The night of my 18th birthday, I spent with my family eating dinner at Windows on the World, looking out over New York City. I remember Dad bribing the headwaiter to make sure we had a good view. I remember us talking about the history of the city and how all the streets in Greenwich Village were so clearly at an angle from the rest of the grid. It was also the first night I ever tried venison (it was yummy).
Fast forward a few years, and every morning as I left my post-college Soho apartment, I would look to the left and see the World Trade Center rising over 6th Avenue as I headed for the Spring Street subway station. I’d periodically meet friends at Windows for drinks, to celebrate special events. I even considered having my wedding reception there. I’d walk through the Concourse daily, on my way to work at two different jobs. And I still have clothing that I bought in the shops there.
The World Trade Center was an integral part of my life, and of my New York.
Until the day it wasn’t.
Ten years now. It seems a bit unreal that it has been so long, when I can still close my eyes and go back into the utter horror and chaos and fear that was 9/11/01. I try not to, though. Even ten years later, the memories are too vivid and painful to spend much time revisiting them.
I’m not going to write about that day. I could call up the memories, put them down here, but my story is a simple one, shared by thousands of others, both too commonplace and too painful to retell. Some year, perhaps, I’ll write it all down, but not this year.
This tenth anniversary finds me outside the USA, and I have very mixed feelings about that. On the one hand, I feel like I should be at home, honoring the day in some solemn and proper way. I’m reasonably confident there will be nothing untoward today, but there’s that nagging “what if” that makes me think not being home is a bad idea. On the other hand, I have a job to do and places to be.
And then, there’s Kath. I’m in the country of her birth today.
For the first year or so after 9/11, not a day went by that I didn’t think of Kath. 10 years later, I don’t. But even so, in a way, I feel that I’m living for both of us. Or perhaps a better way of saying it is that I feel a responsibility to use this time that I have, which she did not get, in a way that honors her.
If there’s any lesson to be drawn from 9/11, it is that you can never give in to those who want to bring horror and sorrow and pain into the hearts of others. You must life your life to the fullest rather than embrace fear.
I try to remember that. For Kath, and for the 343, and for all the others whose lives ended so terribly and so suddenly, ten years ago today.