Originally published on September 11, 2011.
This is a picture from my window of the memorial lights for the Twin Towers on the Eve of the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.
Ten years ago, I was waking up with my six month old, groggy from a night time feeding, cuddling and cooing as I touched her button nose and she giggled back. We were preparing to leave my parents’ home after an extended weekend visit and my mom had left for work before we could say goodbye. She called four or five times before I realized I should answer her phone.
“We are under attack, my building is on lockdown, turn on the tv.” I remember asking what on earth she meant, under attack by a gunman? This was only a couple years after the Columbine shootings, and new procedures had been set in place at her school. Any other attack was inconceivable to me. It just didn’t seem in the scope of possibility at all. She was crying now, “The Pentagon has been hit, the World Trade Center, there is another attack heading toward the White House.” I went absolutely numb. I woke my husband, relaying what I could, and I only remember the look of shock on his face and that I have never seen him move so fast.
When we turned on the television, we watched as the second tower was hit, watched them both collapse; saw the fire of the Pentagon, prayed wildly as the last plane crashed in the field. We held our daughter close, so thankful for the responsiblity we had to keep calm for her, to play and have our responses tempered by her presence. I remember the relief when my parents and sister arrived back home and the safety I felt in having us all together.
Ten years ago, I never imagined New York to be a place I would ever live, a city I would ever call my city. And yet, now, I hold it so dearly, call it my own, have a chosen affection placed here. As we unpack the events of 9/11 for our children, it is no longer in the context of an attack on America that ignited war, but it is something that happened in their city. They have walked through ground zero, frequented a hot dog vendor on Fulton street, tilted back their heads and imagined the towers in the open air space that is forever changed. They have met survivors and the seen the memorials of fallen FDNY on our block right alongside pieces of the WTC they can reach out and touch. And now, they have looked out their window to see the beams of light and the memory of what their view might have looked like a decade ago.
In many ways, although they can’t remember, their understanding is so much more personal and I am praying today that I will respond well, answer well, not share too much…but just enough, and help them love their home and city and remember in their own way.