Today, instead of my usual movie/writing/pop culture topics, I wanted to take a moment to remember that other
date that will live in infamy: Tuesday, September 11th, 2001,
also known since then as Patriot Day.
It’s hard to believe ten years have passed since then. As a native New Yorker, I think that for those of us who lived in New York City on that terrible day, it’ll always be fresh in our minds no matter how much time passes. Our family lived in the Riverdale section of the Bronx at the time. I remember hearing on my car radio that a plane, American Airlines Flight 11 from Boston, had crashed into the north tower of the World Trade Center. As the tower burned, I was sure it had to be a freak accident. How the hell could any pilot miss the Twin Towers? The awful reality of the situation sunk in fast when the radio DJ announced, with growing shock and disbelief in his voice, that a second plane from Boston, United Airlines Flight 175, had plowed into the south tower.
And what momentous occasion was I driving to while terrorists ruled the skies and lives were lost? Would you believe a Weight Watchers meeting in nearby Yonkers, NY? Ironically, we of Team Bartilucci had already been preparing to move to northeastern Pennsylvania, since the PR firm where my husband Vinnie worked at the time had decided to move to his boss’s town, Bethlehem, PA. In fact, Vin was already working at the PA office. I managed to get ahold of him on the phone before the lines went dead for hours, telling him, “Believe me, you are so
glad you’re not working in the city today!” Hell, under the circumstances, I
was glad he wasn’t in the city as well! Unsurprisingly, our Weight Watchers meeting was cut short. We talked, all right, but it sure as hell had nothing to do with losing weight. Our WW branch was at the Cross County Shopping Center in Yonkers, just a fifteen-minute drive from our apartment house. As I passed the shopping center’s plate-glass storefronts, I saw people watching TV in shock, all of us making stunned, sad eye contact with each other.
|The waterfall aspect of the 9-11 Memorial|
Our niece Jen was living with us at the time. That day, she was in the city attending classes at the Katharine Gibbs School. In the wake of the WTC carnage, she was stuck in the city for hours because the police and FBI were checking motorists’ I.D.s, with nobody allowed in or out of Manhattan for hours. Luckily, Jen’s bosses at the Ben & Jerry let her and the other young folks working there hang out until things calmed down.
Our buddy Jason still remembers what a gorgeous, sunny fall day it was. When we caught up with him, he said, in sad amazement, “It’s a perfect fall day! How could this happen on such a beautiful day?” Cabs had become hard to find, especially with people getting enraged at every swarthy person they came across. Jason found himself walking across Manhattan, shocked and dismayed as he passed scores of stunned people coated with the ashes of the dead. On top of that, our daughter Siobhan, then five years old and diagnosed with ADHD and Asperger’s Syndrome, attended her first day in the Inclusion Class at the Bronx elementary school she was attending at the time—a proud, triumphant day that turned scary and tragic once news of the terrorist attacks broke. After leaving WW, I drove straight to Siobhan’s school to see if it was closing early. I was the very first parent there. I’d barely begun signing the early dismissal form when the doors flew open and a swarm of panicky parents raced inside! Luckily, Siobhan was so young she was more bewildered than full-tilt scared of the hubbub. Now that she’s 14 (15 in October), she's grasping that the tragic events of 9/11/2001 were/are more than just another lesson in her History class at school.
When we came home, the phones were on the mend at last, and I found eleven messages on our answering machine from frantic friends and loved ones across the country, as well as plenty of e-mails (this was well before Twitter, of course). It took a couple of days for us to catch up with everyone and assure them we were alive, well, and safe. We were luckier than most that day; our family was soon home together in our Riverdale apartment, safe and sound, and our friends and loved ones were okay, too. Like most of us who lived in New York City at the time, we've never forgotten, and each year we turn on the reading of the names as a reminder that life and freedom should never be taken for granted. Personally, during the reading of the names in 2010, I had both smiles and tears for the lady who read the poem about her lost loved one, a science fiction fan, and his love of sweet potato pie. Amazing, the little things you take for granted that begin to matter when you least expect it.
|The names of the people who died on that terrible day.|
|The 9/11 Memorial, unveiled in 2011 |
|The 9/11 Tribute in Light|
Kathaleen, welcome to "Tales of the Easily Distracted"! Thanks for Following our merry crew; feel free to stick around and join the conversation!ReplyDelete
It is hard to believe it was 9 years ago. It feels like yesterday. The heartache is still fresh and I cannot watch images of the day without crying. A co-worker at the zoo lost her husband that day, Thomas Fitzpatrick, an office worker. He was a very funny fellow and they had 3 children together. I was at work at the animal hospital and the radio was on. One of my co-workers got a stricken look on her face and said, "my sister works in the Twin Towers". We all assured her that her sister would be alright (don't we ALL do that -- say assuring things during a crisis?) but this time I really didn't believe it. My heart sank as we waited all day for word on her sister. Miracles do happen and her sister had gotten off the subway a stop early to walk the rest of the way since the day was so beautiful. She witnessed the plane hitting the building. This summer, I showed a friend from Russia around NYC and asked what sights she wanted to visit but both Karen and I warned her that we would not accompany her to Ground Zero if that was on her list. I feel that I probably SHOULD go but I just can't imagine being there. No, I just can't do it. Not now. Maybe never, I don't know.ReplyDelete
Ingrid, I'm so moved by your account of 9/11; thank you for sharing your experiences. I'm so sorry that Thomas Fitzpatrick lost his life that day, but I'm relieved to hear that, ironically enouch, your co-worker's sister was saved by her desire to leave her train early to enjoy that day's gorgeous fall weather. Have you ever wondered if things would have been different if it had been bad flying weather in the northeast that day? Anyway, I certainly don't blame you for being reluctant to visit the Ground Zero site; no matter what the powers that be may erect on that site, it'll always be a graveyard to me and really, to all of us, especially those who lived in or near New York City at the time.ReplyDelete
As a student of American diplomatic, corporate and cultural practices, I can understand how it happened. But I don't weep any less for the innocent and brave who perished.ReplyDelete
Shelley, I agree with you wholeheartedly, every word. I'm glad you contributed to this conversation; thanks, my friend.ReplyDelete
It was a beautiful day, wasn't it?ReplyDelete
2001 was the year I was diagnosed with colorectal cancer. Early treatment (chemo, radiation) had caused a large tumor to drop and spread, and I was facing an operation in two days that few except my wonderful lead surgeon thought held any hope. I had been keeping up an optimistic front for my 10 year old daughter and 8 year old son. I must have been doing a good job, for it took that horrendous attack for my guard to drop. My daughter came in for lunch, took one look at me and asked worriedly if I was alright.
The world has grown smaller and, sadly, more splintered. I am enraged at the thought that someone settling in at their desk with a muffin and coffee can become a martyr for a stranger's cause.
Oh my God, Caftan Woman, I had no idea you had grappled with colorectal cancer! I'm so sorry you had to battle that loathsome disease (a number of our family members and friends have battled cancer), and so thankful that you were able to recover thanks to early treatment, so you'd be alive and well to see your children grow up. If I may ask, are you completely cancer-free now?ReplyDelete
You put it so well when you said, "I am enraged at the thought that someone settling in at their desk with a muffin and coffee can become a martyr for a stranger's cause." What's equally infuriating is all the devilish planning these rotten SOBs put into their schemes. That's why all of us decent folks in this crazy old world must always be grateful for our freedoms, and never ever take them for granted.
What a beautiful post. While I was in Portland, Oregon during 9/11, I did visit NYC in October, 2001. It was a city in morning. Even the most city-toughened New Yorkers seemed to be clutching each other and visitors like me seeking recognition, solace and meaning.ReplyDelete
I love New York and have spent a great deal of time there. That sad day and my subsequent visit reminded me of the great humanity of the people who live in the greatest city on earth.
Joel, thanks so much for your kind words about my post, and thank you for sharing your own experiences in October 2001. I wouldn't be surprised if we passed each other walking among the makeshift 9/11 memorials that seemed to be all over every Manhattan street at that time! You're absolutely right: even the most hardened, cynical New Yorkers let their hair down during that painful time, clutching each other and connecting, showing their love and support for each other. Even though Team Bartilucci lives in PA now, we love our hometown and visit NYC every chance we get.ReplyDelete
Dorian, I am cancer free thanks to a dedicated surgeon who wouldn't give up on me. It was a long, long haul with many setbacks, operations and hospital stays. The family was put through the ringer and my body is - well, let's say it's the worse for wear. However, I don't let it get me down. My surgeon called me her partner for my positive outlook.ReplyDelete
I sometimes feel self-conscious talking about my medical history, but I hope it might encourage someone hesitating about getting a colonoscopy or give someone an example of a success story if they are going through treatment.
CW, thanks for sharing your experiences with me, because knowledge is power. As you yourself pointed out, freely discussing your own battle with cancer can be just the ticket to encouraging others to be vigilant about their health as well. The fact that your surgeon called you her partner because of your positive outlook speaks volumes about your determination and inner strength. While I haven't had cancer myself, I've had a number of family members and friends who've dealt with cancer and other serious illnesses, such as the pulmonary fibrosis that seems to run in our family. Just as we mustn't take our freedoms for granted, we mustn't take our health for granted either. I salute you, my friend!ReplyDelete
Dorian - I think we will always remember what a beautiful blue sky there was that day. Oh how I wish we could find that common ground that brought us together for just a short time without another tragedy to trigger it.ReplyDelete
FlickChick, I agree with you wholeheartedly. Everyone in the world must try harder to find the common ground we all share. It shouldn't take a tragedy like 9/11 to remind us that when you get right down to it, we're all in this together. Here's hoping we can each do things, big or small, to foil those who would take away our freedoms, and help keep ourselves, our loved ones, and our world happy and safe.ReplyDelete
What a lovely and thoughtful tribute, written by my beautiful friend Dorian who didn't need Weight Watchers anyway.ReplyDelete
Eve, you're a total sweetheart! Thank you so very much for your kind words, my friend, and here's hoping you and yours and all of us will always be happy and safe!Delete
Thank you for sharing your experience, Dorian, and thank you to the commenters, as well, for sharing theirs. I also appreciate you pictures of the 9/11 Memorial. I hope to visit there someday.ReplyDelete
I still feel the profound sadness of that day. I appreciate how many people pause to remember.
Piper, I'm glad to see you visiting us here at TALES OF THE EASILY DISTRACTED, though I'm sorry it's for such a tragic reason. I think we can all agree that not only will we truly Never Forget, but also, all of us Americans will do our best to keep our country and our loved ones as safe and strong as we can.Delete
I'm glad you liked the photos from the 9-11 Memorial, too; thanks for your kind words. If you haven't done so already, I hope you and yours will visit and enjoy our beautiful hometown of New York City sometime soon!
Amazing to think how much time has passed since the awful events of 9/11. Our daughter Siobhan, who was just starting kindergarten in 2010 when I wrote this blog post, will be 17 this October! Watching the Reading of the Names, it was both poignant and and somehow heartening to see so many will truly never forget.ReplyDelete