Those words are just about everywhere today here in the city. I don’t know how anyone who did live through that day could forget. I like to remember the simple acts of kindness that occurred.
Right after the planes hit the towers, the city came to a halt. My hairdresser remembers driving down Route 9 and being turned back at the toll booth in Yonkers.
“Manhattan is shut down for the day.” That’s what the police officer offered as the only bit of news.
My hairdresser said he drove back home confused and then sat in front of the TV for days.
I was standing in the middle of Manhattan Island and there was another feeling. Trapped is probably the best way to describe it. Mass transit stood still and by foot really was the only way to get around. Standing on the corner of 6th Avenue and 14th Street empty delivery trucks would drive slowly by. Someone in the back would yell out where they were going.
It was a call out to no one in particular. They just yelled into the crowd walking uptown away from what once was the towers. People still covered in debris and obviously in shock.
Now and then a person would yell back, “I’m going there too. Wait for me!” The truck would stop and they’d climb in the back. Faces in the dark peered out from within. The driver was getting them that much closer to home. It was a gift.
I had a neighbor that worked in the financial district. He worked with a woman who was 8 months pregnant. The only way to get her home to Brooklyn was to walk her there across the Brooklyn Bridge and then through the streets. We saw him as he finally stumbled home. His shoes, made of leather, weren’t meant for so many miles of concrete underfoot.
“It was the least I could do.”
That’s what I remember about 9/11. That and the haunting memorials that popped up in the days that followed. Photos of missing loved ones populated Union Square Park and the bus stations in the area. People roamed the area asking if we’d seen the person in the picture. They worked in the towers. They were loved.
“Have you seen him?” Hope still faintly alive in their eyes that night. In the days to come, their eyes would show desperation.
The militia blocked off the neighborhoods below 14th Street. That left those wandering heartsick in Union Square and Chelsea. St Vincent’s, near 13th Street, was one of the first responder hospitals. I remember walking by and seeing stretchers lined up outside and the staff just mulling about in a state of sadness. There were no bodies to tend to. Eventually the wall outside St. Vincents was covered with the posters of the missing. Smiling faces that vanished in a day.
Take a moment in memory of those people who thought it was going to be yet another ordinary day but never lived to see the night. To those too whose lives were never the same afterward.
Who could forget. I know I can’t.