My NYC Memories of September 11
Little did I know that when I moved to NYC in the Spring of 2000 that not only would my life change but the world as I knew it would change in a blink of an eye! I moved to New York after graduating from college, dreaming of being on the stage. I was lucky to have been able to move into a rent-controlled apartment in Queens, with my own bathroom and a rooftop all our own! The apartment was pasted down from people who had graduated from my school before me and it was the most sought after place to live, because where else can you pay $1300 for a 3 bed, 2 bath apartment with views of the Manhattan skyline out your bedroom window??
Our neighborhood wasn’t what is it now. It was dingy and kind of gritty, a lot of families lived on our street and it was very old-school New York! Everyone spoke in a New York accent and I just loved hearing our neighbors across the street yelling for their kids to come home! It was the age of Sex and the City and drinking cosmos, wearing Manolo’s and shopping at Pat Fields Lower East Side Store came with the zip code!
2001 was something out of a storybook!! While I was auditioning and performing, life was pretty amazing! Living in NYC really does something to your aurora that no other place can. Its energy is electric..24/7. Everything about it, right down to the tiniest light bulb in time square. It’s exactly what a 22-year-old girl from Amish Country Pennsylvania was looking for!! I fell in love with the very first time I stepped foot off the Amtrak Train when I was 6 or so traveling with my Grandmother to see her family. And I never looked back!! I absolutely LOVE New York (I even got married there)!
My friends started a Theatre company and I was lucky enough to be involved in it. We worked all summer on it, rehearsals, set design, marketing, and we were all so excited! Our show opened on September 10th, 2001. As all theatre people do, we had a huge opening night party and stayed up to read the reviews the next morning. I must have finally tumbled into bed at 6 AM. Around 9 am our phones started to ring. We all ignored them because we were so tired (and hungover), but people kept calling. We heard our neighbors downstairs yelling and crying. I finally picked up the phone and heard my mom telling me to stay inside and not go anywhere. Being a 23-year old I said, “that’s ridiculous Mom, it was just an accident, I’m sure it’s not a big deal, besides, I have a voice lesson I have to go to and NYC doesn’t shut down for anything.” At that moment, I got out of bed and looked outside and saw the second plane coming down the island and crash into the second tower.
The rest of the story, I’m sure you’ve heard too many times to count. It’s a story that shouldn’t be forgotten and I can recall every single minute of that day and the days following. We went on the roof to see Manhattan fill with black smoke. People everywhere were falling into the streets crying, traffic stopped, the subway stopped, it’s forever etched in my memory. I finally went back inside and watched everything unfold with our neighbors. No one wanted to be alone. We were all in shock.
By dinner time, we left our apartment to meet our friends who had been in the city that day. As we were walking down the street, we saw people covered in dust walking back to their apartments and people bringing them new clothes, food, or water. Store owners handing out food and water. People offering them rides homes. To give you an idea of how far these people walked that day, the Trade Centers were in lower Manhattan and they walked all the way up to the 59th Street Bridge, crossed it, walked to Woodside (which is probably 2-3 miles from the bridge), traumatized. Many still had a long journey home.
We went out to dinner that night and the restaurant was so quiet. People were crying, people were angry, and people were so kind. The restaurant didn’t ask anyone to pay for their meal that night. They just wanted everyone to be together.
A few days after September 11th, I was given the honor to volunteer to feed and help the first responders and recovery crews. We had to take a boat to get to that area of the city. We walked through Times Square and it was still and quiet. Not a light on anywhere. And not a person anywhere. It was the weirdest feeling in the world. Except, it wasn’t it. Because nothing could have prepared me for our boat ride to the Towers.
When we got down there, the Towers were still burning. The smell of it, I will never forget. There were people everywhere, but again, it was so quiet, so still. Once we were there, they assigned us to another boat to talk with and feed everyone who was helping. The boat was silent. Big, strong men not knowing what to do or say. And they all wanted to talk, to tell you the horrors that they witnessed and who they lost. Nineteen years later and I can still go back and remember every moment and smell. Every person I was with.
But, the purpose of why I wanted to share this with you is not to recount every detail, but what I really want to tell you right now it what human kind was like for months following the attacks in New York.
People were kind. People thought about others first. People took the time to ask questions, offer a hand, and be there for complete strangers. People cried for months on the train and strangers comforted them and cried with them. No one cared where you were from, what your bank account looked like, who you loved, what color your skin was, or anything else. People just cared. They helped out anyone who needed help, whether it was to pay for their subway pass, help a mom carry the stroller up/down the subway steps, striking up a conversation with a complete stranger, offering a seat to someone on the train, sharing a taxi, paying for food at the grocery store or just a friendly smile. September 11, 2001, happened before social media. It happened before everyone had iphones to record every detail with. It didn’t matter, because we were in this together. We would get through it together and we would overcome it together, not argue it over a screen. While I would give anything for this tragedy to never have happened, to bring back those we lost, I will never forget what we as humans are capable of when we come together as one.
For the past 19 years, those moments have stuck with me and while life can get bogged down in the little things and your kids don’t listen or people drive you crazy, I like to think back to that time I experienced a different world, if only for a few months. I wish we would remember these lessons in times like today.
I will never forget all of those brave heroes on the planes, in the towers and first responders. I will never stop remembering those bright souls whose lives were taken away from our world way too soon!!
Peace and Love!
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