The funny thing is, 20 years later, that I remember the image I had concocted in my head as vividly if not more so than seeing the first tower implode. I dropped to my knees in the middle of the street staring down 5th having just come from the ATM with my senior designer and good friend Carlos Finsterbush (RIP). It was Carlos’s idea to get cash out in case we got stuck in the city.
This image I made up about an hour before, listening to cell phone chatter on the express bus on my way in to design the next ‘hot item’ for 9 West Jewelry. I was reading a fashion magazine. This was before our smart phone addiction, you either had the solid Nokia like I did or a flip phone. A couple of other passengers were getting calls about downtown, I overheard bits of confusing information but I don’t think I looked up from my magazine. Connections were already spotty. In my minds eye I thought a plane hitting the Twin Towers BY ACCIDENT would just have its nose stuck into the facade like a thumbtack on a cork board. The towers are metal and concrete, pillars of strength, permanent structures that tell me where due south is as I have no sense of direction even on this tiny island. Always visible. A destination for a memorable class trip when you could still go all the way to the top, a lavish office party at Windows on the World, the center of my last girls weekend just a few weeks before. Mel was in from grad school so she booked a hotel room in FiDi with her father's credit card for us to see Madonna, shop at Century 21 and the WTC's underground mall. I still have the peach colored dress with a fruit pattern I bought that weekend from Barami Studio. We both bought the same one. I can’t part with it.
Of course the actual images are so fucking jarring I will barely look at the news this weekend. I will just cry in the shower listening to 1010 Wins surviving family members say the names of their dearly beloved who died in the attack, the scar on my heart reopening. Tuesday's Children, grown now who have never met their parent. I will also feel guilty that I didn’t lose anyone close to me and that will be simultaneously mixed with joy and relief that my brother who worked in Building 7 at the time is alive and well. All the feelings will descend at once.
Never forget? 20 years later and to be honest I’m finding the tag line to be a little irritating this year, I mean I know it’s not meant for me. Forget- we couldn’t if we tried. We’d like to but we can’t. We can’t forget the day the world changed forever. The hour or so it took for life as we knew it to take a complete nose dive. In that short amount of time I had overheard a cell phone conversation and conjured what AN ACCIDENT would look like to the second plane hitting. In the Beforetimes- The real Beforetimes before 9/11 not pre-pandemic to be clear; terrorism was something you saw in an Irish mob movie or that happened on buses in Israel. NOT IN YOUR BACKYARD. Your playground, your downtown, your city. An UNFATHOMABLE scene corrupted the most beautiful September day. The perfect movie set backdrop for innocence lost. Absolutely stunning clear blue skies and fluffy clouds only amplified our beloved skyline in flames. Sunny 9/11's are the worst, like today. I prefer when it's overcast.
To finally get home that day and go straight to Google Osama Bin Laden. WHO? People hate us? For being us? For liberty and justice for all? For letting freedom ring? For baseball and apple pie? These people are where? Where on the map? It’s been a long time since high school social studies and I probably wasn’t paying that close attention. The saying ‘ignorance is bliss’ comes to mind. They’re in a desert. Caves? Very far away. How is this level of hate possible especially at this distance? Everything I didn’t know about the world came crashing down on me, and it was a lot. I had to see us in a different light and it was harsh. Our collective bubble had burst and a new reality was about to form. So maybe that’s why this stupid picture lives on in my brain so fucking clearly. It’s the very last thing I believed from our old life.