Saturday, November 8, 2014


I've been having a lot of trouble with this weeks assignment and I'm going to assume that I'll have a bit of a different perspective than most of the class on the events of 9/11.  I was in the 3rd grade (like Kayla wrote about) but I was also living in New Jersey with both parents working in New York City.  We were told at school that anyone who had parents working in the city who picked them up was to come to the office after school, that was all we heard.  I remember I was supposed to go over to my friend Miru's house afterward school so I didn't think about it.  Walking out with Miru we saw both of our mothers waiting for us at the entrance; I ran to mine, excited she was there (I usually went straight to an after-school program so my parents never picked me up at school).  My mom told us what happened, point plank, she couldn't hold it in, "The Twin Towers are gone, you can see the smoke from our house - you guys are going to be okay.  Dad is walking home from work."
None of it made sense, why would someone do that?  Why the Twin Towers?  Why was dad walking?  It would take forever and he'd have to walk across the George Washington Bridge?  I couldn't grasp it - but over the next few days, weeks, and months, I sure started to.  You see, my mom worked across the street from the World Trade Center, only a short couple of weeks before, she'd stopped working Tuesdays and Thursdays.  Miraculously enough, despite her building's proximity, the most damage done was having the windows blown in.  Her office, which she and her friend were always complaining had no windows, was shook up badly, but otherwise unharmed.
We did see the smoke from our house, we could see and smell it for days  My dad walked about 15 miles up the length of Manhattan, randomly running into my godfather along the way and walking together, crossed the George Washington Bridge and walked the rest of the way (a couple miles) home.  No phones, no trains, no buses.  It was a long time before either of my parents went back to work.  Two years later my mom was diagnosed with cancer, we always wondered if her going back to work when she did had anything to do with it - our beautiful city had turned toxic.

I have a really hard time talking to people (especially those who weren't here) about my feelings about the whole situation.  I'm extremely liberal from a family of the same values, but when Osama Bin Laden was killed, I didn't know what to feel, but I knew no one could tell me how to feel about it.  My neighborhood in NY now, (about 15 miles uptown from the WTC) is filled with blocks named after dead cops and firefighters who didn't even die in their precinct, they died in 9/11.  This is why I can't talk about this, I still don't get it.  I still don't know what to feel every anniversary.  On the 10th anniversary I went down to the firehouses that are closest to the World Trade, I stood with many people who had the same idea, reading the names of brave men and women I didn't know.  I wept watching an old former fireman salute a flag.
Tragedies like this belong to the people who lived through them - people who saw, and lost, much more than I did.  Kids from my school lost parents and family, and a giant monument is up in my hometown, one that's on the other side of the Hudson River from where it all happened.  I can't really feel much for pieces on this because it's one person's heartache, and I still don't understand mine.

Many people try, I think with the best of intentions, to inform others of what they are, or should be, feeling - and this just doesn't work.  Why do we do that?  What makes us think that we have the authority and can formulate these thoughts better than others?  Are we merely helping ourselves work through our own pain?

1 comment:

  1. Eleanor,
    These are great questions. I was living in NY (on Long Island) when 9/11 happened, and I remember the confusion and fear that day and the days after. I like how you say, "Tragedies like this belong to the people who lived through them." I would argue though that we all lived through this tragedy, and so it belongs to us collectively as Americans, though I certainly understand what you are saying as well. I think writers were similarly troubled and confused after this event as well and asking many of these same questions. What did you think of the readings in this unit? Did they do an adequate job of describing this event without prescribing for others what it means?