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For 9/11



I lived in New York City from 1994 to 1999. It is a city unlike any other because everything is larger than life. The buildings there are so tall that most streets remain in shadow much of the day because the sun simply can’t reach them. Looking up and down the avenues you see nothing but a thin strip of blue sky between two rows of dark skyscrapers lined up on both sides of the street, one after another, until they disappear into the horizon. The company I worked for was located in a small to medium-sized building by New York standards. My department was on the nineteenth floor of a twenty-one story building – just a third of the size of some other New York buildings.


I’d always put off seeing the sights when I lived in New York, always thinking I’d get to it some other day. I was only inside the World Trade Center buildings twice. The first time I was a teenager and went up as a tourist to see the view from the top. The window was floor to ceiling and had a railing to hold onto. I remember standing there at the railing, marveling at the view and feeling the building actually swaying – as it was designed to do. The second time I was there to hand-deliver something from my company to the mail room in the sub basement of one of the towers. On both occasions I was overwhelmed at the size of the one hundred and ten story structures. Where most buildings in New York City are enormous, the World Trade Center buildings were colossal. If you were in front of them you would practically need to lie on your back and look up from the ground to see how high they went up into the sky.


Like most everyone else, I will never forget where I was on the morning of September 11, 2001. I remember it was a sunny day and I was driving to  class at college. That morning I was scheduled to demonstrate a sterile dressing change on a plastic mannequin at the School of Nursing. I remember being in the middle of my demonstration when someone into the room and said an airplane just hit the World Trade Center. Immediately I tried scanning my brain for a plausible explanation as to how someone could have misguided an airplane into one of the two buildings that could be seen for miles and miles and miles outside of the city. A few minutes later we heard that another plane had crashed into the World Trade Center. The teacher and I ran to the computer to get on the internet and find out what was happening. We never got online. Everyone else in the world was doing the very same thing at that time and the system had crashed.


I drove to my sister’s house  right away to watch what was happening on TV. I remember getting there just before one of the buildings collapsed. Around the same time I heard about the plane crashes at the Pentagon and in Pennsylvania. I numbly sat there with my sister and her newborn twin daughters, all of us staring at the TV. The only thing I could think of was the phrase “What the hell is happening? What the hell is happening? What the hell is happening?…” For days afterward I stayed glued to the TV watching history unfold. Along with the rest of the nation, I read the never-ending news tickers at the bottom of the screen – hoping at any moment they would finally tell the world just what the hell was happening.


It is impossible to process all the horrific images of 9/11, but a few will never leave my mind. I’ll never forget seeing people running up the street to escape a mile high gray wall of smoke and ash that was trying to envelop them. Or watching day turn into night within seconds as people recorded video looking out the windows of storefronts they’d taken cover in to hide from the choking smoke and ash. TV cameras kept panning motionless scenes of destruction – mangled with twisted metal, debris and crushed fire trucks. Everything was chillingly silent except for the warped and echoing alarm systems that dutifully continued to warn of an apocalypse that had already happened.


Time does not heal all wounds. Even eleven years later, just seeing a picture of that day can bring back very raw emotions. I can’t even imagine what it was like to be in New York City on that day and having experienced firsthand that unimaginable pain, loss, devastation, grief and terror. Although I no longer lived there, many of my friends were there on September 11, 2001. It seemed everybody knew someone who knew someone there. It affected the world. We all became New Yorkers on that day.


About Fortyteen Candles

oh, let's see...distinguished Gen-X'er, frustrated writer, suffocating in the confines of a small town that thinks it's a big deal. A few years ago we were home to the second largest Walmart in our state, don-cha-know. Oh, and I was voted "Most New Wave" in my senior high school year book. Actually, that last sentence alone is really everything you need to know about me.

17 responses »

  1. Well said.


  2. Your last 2 sentences say it all. So true. Thank you for sharing your story.

  3. Beautifully stated!

  4. It was eerie and surreal. The sun was shining, it was gorgeous…the streets were empty and quiet in Midtown. Way uptown, in Morningside Heights, people were hanging out at the sidewalk restaurants, drinking beer and talking. No one knew what the hell was going on…or how to deal with it…xoM

    • That is unreal. I can’t imagine how one could witness something like this. Your life is changed forever. Your description was incredible….and sad. The people uptown had no idea how their world was seconds away from changing forever. Thank you for sharing your experience Margarita.

      • What I describe was in the afternoon…the people uptown knew what had happened that morning. And we were all struggling to figure out how to deal with it. As we still are. All around the world!

        Thanks for your post. It’s true, when you live in New York you put off doing all the tourist things, thinking you’ll always have a chance to do them. It’s good to remember to seize the day! xoM

      • You are so right! When I lived in NYC the last thing I wanted to do was anything “touristy.” I never went on the Staten Island Ferry, I never went into the Statue of Liberty. I really regret this stuff. Now as a nurse working with people recovering from life-altering injuries and diseases I know the importance of making the most of EVERY day. Seize the day! Take care and thank you, again, for sharing your experiences 🙂

  5. why am I here in a handbasket?

    well written piece.

  6. Yeah, I still cry. Today has been rough, and I have no ‘connections’ other than being human and on this planet. I was recovering from surgery, and had two weeks off to recover (I’m also an RN). I was dopey from anesthesia, but couldn’t leave the TV. Cable channels just went off air, and it was 9/11, 24/7. 😦

  7. Well said – it was a dramatic experience for everybody. I don’t think any body will ever forget the place they were when they heard that this happened. I clearly remember I was in class and we were all called into the library to watch the news. Living 20 minutes away from the city but being able to clearly see the skyline filled with smoke was a disturbing view. Even worse part is that the smoke stayed for a few days, as if it was a scar reminding us constantly.

    • That must have been a terrifying sight to see, especially while you were in school. I can’t imagine the days and weeks afterward having to see that damaged skyline. The world was watching with you. Thank you for sharing your own vivid experience.


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