Today is September 11th. 8 years ago today our world was rocked, literally and figuratively. I remember details about that day that I don't remember about any other day in my life.
I woke up with plenty of time to get ready for work, not my usual manic rush. I put the news on and the big news of the day was that Michael Jordan was going to play basketball again. I thought, wow, we must be doing pretty good that Michael Jordan is the biggest news story. It was an amazing day that hinted of autumn. Crisp blue skies, a few fair weather clouds, warm without being hot. I drove to work, which was a new job for me. I had just started teaching in Newark, NJ at the North Ward Child Development Center. I taught preschool in a 3-year-old class. School had really just started a few days earlier so it was still kind of chaotic.
I was getting the children ready to go out to the playground when a mom came running in frantically, tears streaming down her face. "I need my baby, something terrible has happened." She told us in spanish. As we tried to calm her down and find out what the terrible thing was disbelief was hitting us. What do you mean the twin towers were hit? Her aunt was a maintenance worker in one of the buildings and called to relay the information. I took her down to the main office for her to get permission to take her daughter out early and also to spread the word. I was the first person to hear the news in the childcare center.
The administration called downstairs about the same time telling everyone that Newark was on high alert because of the buildings there. We were not all that far from downtown Newark and they wanted the children inside. I went back to my classroom in my little building and turned on the radio. At that point I heard that the 1st tower collapsed. I immediately called my (then) boyfriend, Keith, who was a police officer. He had just had 2 days off and was due into work that night, so he was sleeping. He did not answer his phone so I called his father and told him the news. His father did not really believe it but turned the news on while we were talking and then went to go wake up his son. Keith called me a few minutes later letting me know that he was called in because no one knew what was going on. I also called my mom and told her to turn the news on.
Eventually I was able to go home that day. As I was driving home I realized that I could drive down one street in my town (Belleville) and see the Twin Towers. I drove down the street and almost stopped short, along with other people doing the same thing. All that could be seen was smoke and clouds of ash.
That night I made a large baked ziti and cookies to take to my boyfriend's station. They had been working for many hours and would continue to be doing so. The Garden State Parkway was empty. Tolls did not have to be paid and the only police officers on the road were going speeding in the direction of NYC.
My one roommate had just moved out and 2 were moving in. Shanna was already there but Colleen, one of my closest friends in the world, was not moving in for another month. She worked in NYC and I could not get in touch with her until the next day. I was missing my old roommate and her daughter that day.
For the next several days all I could do was watch TV and cry. I was drawn to the TV yet I wanted to turn it off. I remember feeling that I owed it to those who lost their lives to watch the horror unfold. I finally forced myself to turn it off one day and then I did not watch any TV for several weeks.
I remember there were parades of cars that would drive up the main drag with flags flying and neighbors were encouraged to put out lit candles and turn off their lights. The songs that were played over the radio during that time are linked to those events, in my mind.
My boyfriend went into NYC to help with the recovery. That changed him forever. He felt that he could never bring children into a world like this, especially as he was a cop. Several months later he broke up with me. I believe we may have been on the path anyway, but the events of 9/11 were a turning point for him.
Over the next several years I would grow and change as a person. I would experience different heartaches and joys. Every year I think that it might not hurt as much this year. Every year I am wrong. I have been crying on and off all day today. That day will always bring up very painful memories. But I have realized that I really don't want the hurting to stop or to lessen. It is a day for reflection and rememberance; but also for being thankful for what we do have.
I am grateful for my husband Vinnie, my daughter Lilly, and all the members of my family. I am grateful for my health, in light of 1st responders who are suffering now. I am grateful that I did not become cynical and think that this is no time to bring a baby into this world. My life is better because of Lilly. The world is better because of Lilly. The world is better because of every child who is born.