Eleven years later, 9-11 is still very, very raw to me.
Last year on the tenth anniversary, my whole family visited the Statue of Liberty and we went up in the crown. The security was tight. There were helicopters flying overhead. And when we got back on the ferry to leave, I looked back at the Statue of Liberty and felt as patriotic as I ever have and I thought, “She’s still here and you’re not.”
We took a family picture and we smiled because it felt good to be alive and to be together, and to feel like our way of life had not been destroyed. But we smiled with heavy hearts, because, of course, we thought about everyone who wasn’t there, everyone we all should remember on this day every year.
We came back from the Statue and walked through the very beautiful memorial in Jersey City, in Liberty State Park. I walked through it silently, looking at the names etched on the side: husbands, wives, daughters, sons, lovers, friends who never came home. And I wept to myself.
It’s still so real.
Part of me wants 9-11 to be a National holiday but I can’t bear the thought of it becoming like Memorial or Labor Day; another excuse for sales and a cooler full of beer.
I know this was a national tragedy, but I just don’t think people outside of the NYC area felt it or understood it in quite the same way as those of us who were here in the metro area. We saw the cars sitting unclaimed in the train stations. The missing posters lovingly hand written and pasted all over the city, the candles burning in front of every fire station.
At noon on 9-11, I was at the South Mountain YMCA picking up Jacob, who was 3, and helping the director go through the files looking for kids who had two parents working in Manhattan, flagging two kids whose parents both worked in the Towers. It took hours until everything sorted itself out. One little baby girl lost her mother. A father around the corner never came home.
The next day I went up to the South Mountain Reservation, walked over to the edge of the wall on the bluff overlooking downtown New York and where the towers used to be was a big grey cloud swirling around and filling the air – even here, 25 miles away – with an acrid smell.
I want to make sure my kids understand, really understand, how real this was. How real it still is to me. So I will take them up there in a few minutes to lay some flowers at the memorial. It sprouted immediately, spontaneously, and is now official, honoring our friends and neighbors who got up and went to work and never came home.
“Never forget” means a lot of things to a lot of people. I’m thinking of them.