I woke up that morning as usual and was getting ready for work at my apartment in the East Village on Avenue B and 2nd Street. I lived on the top floor of a five story building with a great roof that had amazing views of downtown. I had even started a small roof garden up there. That morning my father called and said a Cessna had crashed into the World Trade Center, and I should run up to the roof and check it out. I blithely walked up the stairs with my brush in hand while talking to my father on the phone. I remembering seeing the big hole in the building with the flames and the smoke everywhere and saying it didn't look like something a small plane could do. Then I noticed another plane flying closer to the buildings and beginning to circle. I wondered out loud to my father what the airplane might be doing when it flew into the second tower. I remembering screaming and falling to my knees. I remember the gravel grinding into my bare knees. I stood there for the next few hours watching as the towers fell, unable to look away.
In the awful hours and days that followed, my mind would replay the scene over and over again. I didn't even need to turn on the news to see their footage. I could just close my eyes. I would think about the thousands of people that I saw die in those moments. To say that it haunted me would be putting it lightly. I remember the fear I felt - not knowing what was coming next or what we should do. I felt trapped on a very small island with no way to leave. My sister was in midtown in the 50's and walked over 60 blocks to get to me so we could be together and feel just a little bit safer.
I remember the fear would come rushing back every time I had to evacuate my office tower in Times Square from some potential threat. Running down the stairwells, I would always feeI like I was running for my life. I would only wear comfortable shoes to work just in case. I was addicted to the news and signed up for every single alert just so I could feel like I would always know what was going on.
The first year my sister and I went to the big memorial in Central Park. The next year we went to the beautiful park on the water down in Battery Park City with a few friends. After that my sister and I always just got together for breakfast. We wanted to take a little time to mark the day and make sure that in our small way we never forgot.
With the time that has passed, my life has changed in many ways. I got married. I had two kids. I stay home and don't work in Times Square. The memories have softened, and my head is full of other things like second days of preschool and nap schedules. Thinking about that day now makes me realize how self-absorbed my reaction was. I wonder now with children what I would do and say. I don't think I would have the luxury of losing myself in the fear and falling apart -- but of course, it's hard to say - and even harder to imagine.
I am not like that firefighter that I can be strong enough to remember every day and relive the events in my mind. I do want to make sure to never forget. I want to have breakfast with my sister every year on the anniversary and make the day just a little different from all the others that seem to pass so quickly now. I also want to make a resolution that I will create Go Bags in case my family does need to evacuate some day. Time does heal wounds though and for that I am thankful. I do remember, and I will never forget.