Like millions of other people, I was working and living in New York City on September 11, 2001. Everyone has a 9/11 story. Riding into work this morning, my train car was full of people talking about that day. Like a train full of veterans that lived to tell about it. Many of them had lost co-workers or family, but today, they talked about the little things. The weather that morning. People helping each other. The police walking around Penn Station with their fire arms out and on the ready.
Their conversation reminded me of the days and months and years following the sudden death of my mother-in-law. My husband, his sister and I would talk through every moment that led up to her passing over and over again. We’d be eating together, driving together, you name it – and all of a sudden one of us would start talking about how all the events unfolded. It was a devastating loss but talking about it, somehow dissecting it with each other was good for us. From the outside it must have sounded depressing and morbid, or like we were adding salt to the wound. But really it helped the healing. And it felt so nice to do it with people who wouldn’t hurry you through thinking about that day into the,” she’s in a better place” or “you’ll be ok soon”. Mourning slowly and long is ok. Mourning in bits and pieces is ok.
9/11 and the weeks that followed are both a blur and extremely clear in my head. Here’s what goes through my head today about that day:
- I walked into the building at work not having watched the news. My boss, now one of my best friends, was coming in too. She said,” Did you hear what happened?” We went upstairs, grabbed another co-worker, and went to a company coffee shop – called Java City I think. They had two TVs broadcasting live. A tower on fire. News channels hadn’t expected to show people jumping out of windows so we saw everything. All three of us were crying. I think everyone in that shop was crying.
- Not sure how/when we came back down to our floor, or if the other tower had been hit at that point. TVs were brought into a small conference room on our floor and people were either frantically calling home or watching the footage.
- Here’s a totally wacky thing. There is a comedian named Jason Mantzoukas who’s quite famous now. But on that day, he worked across from our floor and did presentation building. He was the funny dude who would help put together our agenda packets, etc. He’s the one that helped bring the TV into the conference room, and I remember spending part of that horrible day with him. When I see him on Parks and Recreation or in the movies – all I can think of, is him sitting with us and crying.
- My husband stayed behind at work (a choice he regrets now) and I walked home alone, with a hundred other people. We were like zombies shuffling out of buildings and onto the streets.
- The next day was surreal. It was the most surreal day I have ever been through. No planes. No cars. No buses. All the stores were closed. The streets were empty uptown. Downtown was still a war zone. There was almost no one outside.
- Everyone that didn’t lose someone in the city was huddled around a TV watching the coverage. President Bush came on and threatened retaliation. It was exactly what we needed to hear.
- One of the most miraculous things was that my daughter was only 3. Completely, happily, oblivious to all the chaos and manic fear. I have never been so thankful for bedtime routines and snack time.
- One of our events a few months later was at a production of The Producers, which had opened that April in NYC. It was one of the first nights after 9/11 that I remember being in a big room full of people that were laughing and joyous.
So ofcourse I’ll “Never Forget” the loss. But I remember so many other things too.