I remember it like it was yesterday. The confusion. The fear. The disbelief. The deep sadness.
Fourteen years later, those emotions still sneak to the surface while reading and watching the tributes that are pouring in. Sure, we try to go about our business like any other work day but the reality is – this is a very dark day in U.S., and especially New York’s, history.
Over the summer, I came across a couple from Pennsylvania who had never been to New York City but wanted to talk all about 9/11. “It’s a heavy topic for us New Yorkers,” I explained. “It was a terrible day for everyone.” That said, I think they caught my drift.
This past year, I worked on-site with a communications client of mine downtown. Given the office’s proximity to the 9/11 memorial, I often encountered tourists asking directions to get to it. While it’s important to remember the people we lost, tourists’ fascination with 9/11 and Ground Zero has always irked me. It’s as if the site simply got lumped together with all the other tourist attractions in NYC. Maybe it’s still too raw.
One thing I’ll never forget about that dark day is the deep ability to feel. Most of us (especially New Yorkers) get so caught up in the daily grind that we sometimes forget to absorb our feelings. 9/11 and the months that followed was truly an emotional time. Families on Good Day, New York holding up photos of lost loved ones; walking down the street and smelling burnt steel, depending on which way the wind blew. All of us were affected whether awake or asleep: recovery workers I knew had nightmares when they came home after working a shift on the bucket brigade.
On a positive note, I’ll always remember how New Yorkers banded together after the tragedy. We made eye contact on the street, we spoke to each other on the subway, we wore flag pins and yellow ribbons to remember the victims. Friends and family took on more meaning as we discovered how quickly you can lose the ones you love.
As we pause to reflect on this moving day, let us vow not to take things for granted. Be kind to one another, go the extra mile for someone if you can. Cherish the connections you have and make new ones. Appreciate the little things because as we all saw on that terrible day – life is just too short.
(Photos by Ben Sturner)