9/11/01. We all know where we were and what we were doing when the unbelievable and devastating news reached us that day. A beautiful ceremony on the Plaza this past Sunday commemorated the events of September 11, 2001 including the reading the names of the victims killed in the attacks at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and Flight 93. We dedicate our cover story this issue to remembering those who were lost and what this act of terrorism has meant to our country.
I didn’t, in fact, attend Sunday’s commemoration. I hesitatingly had planned to go but, when I woke up that day, I found that I couldn’t. Thinking back, I didn’t read the paper that day, I didn’t watch television, I didn’t go online to watch the incredible amount of coverage. I just couldn’t.
Growing up in New Jersey, the Twin Towers were a part of my childhood, gracing the skyline every time we went into, through or past New York City. I think we actually had a contest in the car to see which of the three of us could first spot them as they loomed into view, nearly identical behemoths literally towering over everything else in the city’s financial district. As kids, we watched awestruck as they were built, floor after floor with a restaurant and observation deck as the proverbial cherries on top. (My Brooklyn-born Sonoma friend Erin’s father actually helped build them.) When they were completed, we were proud of those buildings. It was like they somehow belonged as much to us as to the rest of the world. They were cool. Really, really cool.
Eagerly anticipated were the days when out of town visitors came and we took them into the city to show off its glory, a trip to the restaurant, Windows on the World typically a part of that. The stomach lurching ride in the elevator, up all 107 floors, could make us squeal even into adulthood, such was the thrill. At the top, the adults ordered an altogether ridiculously expensive cocktail for themselves and an equally extravagant Shirley Temple for us kids – extravagant given the fact that the longed-for concoction was quickly abandoned as we went in search of familiar landmarks in the jungle of Manhattan far, far below.
What could we see from the restaurant’s windows? Boats on the river, the tangle of city traffic, people walking dogs if we were lucky. On rainy days the profusion of opened umbrellas appeared to be a moving carpet miles below us. In snow, the city looked like a fairyland. Once we saw a bus accident. Another time, the set of a movie with lights, trailers, and actors in miniature. It was a fascinating perspective of life in Manhattan.
I’d left the East Coast behind years before when, with an incredulity that I’d never before and have not since experienced, I received that early morning call from my New Jersey-based mother on 9/11/01. Small planes routinely hit the towers by accident but, she said, this was different. Flipping on the bedroom television, getting ready for the day was quickly forsaken as we watched in suspended disbelief as the events unfolded. Disbelief turned to horror, horror to tears as we watched my beloved towers fall. The lives lost, the devastation, the fear as the terror continued to sweep across the country. And then the awful realization that no, life really would never be the same.
I am thankful for people who attended Sunday’s ceremony here in Sonoma and across the country. Thank you for going, thank you for being strong, thank you for remembering. I had to do it in my own way. Even now, the memories of those towers and the impact they made on my young life have the power to bring tears to my eyes. I know I will never, ever forget.