The night of September 11, 2001 I sat outside on my back patio looking into the heavens.
I had, moments earlier, turned off the television. I had been glued to watching every single image that was flashed across the screen. I saw the towers fall over and over again. A hundred times over and the shock never lessened. I saw a woman jump to her impending death to escape the fire within the buildings, her skirt covering her face while she fell. I saw people running, screaming through the streets not really knowing what was happening or where to go.
That night I agonized about how to tell my six year old son what had just happened. How do you explain that some people have such hatred in their hearts that they cannot see past the red? I must have checked on him sleeping a hundred times, thanking the universe that I was spared for another day. My son would have a mother to hug him everyday while so many other children were without one of their parents forever.
I cried when I heard that my family, who lived not far from the towers, made it through the day, alive. I imagined my Uncle running block after block to rescue his children, my cousins, hoping that his home was more safe than a school. I heard days later that they were all doing OK, trying to manage without any resources like water or electricity. I said a small prayer when I realized that my Aunt didn't work in the towers anymore.
Picturing the altered history books shocked me. In 50 years I may not be around anymore, but the legacy of 9/11 will live on in the history books. One chapter I wish we could rewrite or even erase entirely. Not because I don't want people to know about what happened, but I wish it never happened. Of course I wish it never happened, don't we all?
I couldn't help but wonder if the people who were selling all the American flags that I saw popping up in front yards, business' and cars that passed me, were donating money to victim's families or some other cause. Did those people feel guilty that in a time of such disaster that they were profiting? Even when I bought a small montage of photos in New York, years later, I wondered if the street vendor was so detached from the event that he sold his pilfered wares to tourists like me without a thought. Was I just as guilty because I purchased what he was selling?
These days I am ashamed to admit that I don't think of 9/11 much. On occasion it will pop up in my head and I often make a concentrated effort to push it back out. It's hard to remember, though I will never forget. None of us will ever forget. How on earth could we.
Every time I think of 9/11 I remember two things the most clearly. That woman who jumped from the tower. I am almost thankful that her skirt obscured her face because I don't think I am strong enough to see total horror and such bravery in one person's face.
The other thing I remember the most is the silence. As I sat on my porch that evening in 2001 I watched the sky and the lack of planes flying overhead that I was so used to. I waited and waited for a plane to fly by. To hear the familiar sound of the engines cutting through the night sky. I never heard a plane that night, and I never turned the television back on that night, either.