Emotions are still raw for all of us. This morning, as I was taking the T to work, I was reading the New York Times. On pages A14-A15, they revisited some of the families who lost loved ones in the attacks, in the same "Portraits of Grief" style they used to eulogize the victims in the months afterwards. I found myself uncontrollably and spontaneously bursting into tears. I had to stop reading.
Because I'm obsessed with exactness, I've made sure for a while now to know the exact times of certain events that took place on 9/11. The bare sequence of events at the World Trade Center was as follows:
8:46:26 AM: North Tower Hit
9:02:54 AM: South Tower Hit
9:59:04 AM: South Tower Collapsed
10:28:31 AM: North Tower Collapsed
I'm a New York City native, born and raised in Queens, and grew up in a city in which the Towers always stood. On 9/11, I was at my teaching job in Newton, Massachusetts. The following comes from my journal, a hand-written one that I was keeping at the time.
"The second [staff] meeting ended early, and I went back to the Science lab to check my e-mail. I idly noted a message...which said that an airplane had hit the World Trade Center.
"I didn't really think much of it and I went back to the Information Center. Shortly after the meeting...began, [a colleague] walked in and asked if we had heard the news. He told us that two planes had hit the twin towers of the World Trade Center, and he set up the small TV to receive CNN. They showed pictures of two commercial jets crashing into the twin towers...
"I ran to the phone...to call [my younger brother] at work. At 9:35 AM I called and got him. He had just gotten in, and he said that he seen the smoke from the 7 train. I told him to stay in touch, but due to circuits being busy, I wasn't able to reach New York City again for a while.
"The rest of the day passed in a blur of rumors and news. I kept checking webpages; when I couldn't reach cnn.com, I checked the New York Post webpage and the Newsday webpage. I called Nomi...
"At 10:15 AM, the...students returned from their physical education class...and...we told them the news...
"When the meeting with the students ended, I collapsed in tears..."
There's more, of course, but to summarize, I spent the day trying to get news of family and friends, making sure they were all safe. The drive home was surreal, knowing that fighter planes and battleships were protecting New York City. Nomi was already home, as her office had sent everyone home early. The rest of my family was safe, but my older brother, an emergency medicine physician, had been called up to report to New York City. Nomi and I took a walk at 5:30 PM, which included browsing at Brookline Booksmith and getting ice cream at JP Licks. Everything on TV was the news; we watched C-SPAN, which was running a feed from the CBC, so we could get the Canadian perspective.
The next few days, the events were fresh in everyone's mind. On Wednesday, I flinched at hearing an airplane in the sky, then remembered that all commercial flights had been grounded, so it had to be one of our military aircraft, protecting us. I bought my regular comic books that day; Adventures of Superman #596 had an eerie panel of the twin towers of Metropolis being repaired. A friend came over that evening after attending a local religious service.
On Thursday, Nomi and I were sick of the news, and Animal Planet had gone back to regular programming. We watched a documentary about moose to help us get our minds off things.
And life went on. Today, I'm no longer teaching, but editing textbooks in Boston; my younger brother no longer lives in New York City, but in Richmond, Virginia with his wife and two children; and my older brother is still an emergency medicine physician in the Boston area, specializing in disaster management. My mother still lives in New York City, as do my two older half-brothers.
I'm grateful that I didn't lose anyone close in the 9/11 attacks; but in some ways, we all lost someone or something that day. Ever since then, Nomi and I check in with each other every morning when we get to work, and we live with an undercurrent of anxiety at almost all times.