A Personal Memory: 9/11 Ten Years Ago and Today

Travel and Food Notes welcomes James Wacht of Sierra Realty who shares his feelings about yesterday's 10th anniversary tribute to the events of 9/11 and his memories of New York City right after September 11, 2001.

I spent yesterday morning in Central Park thinking about 9/11. This morning's weather reminded me very much of the weather of that day. Vibrant and clear with a crispness in the air signaling the end of summer and the beginning of fall, a perfect September day. Far off in the background I could hear the melancholy tones of bagpipers playing a tribute to those who died. Their somber tones were a sad complement to the feeling of loss I was experiencing.

Memories of ten years ago flooded back to me. Even though I was not close to anybody who died in the attacks, I continued to experience a profound sense of loss for weeks, if not months, after the attack. There were constant reminders. Foremost, was the profound change in the city skyline. No longer was downtown dominated by the icon of the Twin Towers. Where they once proudly stood, there was nothing but a gaping hole, the skyline, once a beautiful smile, now permanently marred by the loss of its two front teeth. Then there were the missing person posters with the question "Have you seen this person" written over a photograph of a person missing in the attacks. These posters appeared all over the city, on lampposts, mailboxes and temporary kiosks erected for that purpose. And the photographs on them, typically of a person smiling at the camera often with a child or pet in their arms, gave a very human face to the tragedy. The victims were not just numbers but were real people that stared out at us from these posters imploring us to find and return them to their families. The hope, but really the despair, expressed in these posters was palpable, and I couldn't help but think of the families who posted these signs and the all-consuming and always-present anguish they were experiencing of not knowing whether a person they loved had perished that day.

There were other images that I'll never forget as well. The men and women emerging ghoul-like from the midst of the fallen Towers, their clothes, hair and faces covered with a fine dusting of soot, not running, but walking heads down in crushing defeat. And then there was the smell --acrid and vulgar, the smell of loss and destruction. It lingered over the city for many months, an ever-present and inescapable reminder of the events of that day.

The city became very quiet the weeks following 9/11. Horns did not honk, once boisterous and loud voices were now replaced with muted and hushed whispers. Bus rides, typically a cacophony of conversations and cell phone calls, became eerily quiet. It was clear; we were a city in mourning. Mourning the people who worked in the Towers and died in the attack, mourning the brave policeman, fireman and other first responders who selflessly sacrificed their lives to help others, mourning all those who lost somebody they loved, and mourning our lost sense of safety and security. Our lives had been forever changed that day.

Our spirit had been tested that day by a horrible evil but through our courage and sheer will our city and country came together as a community and demonstrated all our resolve to emerge better, stronger and wiser.


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