I got to Manhattan before sunup this morning as I headed to an early gym class.
It was like any other morning until the bus reached Battery Park and I saw the ring of American flags surrounding “Sphere for Plaza Fountain,” the battered sculpture that somehow survived the collapse of the World Trade Center 11 years ago today.
We rode up Church Street and I saw the police cars and the news vans getting ready for the memorial services.
I wish I had seen him when I had gotten on the bus. I would’ve gladly shaken his hand.
When I got off at my stop, I said thanks to the bus driver, as I do every day, and he gave me some good advice.
“Stay safe,” he replied.
I was working across the street from the Trade Center that day, just like I do now. And on that day I had gone to the gym, too. But the similarities end there.
My mother was in the hospital on September 11 and she would die there the following July.
My parents’ wedding anniversary was on September 10, although there was no way to celebrate, given my mother’s condition. And on the day of the worst terrorist attack in this nation’s history, my father marked his eightieth birthday. We lost him in January 2007.
The weather was nice today, but nowhere near as beautiful as it was back on 9/11. That’s one of the most bizarre things about that horrible day that still sticks out in my mind. It was warm, like the start of summer instead of the end, and there wasn’t a cloud in the brilliant blue sky.
As I walked to my office after my workout, I saw Senator Chuck Schumer, a man I always admired, crossing the street on his way to Ground Zero.
The ceremonies have toned down a bit over the years, which I suppose is not surprising. People move on and despite all the claims of “never forget,” that’s just what they'll do. They'll forget.
And please understand that I'm not trying to be cynical or disrespectful. I'm just being realistic.
Once inside the office, I heard the bells tolling at St. Paul’s Chapel at 8:46pm, the time the first plane struck the North Tower.
This Of All Days
Eleven years ago at that time I was just about to enter my office building when I heard something streak through the sky, crash into metal and explode. I had no idea what had happened, and how much the world was about to change.
I didn’t know that we were under attack, or that I was about to witness another airliner strike the South Tower a short time later. I had no idea I would be spending the rest of the day struggling through crowds and choking on vile smoke to get back home to Brooklyn.
A short time later this morning we heard the bagpipers playing and I thought of my fellow bus passenger. We looked out the window and saw line of officers moving up Fulton Street.
I went to St. Paul’s at lunch to light a candle for the departed and then I walked down to Liberty Street and tried to find the spot where I was standing when that second plane hit.
There are all sorts of scaffolding and netting there now so it was hard to locate it, but I did my best. I can still remember the sheets of orange flame shooting across the street, the people screaming, and everybody running as fast as they could.
Today whenever I caught myself getting annoyed at something foolish I quickly put a stop to it.
On this of all days, you pull this crap? I asked myself. Are you serious?
I vowed I wouldn’t talk about politics today and I intend to keep my promise.
This is a day of mourning, a day of remembrance. This is a day when you pray for the victims and their families and you thank God you and your loved ones survived.
This is a day when you remember those leaflets that once covered every inch of available space in this city, the ones that bore the names and images of people you knew would never be found.
I could say a lot more about this day and how I feel about the world we now live in. But I think my bus driver said it best this morning so I’ll give him the last word.