This past weekend I spent some time with friends in NYC. They were visiting from out of town and one of them asked me what it was like for me to experience the 9/11 attacks.
I stopped in my tracks. I realized I had never been asked that question before. Most people I knew had loved ones lost on that horrific day and others, like me, knew people who lost loved ones. We were all affected, especially because we lived on the east coast, so close to New York City.
But this person was from out of town and visiting from California. She was also much younger than I was when it happened. So her experience, was completely different than most people I knew.
One Of The Lucky Ones
My personal experience is surely not as bad as many other people. However, it was something traumatic I had lived through and hadn’t realized until that moment, just how big of an impact it had on me.
I was in my Freshman year of college at Montclair State University. I must have been in school for about a week. Everything was so new to me. I had never been away from home. I was scared, nervous, and excited all at once.
Watching the 9/11 Attacks From My Window
On the morning of September 11, 2001, my dorm room phone rang. I can’t quite remember if my roommate was there and she had answered the phone or if I was alone and awakened by the ringing. Upon reflecting, this was my first clue that maybe I had not fully processed what I had witnessed. I never really spent the time to think about what it was like for me to experience the 9/11 attacks.
My mom was on the other end of the line, worried and frantic she said “A plane just crashed into one of the twin towers, look outside your window.” My dorm room window, on the 8th floor of Bohn Hall, had an amazing view of the New York City skyline. But this morning, this awful morning, it was completely covered in a cloud of smoke and I couldn’t see much.
Not long after that, the second plane made its way into the other tower and it seemed like the rest was a blur. My mom was so worried about me but I assured her that I was safe and there was no need to panic, for now.
I didn’t quite understand what was happening at the time, and I still couldn’t fully grasp the rest of the week, month or year when I attended vigils and sit-ins that were held on campus. I locked hands with people I didn’t know, held candles and said prayers for those I’ve never met. Classes were cancelled, professors weren’t in their offices, the halls were empty. Commuters could not get in and out of the city.
After telling the story for the umpteenth time, one thing I do know, is that I will NEVER forget. That day, the world changed.
As I recounted this story to the woman walking beside me down the sidewalks of Greenwich Village, I was filled with gratitude, fear and realization.
I had gratitude for the fact that I was here to tell the story. I had fear for the unknown or possibility of it happening again. Finally, I had a realization that this tragic event had such an impact on me and I didn’t realize it until just now.
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