were cut short, watched as those who remain mourned their losses, watched as a city and a nation came together to rebuild. It was another 8 years before I made it back to the city I love and the place where tragedy struck. No longer a place of visible destruction and twisted metal, now a center for constructing the future and remembering the past. The memorials were not yet open to the public, but their incredible presence was evident… 09.11.2001 we will never forget!
Please check out these links to share your gratitude with those who protect us daily. Many lost their lives that day, but many were left to carry on, let them know you appreciate their service: