Saturday, September 11, 2010

Remembering 9/11/2001

Today is the 9th Anniversary of the 9/11/2001 attacks. Anniversaries of this kind are strange because some of them are harder than others. Obviously, the first few years are very difficult and then after that, it depends on what is happening in the world, in our lives, that might make the memories easier or harder.  This year, probably because it is election year, the anniversary has been more politicized.  I think that is so sad because this is not a political issue - at least not the part where almost 3,000 innocent Americans were killed.  This unites us all as Americans, as human beings. Just as the Tsunami united the world. Just as the earthquake in Haiti. Just as the floods in Pakistan should be.

I remember the morning of September 11, 2001.  I woke up and the first thing I did was check my pager. There was a "news" function and I would get these little pages with summaries of world and U.S. news. My pager said that planes had flown into the World Trade Center and they thought it was a terrorist attack. I was still in bed, barely awake and I couldn't really process that. I thought maybe it was wrong. The page had come in a couple of hours before, since I'm on the West Coast.  I ran downstairs and turned on the television and thus began the horror.

For the first couple of days, everyone waited with baited breath, hoping that some survivors would be found. I think there were only 2-3 people found alive. I couldn't tear myself away from the images. I can still hear that eerie sound from the streets of New York. I could only imagine how my friends there were feeling - devastated, frightened, worried.

In the days and weeks to follow, I read every newspaper article, read the list of names of people we lost in the attacks, read their obituaries, saved them. I found the website, Here is New York: A Democracy of Photos and poured over the images. I later had the opportunity to visit the Here is New York: Soho site in 2002. It was eerie and moving and I'm so glad I did visit to honor those who died, those who witnessed.  It was an incredible experience. 9/11 was the most documented tragedy in the history of the world at that time, so Here is New York became a way for professional and amateur photographers to share and process what had happened to them. All the proceeds went to the Children's Aid fund for the children of the people lost in the attacks.

For today, I remember all those people. I remember those scary days. I remember all we have lost since 9/11. For a list of the names of all the people who perished on that terrible day, you can go here.

Here are two images that I remember so clearly from that terrible, terrible time.  I remember seeing the first photo and it really impacted me. I couldn't imagine how people in lower Manhattan must have felt to be in a world that had become suddenly gray with ash, unrecognizable. The entire landscape had changed, not only in the skyline, but on the ground for the days and weeks to come. The photo was eerie and mesmerizing at the same time. Later, it turned out that the guy on the bench was the statue in the second photo. According to the article,  the statue became a shine to the victims of 9/11.
The photos are from here.

The other indelible images were the videos of the towers falling, the video of a woman who had been running from the ash and a deli owner pulled her into their shop, just as the plume of ash caught up to them and the sight and sound of that happening. One video was of a doctor who was headed to the towers to help when the first tower collapsed. He hid by a car wheel and kept his video recorder on. Overwhelming and moving - as soon as the cloud calmed, he was up and checking with people as he found them. Scenes at the local hospitals as they waited for trauma victims who never came.  Here is a website that provides a lot of information about that day - images, explanations about why the towers fell, specs on the buildings and the planes, photos from NOAA of Ground Zero, etc.

There are so many things I remember about that terrible, terrible day. I remember realizing that we had just joined the rest of the world - we had never been that safe, we had only thought we were impervious to harm. It was a big and scary paradigm shift - one I'm not sure we have come to accept as a nation.

In memory of lives lost and of the first responders, remember 9/11 today in whatever way you can.

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