September 11th, 2001. My Story.
I was nineteen years old, and I was determined to see the Statue of Liberty. I went into Manhattan via the Long Island Rail Road. I traveled on the train alone that day, completely fearless and caring about only one thing. We left Ronkonkoma Station and would arrive in Pennsylvania Station, or Penn Station in an hour and a half. I made this trip many times in my life, with family mostly. I was very familiar with it. Having been to Penn Station so many times in my life, I could have found my way around the place with my eyes closed.
I made this trip exactly two weeks before the World Trade Center was hit. I remember being on the ferry, going to the Statue of Liberty. Looking at the skyline and just feeling like there was no greater place to live. I remember standing right outside the entrance to one of the Twin Towers. Looking up and getting dizzy because it almost seemed as if they were touching heaven. It never occurred to me that there was a group of psychotic lunatics on the other side of the world, dying to cause absolute terror in the lives of an entire nation, the United States of America.
I’ll never forget September 11th, 2001 as long as I live. I will grow old and senile, but I’ll remember that day, as if it just happened. It started out like any other day. The sun came up and I had to pry myself out of bed and get moving. Me and Ma got dressed, and I was called into work early. I was working in the kitchen at the Longwood Middle School. Della, my direct supervisor wanted me to wash what looked like eighty seven million flat pans. Once again, it was hamburger day. So, I called P’s mom and she said I could of course carpool with her. When we got into the car, she was talking about how a plane hit one of the Towers. She wondered if it was a terrorist attack. I, of course, completely dismissed it. In my mind I was thinking some idiot flew their Cessna into it and it was just an accident. Why on earth would I think it would be a commercial jet? This is me we’re talking about.
Before I could start washing the flats, I had to run some dishes through the dishwasher to make room on the rack. So, everything was still pretty normal for me at this point. I was loading Hotel pans in, one by one, nothing unusual about it. All I can hear are the jets in the beastie of a machine, not the radio on the other side of the kitchen. My co-worker comes running back to me, shouting “The twin towers are on the ground!” I mean, she looked like she was losing it. Her expression and tone made no sense to me. I looked at her, saying “Of course they’re on the ground, they weren’t built on jello.” She responded, “No Melissa. They’re gone. Crumbled to the ground.” I wish I could say I believed her, but I was in denial. I just couldn’t bring myself to believe it. I was just there, two weeks before. I couldn’t make much sense of why everyone was acting like it was the end of the world. It wasn’t long before the first parent called their child out of school for early dismissal. It was like a domino effect. It was minutes or less in between each announcement. One of the rare moments in life I felt like I was in the Twilight Zone. The building began to get restless. You could feel the change in the air. There was no denying I moved a lot closer to realizing it actually happened.
When I was walking up the sidewalk that day after work, I can’t describe the range of emotions palpitating through my body. It seemed like I was walking for miles. When I finally made it to my grandma’s front door, I knew she would have the news on. I opened the door without even knocking, like I usually did. I walked inside, straight into the living room. I couldn’t believe what I watching on her television. Everything and everyone around me completely disappeared. Thinking about that day, in the city. Watching the footage showing every possible angle of the Twin Towers being destroyed. Watching billows of fire and people jumping to their deaths. Watching as the planes, commercial jets, plunged into the buildings. Thinking about all the children were dismissed early, not only in the middle school, but all the schools on Long Island, New York City, and Westchester. How many kids and families lost a loved one? It was all I kept thinking, over and over.
Another plane flew into the Pentagon and another crashed in Pennsylvania. As an insanely proud New Yorker, I was devastated. Every single person in this country was afraid. We didn’t know what was going on. For all we knew, it could have been the beginning of the end. We could absolutely lose our minds in complete madness trying to figure it out. What could possibly possess anyone to commit such a horrific act of terror? I don’t know that I even want to hear the answer.
For every single life that was lost that day, we will never forget. Innocent civilians, New York City police officers, New York City Fire Fighters, all the soldiers in the United States Military who served overseas, I am humbled. You all are heroes to this country. The brave and courageous, we all owe you a debt of gratitude. Including the survivors, for your stories are not in vain. May every single person in this country feel a wealth of comfort on such a tragic day in our nation’s history. May we look back with pride for how far we’ve come and may we persevere for all we are yet to be.
This is my story. September 11th, 2001.