* This article originally appeared in the Tropolitan–the school newspaper at Troy University. It remains an indelible memory for me. Seventeen years and I am still remembering 9-11 in the City that Never Sleeps.
This past summer my son and I pounded the pavement of our native New York. My goal was to take him on a tour of all the historical landmarks that draw thousands of tourists yearly to the Big Apple; the city that never sleeps. We never made it to the Twin Towers because our schedule never permitted it and now we never will. September 11, 2001, marks the day that one of the most monumental edifices that define American culture was destroyed. This surreal scenario of murder, mayhem and madness constantly portrayed in major movies has become a reality. As a result, my life will never be the same.
As I entered work, I was bombarded with “Are you okay?” and “You could have stayed home.” I answered, “Why wouldn’t I be okay and why would I have stayed home.” With looks of horror they responded with, “You don’t know that the Twin Towers collapsed?” Sudden devastation. I walked to my desk, my heart heavy and my mind racing. Immediately, my nervous hands fumbled with my cell phone. There were so many people to call, some of their numbers came to mind spontaneously while others I had to ponder. Yet none of my contacts could be reached. The transmitting waves of my beloved vibrant city were knocked out disabling, phone communication, particularly wireless. In a crisis situation, there is nothing worse than trying to call those you love and find them unattainable. There is an overwhelming feeling of such discomfiting weight that places heaviness on your heart, immovable. It is more burdensome when you know beyond a shadow of a doubt that someone you know could be dead. I can hardly imagine how those in the midst of the rubble must feel. While most of those I love are accounted for, I am sure that there are a number of those who are not.
New York is my home and lower Manhattan is its central district where virtually everything exists. The work opportunities are abundant in practically every field imaginable. I worked there myself at 15 Maiden Lane, a building facing the World Trade Center. I though to call my former employers just a day before this tragedy occurred but I didn’t. Now I am stuck with the harsh reality that life is fleeting and full of unexpected twists and turns. It is a sharp reminder that we are to take advantage of every God-given opportunity to show love. A smile, a hug, a word of encouragement or even a phone call could change the course of your life or the life of someone else.
Two of my aunts work in the vicinity of the World Trade Center as well. They take the train daily to the World Trade Center station and walk a few feet to their respective jobs. Neither of them made it to work that day. While one was forced to return home due to the heavy congestion, the other literally ran for her life while flying debris chased her down the chaotic streets and the heat of the flames singed her back. Trying to return to Brooklyn was a feat because the trains were shut down and the city that never sleeps was strangely immobile. Masses of people trudged across the Brooklyn Bridge and saw the second tower fall. The impact of the explosion was tremendous and the ground quaked beneath them. No one knew what would happen next. So they began to run again, my aunt said. Survival was the only thing on their minds.
During my summer visit I remember, seeing the sweeping skyscrapers that glorified the New York City skyline through my son’s innocent eyes. They were a welcome attraction for all that approached them. Their looming presence was inescapable; when you saw them you knew you were either home or not far from it. When you saw them you saw New York.
“Those buildings are following us Boobie,” I teased my son affectionately. “We are going to have to tear them down and put them in our pockets.” After awhile, my five year old began to believe me.
“Mommy,” he said “they must be following us…we are gonna have to put them in our pocket!” Oh how I wish it were that easy. How I wish I could have really taken them into my pocket where their safety would have been guaranteed and the lives of thousands would have been spared. Truly, it was the harmless banter of mother and son. But from our child’s play he learned that certain things in life are considered sacred and command a certain level of respect and recognition. From our fun and games, he understood the magnitude of the collapse of the Twin Towers when it happened. As he watched their demise on the news broadcasts, he asked why the terrorists didn’t like the Twin Towers. I had to ask God why they didn’t value life. The fact that scores of people lie dead, injured or buried alive is unfathomable to me. Today, the image of the Twin Tower’s tumbling down remains constant and I can no longer remember them standing. It is hard to imagine that such wickedness can lie hidden in the hearts of man and that God’s commandment to love thy neighbor as thyself can fall on deaf ears as people attempt to accomplish their own selfish end. I’m expecting to wake up from this nightmare and find out that the “Attack on America” really is a movie.
It is important to realize that these events are not isolated to those who are from New York, Washington or Pennsylvania. This horrific event was and remains an attack on humanity and everything decent and orderly that God has established. It is a wake up call to all whose lives are centered on their own needs and their own feelings. Those who concern themselves with the here and now and take no heed to the future. We must wake up and stand up for the lives that were lost and those than can be saved. I urge the student body to donate blood. Especially those with the unique blood types of O and RH. While donating blood is a commendable act at any given time, this dark period of American history really warrants small heroic acts such as these to make a huge difference. Once we realize that in a twinkling moment everything familiar can be erased, it is our duty to make a lasting impression in the form of charity.
Moreover, seek salvation, pray for our country and our government, the families of the victims and the lives that were lost and waiting to be found for we need Jesus now more than ever.