I had waited to see it for a little more than two years. I was sad I had not seen it prior to the tragedy and could not picture it in my mind other than what I had seen in magazines and on television. Today was my day though; I was going to be where my heart was on September 11, 2001 and be able to connect my emotions to the place. This truly was the only reason I wanted to go to New York City.
I do not know how to describe the plethora of emotions I held inside from the moment I was awaken and told a plane had just hit the World Trade Center. I remember that day like it was yesterday; the second plane hitting, the first tower coming down followed by the second tower, I remember it all. My memories of this day are all in slow motion, in a fog filled with sadness and disbelief. From that day I have been what I say with some embarrassment, obsessed with that tragedy. Every documentary, every movie every single piece of media related with 09/11 I must see and read. I have taken 09/11 off of work several times to watch the memorial on TV and, in my own private way, mourn that day and the tragic loss of life.
This day in NYC was a beautiful day; the sun was shining and the temperature perfect for a walk around the city. We struck out on our adventure. The first place we visited was Rockefeller Center. I was amazed at how beautiful it was. I imagined the Christmas tree being lit and people with the scarves and ear muffs on skating on the ice, it was fantastic. We continued on to 5th Avenue. Shopping in NYC cannot be compared to that in SLC and 5th avenue demonstrated this fact perfectly. The Disney Store in NYC was three or five floors, I cannot remember the exact number, but do remember it was HUGE.
The day continued to be perfect for walking around and seeing the city. To get to the WTC site, we needed to take the subway. Okay, may I say, that scared the bejebbies right out of me? Fortunately a dear friend was with me and together we made it fun. When we arrived at Grand Central Station, I was unable to speak. It blew my mind. It was one of the most beautiful places I had ever been. It was larger than life, beautiful, clean and bustling with commuters from all over the place. I stood like a tiny ant in the center of a Barbie Dream House, in awe of all that surrounded me. Gary, the friend traveling with me, and I saw what would be a picture to show up on a funny website or on the Late Show. See below for yourself.
After we left Grand Central we ventured to the Wall Street and the New York Stock Exchange. It was around this time, the sky started turning gray and the temperature began to drop. The NYSE was not at all what I had expected; it was actually much much more. The buildings were old and ornate displaying incredible detail in the architecture. Surrounding the buildings were orange cones and signs saying only employees were allowed to enter the buildings. At periodic points were fully armed police officers with serious faces and steely eyes. They watched every person, surveying them for potential threats. It was an historic place with intimidating undertones. Clearly, 09/11 still had a strong grasp on this city.
We continued on our adventure heading towards Ground Zero, stopping at a little shop on Wall Street to purchase an umbrella. We made our way along the route to the WTC when the rain really started to come down and the wind blew crazy hard. We walked down the street fighting being blown away when my umbrella turned inside out. Not surprising at all, I burst out laughing. This New York priced umbrella I purchased just 15 minutes before was now inside out and would be better used to catch rain water than protect me from it. I might as well have taken my money out of my pocket and thrown it in the garbage can, because that is how useful this purchase turned out to be.
Fighting the wind and the rain, we forged on to our final destination, when it appeared before me; I could see it. It was an incredible sight. There was a huge red fire truck with the American Flag painted across it with its lights flashing in front; an alarm sounding in the background with firefighters in full gear including oxygen, coming up from an underground subway/train station.
Wow. How did they know I was going to be here today? Do they do this every day? I was just so surprised they were putting on a show. It was like a very small scale re-enactment of what happened on that day in history and I felt so special to see it.
STOP! STOP! Are you serious Stephanie? Can you really be this stupid? Why in God’s name would they put on a show, a re-enactment of something so tragic? I am surprised that you are able to live on your own, pay your bills and take care of other adult things and still think such stupid, stupid things.
It took a few minutes for me to realize this was not a show. It was a true emergency. When we approached the fire truck, we learned there was a fire in the PATH station. One of the firefighters was kind enough to take a picture with me. Fortunately he did not know what I was thinking just a few minutes before or he may have taken the fire hose to me and pounded me into the ground.
The rain still poured and now thunder and lightning had joined in as we walked on what I consider sacred ground. There was not much rubble left from the tragedy and cement covered where the two buildings once stood. Several buildings had scaffolding and clear signs of still being repaired while one building had a sign saying, ‘we will never forget’ on it. The fencing surrounding the area was strong, very strong and had small openings. It did not have openings like chain link; they were much smaller and more difficult to see through. On the posts which held the fencing were messages written to those who had died. In the fencing were roses with the stems weaved through the openings. They were dried indicating they had been there for quite some time. While the rain fell, the lightning flashed and the thunder struck, there were no other sounds. None! It was silent.
All of my senses were on high alert. My entire being; heart, soul, feelings, emotions and mind were all right there. I was reliving what I felt when I watched it on television. I was feeling intense sorrow and pain for those who did not get out of the building, compassion for those who chose to stay behind and help others get out first and finally hopelessness and terror for those who felt they had no other choice but to jump. I sat on the ground in front of the fence and cried. I don’t know that cried is even the best choice of words, I wept. I wept and wept and felt so much weight on me. As I write this, almost 11 years later, I cry again. It was a place I needed to visit, but did not realize how much it would hurt when I got there.
As I sat there crying, my friend Gary bent down to get the picture you see above. The lens of the camera had to fit right into one of the small openings to provide a non-distorted picture. He snapped the picture right before a crack of thunder hit. It was such a strong crack the ground shook. Gary, shocked and shaken by the thunder rolled over backwards. He looked just like a potato bug that fell on its back and rolled back and forth. I turned in time to see the entire event and in true Stephanie fashion, burst out in laughter. Here I am crying and laughing while my friend is being a potato bug on the cement. The silence was broken. There were people seated on the ground behind us against an information booth who also started to laugh. I was so embarrassed I had broken such a reverent silence with wild-outrageous laughter.
It is still one of my favorite stories to tell. It shares my my occasional lack of intelligence, which we all have, but may not always admit to, my real emotion and feelings about the 09/11 tragedy, my ability to feel for others and their situations along with my untimely ability to laugh at the most inopportune moments.
I hope someday to get back to NYC and see Ground Zero again, see the reflecting pools, the museum and once again show my respect to all those who did not make it and allow myself the emotion I often times feel when I hear anything in reference to 09/11.