Wednesday, September 2, 2015

A Day to Remember by Leigh Riker


On the morning of September 11th, 2001 I was enjoying a first cup of coffee, getting ready to write that day, when my younger son called.

"Turn on the TV," he said, his voice taut. "A plane just hit the World Trade Center!"
            
On such a gorgeous, blue-sky, Indian summer day? It didnt seem possible. Like many people then, I first thought it must have been a small private plane. Then I switched on the TVand couldn't believe my eyes. While I was watching, the second plane hit the other building in a ball of fire. In very little time both iconic towers imploded, crumbling into dust. The Pentagon in Washington had a gaping, still-burning hole in its side. A Pennsylvania field was strewn with debris. And thousands of people lost their lives.

Devastating. And I didn't write for a month.

The horrendous attacks had a personal element as well. My husband is a native New Yorker. We met and fell in love in the city. Lived there as young marrieds. Our first child was born in Manhattan. It's still like my second home.

I'd had drinks once in the towers Windows on the World restaurant with stupendous views from the top. Soon after the attacks I visited the Ground Zero site. In the middle of that busy downtown area, not a taxi cab horn blew, and people talked in hushed tones. An eerie pall hung in the air. Visitors met each others eyes in mute horror. The site was nothing but rubble.

Fast forward to this July, fourteen years later, when I attended the RWA conference in New York, and finally got the chance to see the finished 911 memorial. Built mostly underground except for its entrance lobby, the new museum is under the plaza above so you're walking within the original towers footprints. In the basement, really. This is the last beam that was standing.


In rooms designated for towers one and two you see every victim's picture. A huge wall of tiles in various shades of blue described by people who were in the area on 9/11 is visually stunning. No two shades are exactly the same.

At a display where you can listen to the stories of victims and see photos from their lives, I overheard a woman who'd apparently lost a child thenperhaps a grandchildsay to another: I still cant get rid of that crib.

Outside, above ground, in the pretty park are two squarish-pools/fountains. The pools are ringed at a slight distance by trees, each of which represents a standing column in the original towers' actual footprints. These trees stand directly above the underground museum.


Seeing the museum was a very moving experience but also a cathartic one.

The nearby Freedom Tower, since renamed One World Trade Center, is a marvel of twenty-first century architecture with a nod to our countrys beginning in its 1776-foot height. Its incredible high-speed elevators rush you to the top in seconds before the cars walls suddenly transform into a mural of New York City and the doors open to the best 360-degree view from its observation deck to be had.

           
The city, it tells you, and its peoplethe American peoplehave survived. Too many human beings who laughed and loved and lived on that clear September morning went off to workand never came home. Thats still shocking. Nothing can bring back even one of those victims, and as Franklin D. Roosevelt said after Pearl Harbor, that day too shall live in infamy. It's also a constant reminder, like the new memorial museum, to...

            Never Forget. September 11th will always be a day to remember.

29 comments:

  1. What a horrible time that was. I remember the eerie quiet of Ground Zero even years later. A good post, Leigh. A good reminder.

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    1. Thanks, Liz. It was. A dreadful time. And amazing to see that part of Manhattan so respectfully quiet, as if one were in church.

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  2. A touching post about a horrific event, Leigh.

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  3. That's a powerful, beautifully written reminder of that awful day. For weeks it was hard to find comfort anywhere. Then I remembered that God knew each victim by name and welcomed them home. It's still so horrible, but it makes me feel better to think that those people are at peace.

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    1. Thanks, Muriel. So true, I think everyone felt paralyzed after that. And I know we talked more with both our sons in those next days and weeks than we even normally do. It seemed so important to just stay in touch with those we love. I like your comment that the victims are at peace.

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  4. You're right, Leigh, we must never forget. I lived in D.C. at the time, and I still remember how crystal clear blue, the skies were on that morning. My parents were playing golf at a course near the Pentagon. My mother asked to my father, "I wonder why that plane is flying so low?" Moments later, they heard the explosion. My father worked at the Pentagon during his career. Although retired at the time of 911, he lost a few friends. Thank you for this post, Leigh.

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    1. Jill, what a story about your parents! I met a woman at the RWA conference who works in the Pentagon. She said she'd lost a number of friends then. And my father-in-law whose apartment in New Jersey was right on the Hudson always claimed he'd seen one of the planes skim along the river headed downtown that day.

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  5. Whenever I think about that horrible event I also wonder about the people, the families with children who live in countries that seemingly are under attack all of the time. I wonder how they have any semblance of normal lives. Thanks Leigh, it's good we don't forget the event or the people lost that day.

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    1. I know, Roz. I wonder how the people of Israel ever go about their daily lives with such constant threat all around them. That's a triumph of the human spirit. And in so many other countries too.

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  6. Some disasters are imbedded in our minds forever and whenever we think of them, we can see exactly what we were doing at that time – the Cuban Missile Crisis, Kennedy’s assignation, 9/11 and the fall of The World Trade Center. During the latter, I was on a treadmill in the fitness center where I work in Arizona, watching TV. I couldn’t understand what was happening. I thought I was watching a news broadcast with Katie Couric but everything was so confused. And then the second plane hit the towers. OMG.

    I also went to see the memorial while at the RWA conference. That pool is so beautiful. I’ll have to go again once they finally finish all the construction. What a lovely post of remembrance.

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    1. I can only imagine, Marion, how utterly confused the reporting must have been at first. Nobody could get a handle on what was happening and things changed by the minute. Yes, those pools are beautiful and symbolic. And somehow calming. I wondered what had happened to the beams found at the site that formed a cross. Didn't see them there. But maybe they weren't in place yet.

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  7. Leigh, you brought tears to my eyes this morning. And that's a good thing. As a nation, I think we need those tears, so we truly never forget. Thank you for the beautiful tribute. Never forget.

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    1. Thanks, Carol. I know a young woman who teaches at a charter school in AZ (where I happen to be this week), and every September they have a memorial time, even with the kindergartners. I hesitated to write this post (I teared up too, remembering) but I'm glad I did.

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  8. Leigh, I, too, have tears in my eyes and a burn in my throat. That day shall indeed live in infamy. Your beautiful and touching post is so appreciated. And thank you for the great photos. God bless us, everyone.

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  9. You're welcome, Catherine . I'd taken those pictures when I was there but didn't expect I'd ever use them. Then the anniversary of 9/11 approached--and there they were, just begging to be included in a post. Every time I think about that woman who couldn't give away that crib, I get teary all over again.

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  10. I remember being glued to the television that morning, incredulous when the towers fell. I grew up in Ct and as a kid I went to NY often. A few years ago I went back with my daughters and viewed the site. The memorials are beautiful and gut-wrenching. Two songs bring me back to that time, "Have You Forgotten?"and "Where Were You When the World Stopped Turning." We should never forget.

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    1. Yes, they are, Tara. Beautiful. And gut-wrenching. One of the people I toured the museum with was so moved she could hardly stay there. We saw a man who'd helped in the recovery effort who had brought his rescue dog in--the grandson of one of the dogs who worked the site then.

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  11. Leigh, a touching post about a horrific day and time period we'll never forget. I get very emotional when I remember or read about 911. I was working in a city not far from DC that day and my husband was in the DC area. I could't get a hold of him, nor was it possible to call and check on my two kids (at the time...both under the age of 4) because all the cellular lines were crammed. We had a TV in the waiting area at the refractive surgery center I was working at and I remember going out to get a patient and seeing the the first tower hit. We were in shock, but when the second one was hit on live TV, there's no describing the emotions and state of mind we were all in. One patient was a reporter and cx her appt and ran out the door. Those tragedies will never be forgotten. 911 was a turning point. A day that marked a major change in the way we live in America on a daily basis, including but not limited to air travel. And the stress remained with us long after. I know the stress of it all had a negative impact on me health-wise, so I can't imagine how bad the traumatic aftermath was for those directly involved at the sites.

    I was also in the immediate area of the DC area Sniper shootings only a year later. In fact, I was living in a VA suburb near the gas station where the first shooting happened, and I was on my way there (10 min away) to get a car inspection when I heard the news on the radio and turned away. I remember the fear every time we filled gas after that (until the arrest) and it just compounded all the stress of 911 that was still so fresh.

    Remember how everyone used to joke about beauty pageant contestants saying they wanted world peace during the interview section (maybe they still do?)? Well, that line isn't a joke anymore. I know I sincerely, truly, with every cell in my body wish we had world peace.

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    1. Hi Rula,
      I liked in the area too, during the DC sniper scare. Such a frightening time. My good friend had just left the gas station, before the shooting.

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    2. Oh, wow. I'm glad she left in time! I remember being afraid to fill gas after that. I'd pick the pump strategically so that I could open my door and stay hidden in case something happened. I also refused to fill if my kids were in the car with me! It really was a scary time.

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  12. Oh, Rula. I can't imagine the stress you must have felt, not knowing about your husband or little kids that day. It was a turning point. I remember the DC Sniper shootings too. Just awful. And more recently, in Chattanooga where I live we had those killings at the military recruitment centers. Which proved to me that we're really no longer safe anywhere. Sad, that it could happen in such a sleepy small city. You're right, that beauty contestant line is no longer funny.

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  13. I can never forget 9/11. I was still living in NY the day the WTC was hit. My husband had gone to work on the subway, but when he got downtown they turned him around and sent him back home. He didn't even know why at the time, but as it turned out it was the last train that ran before the others were shut down. I went to pick up my daughter at school who was around 11 at the time and she'd asked the teacher who pulled her from the classroom "does my mom look sad?" She was worried that something might have happened to her dad. It was the saddest time ever. A lady on my street died, a congregation member's sister, one of my bosses from a few years before, and so many more in the area. I didn't smile for a couple of weeks straight. I could see the buildings from my window in Bklyn., and they were always the first sign that I was nearing home when returning to NY from traveling. I used to take the Path train that let me out in one of the buildings every morning when I lived briefly in NJ. It was part of my morning commute. My eyes still water remembering how special the WTC was. People who never actually saw them would not be able to appreciate how massive and beautiful they were. I always marveled when I looked up from the street at them. They were awesome. A sad, sad day in the nation's history. I will not forget all who were lost.

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    1. Laurie, you're story is so very moving.

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    2. Whenever 9/11 is mentioned instant memories flood my brain. The only positive thing I remember from the whole ordeal is that during that time it didn't matter if you were black or white, rich or poor, etc. Everyone was affected and we all tried to cope together and help one another. I sure wish we could have preserved those attitudes. It just goes to show that at the end of the day we are all human beings and we basically want the same things: love, peace and happiness.

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  14. Thank you for a beautiful reminder of a day none of us will ever forget. I truly hope we never experience that type of horror again.

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  15. I cried more than once when I visited the memorial and museum! I still remember 9/11 like it was yesterday. I had a one year old at home and didn't know it but was pregnant with my second child. I remember praying that the attack wasn't the beginning of something bigger, something that would lead to more death. It definitely changed the way I thought about freedom and safety I thought we had because we were the powerful United States. I hope we never are that vulnerable again!

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    1. I know, Amy. That was so weird, not knowing if the three attacks would lead to something even more devastating.

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  16. Thanks for sharing, Laurie! That's quite a story. There's still a big hole in the NYC skyline.

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