Twelve years ago I lived in New York City. I was there to see the destruction that came after the initial disaster that was everything about 9/11. I was traveling during the actual event, and still suffer from some form of survivor’s guilt — I was not there when my city was attacked; when my friends ran for their lives and feared for their loved ones. My company was actually situated just blocks from the World Trade Center. When I worked there, we spent lunches under the twin towers, visiting the Ben & Jerry’s operated by the cousin of one of my coworkers. I shopped at Century 21 right across the street and at the bookstore beneath the looming shadows of those seemingly immovable structures. To watch them fall on television was so surreal that I actually thought it was a new age War of the Worlds; that it wasn’t really happening.
But when I returned to my city, to my apartment on 15th street, just above the zone that was closed below 14th, it was all too real. I bought rounds at the Village Idiot on 14th for the firefighters that trudged up out of the dust at the end of every day, their eyes vacant and their bodies beaten by what they’d seen. I played pool with them and thanked them for what they were doing down there.
One of my best friends manned a call center in the weeks that followed, answering call after call from hopeful sisters, husbands and parents, describing loved ones who hadn’t come home that day. Who never went home again.
I eventually moved away. An already dwindling dot-com economy in Silicon Alley was smashed flat by the events of 9/11, and I was laid off along with almost everyone I knew. But New York will always be my spiritual home — the place I am most alive.
In memory of that day, I will give away a copy of “Through a Dusty Window: New York City Stories 1910-2001”. The last story in that collection is semi-autobiographical and centers around 9/11 in a way. The book will go to a commenter on this post. Tell me where you were that day, what you were doing and what 9/11 means to you. A winner will be chosen at random one week from today.