September 11th changed the course of my entire life.
At first, it was too much to take in, although writing helped. Then, it seemed better to not think about it.
I don’t want to organize my thoughts, really. I just turned on the TV and saw it. I see the towers on fire, and it is a wound, an open wound. I feel like someone is about to come at me with a knife; it is scarier than anything I could think of happening to me. I will not turn on the TV again today, although I have the newspaper to read and will be thinking of it all day.
A reporter at the local paper here in Las Vegas recently asked me exactly how I learned about it, as if someone delivered the news of September 11th in an instant. It wasn’t that simple. Watching TV as I got ready for work, I started off thinking that someone’s plane had somehow, a freak accident, hit a building.
Then, slower than I can comprehend now, everything dove into darkness.
My morning, September 11th 2001:
I woke up for work, and my roommate had NY 1 on. An airplane had hit the Twin Towers. Amie was a reporter, too; we were driven, curious, optimistic young things. We ran up to the roof to look. The smoke was unbelievable — but hadn’t spread yet, like that awful image I just saw on the television. A minute later, an hour later, time meant nothing, but I was in the bathroom or my room, getting ready for work, when Amie came running in. A second plane had hit the other tower.
Was it not an accident? Back up to the roof. That’s the image I can recall now, will always be able to: two towers, each smoking. It was when I realized that this was bad. I tried to call my mom. How was it possible that I couldn’t get through? I finally did, and Mom was a wreck; her wise intuition had kicked in way before I realized the gravity of what was going on.
Amie and I finally understood that there would be no work to go to. As we were deciding what to do, the first tower fell. I can’t put into words what it felt like to run up to the roof one more time and see only one tower. These towers were enormous, twin landmarks that were supposed to be indestructible. The impossible had just happened, as unthinkable as the sky turning green. All I kept thinking was, there are, were, people in there. There are PEOPLE … in… there.
So much of the next few weeks are a blur, but that next hour will stay with me forever. We were down on the street walking south as fast as we could. It had been a beautiful sunny day, but as we walked the sky got dark, because of the ash. There were no tears yet, no groups of friends huddling. People were walking alone, in shock, covered in ash. People were starting to talk in hushed voices, to strangers, when everyone started to trail off, mid-sentence. The second tower had fallen. We knew only by the enormity of the silence. I have never been able to describe it. Not knowing I had written a word of this post, Amie wrote me today to ask me if I remembered that silence. Remember it? Yes, I can feel it. Still. Always.
I wasn’t sure I was going to write about the tenth anniversary of September 11th; even though it’s been heavy on my mind, it didn’t occur to me that I’d post about it.
But when I did my interview for the paper, I was asked how September 11th changed me. Honestly, I hadn’t thought about it. But looking back now, I stopped doing news reporting shortly afterward and left NYC within two years. I swiftly went from a news junkie who had worked at Reuters and AP, for newspapers and New York magazine, to a reporter in the world of entertainment. It was as cutthroat, but in a different way. Soon, I was living in sunny Austin, Texas for a year-long break, freelancing and laying out at the pool, ambitions of covering news, of getting as close to stories and tragedies as I could, gone.
I will never take anything for granted again.
I wasn’t going to write about the tenth anniversary, because I can’t do it justice. I just can’t. But I can acknowledge it.
It will always be with me; I will never forget.
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