March 11, 2002
I drove south down Route 1/9, pulled over on a bridge that offered a clear view of the city. I had always liked those moments on my commute heading north, seeing the beautiful skyline off in the distance like Oz, and now I could only stand a few seconds of watching the smoke rise before I needed to get back into my car and keep moving. I turned off the news and kept my eyes away from the rearview mirror, rolled down the windows in case the bridges I was driving exploded and my car plummeted into the water. It seemed like the normal thing to do at that moment, like turning on the headlights when it starts getting dark.
I made it home, turned on the computer and the news, tried to find out anything at all. Much time was spent trying to determine what building my friend worked in, on what floor, like some bizarre lottery. My friend turned out to be safe, as did everybody else I knew. Some were inconvenienced, shaken, disturbed, but everybody made it home. I found out days later that a close cousin of mine worked right in the plaza, in one of the buildings that collapsed, but he made it home as well.
Six months ago today tens of thousands of people got dressed and headed to their offices or boarded planes, without the slightest thought that these mundane sites would soon become the epicenters of unimaginable horror, destruction, and devastation. Many other people went into work that morning as well, and when the unimaginable happened these brave people rushed into those buildings, helping others to escape. All of us simply went to work on that deceptively normal Tuesday, and nothing other than luck separated those of us watching on the side of the road from those on the 90th floor of the Towers.
For months afterwards those were my thoughts when I headed into work, and I’m a bit ashamed to see how those thoughts have faded. Last week I was walking through midtown when I saw one of those cheap "Osama: Wanted Dead Or Alive" shirts for sale, and my first thought was that it seemed so outdated, like seeing Subway Series shirts on the discount rack, and my second thought was shame, a sense of betrayal. It seems too far away now, I feel too much unearned relief, too much false security. It feels too easy, too natural to put the blinders up and let the fog roll in. I need to fight that. I need to remember, not just today, but tomorrow and beyond.
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