9/11 Remembered: Sept 11 Eight Years Later
Most of you remember what you were doing on September 11, 2001. New Yorkers remember the smell most of all. Sort of a burnt-paper-construction-site smell that hung over Ground Zero and the rest of the city for days. NYC no longer had the tallest US landmark, and my parents were sure I was dead, as I had only recently been working in Tower 2, and my phone was a paperweight do to no available signal. Enough about that for now, though: we've all been doing where-were-you-on-9/11 articles for the past eight years, and that's fine, but I want to do something different now. I'd rather talk about what you did afterwards.
This is particularly aimed at residents of New York City, but I also want to hear from those further afield, both in the US of A and abroad. What did you do on September 12th and 13th? I tried to volunteer at Ground Zero. As a lifelong rock climber, I'm handy with belay devices, and so I trudged through Brooklyn, over the bridge, and into lower Manhattan. I made sure to dress in dark blue and wear a Mad Max-style bandanna across my face, since there was still so much dust and debris in the air. I remember walking through the abandoned streets of the Financial District, with all those 12-dollar-sandwich places closed on a weekday. It was surreal. By the time I got to Ground Zero, the FDNY guys very politely told me that they didn't need any more belayers, since firefighters had come from all over the country to assist in the ongoing rescue efforts.
The whole area was actually teeming with people if you stopped and looked. Residents who snuck back in to try and access their stuff, National Guard troops checking for people and pets trapped in nearby buildings (my friend's anaconda was enthusiastically rescued by a soldier who was also a citizen herpetologist), family members looking for signs of loved ones at downtown hospitals.
The nights were even weirder than the days. When was it okay to switch on HBO instead of the news? When was it okay to go to a bar? When was it okay to laugh? I lived in Carroll Gardens at the time, and Smith Street was not yet as bustling as it is now, but was picking up. Several bars held fundraisers for the families of cops and firefighters who died when the towers fell, and my flatmate and I were only too happy to assist even in that limited capacity. Our capacity was very limited indeed by the end of the night.
I also remember candlelight vigils, and our local deli owner being extra-polite to people, and people being extra-polite to him, as if to demonstrate that this wasn't going to be a "race thing" in Brooklyn. In the week that followed, life very slowly returned to its previous rhythms, since New Yorkers don't get their tough-as-nails reputation for nothing. Still, the city was never quite the same after that, and it wasn't just the militarized cops, the American flags on the subway cars, or the "I Heart NY" shirts with the lower eft-hand corner blackened.
What did you do the day after September 11?
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