It's certainly surreal to think that it's been twenty years since the horrific events of September 11th, 2001. 20 years ago is a long time (I was sixteen), and is a round-reflection number for what was, has become, and still is in regards to the hurt, scars, emotional damage, and overall life-changing effects that day brought us.
I decided to read some of my thoughts from a post I wrote ten years ago for the tenth anniversary of 9/11. There, I shared my personal experience and story from that very day, as well as some other thoughts on questions that remained unanswered at the time - and in many ways, still so to this day. Today, I punch the keys on a few more thoughts on 9/11, now twenty years removed from a day in which I burst through the exit doors of Canarsie H.S. in Brooklyn, NY, and ran home terrified.- My immediate thoughts are still of course with those who lost loved ones on that day. But on this 9/11, I find myself drawn emotionally to those who have lost loved ones - the eternally brave loved ones - who have perished from the effects of the day since. A little-known fact is that more individuals have passed away from the effects of the 9/11 (debris, smoke, inhalation of all sorts of bad stuff) than from the day itself. 9/11 trauma remains ongoing, and for some families, the heartbreak of decline is one they've had to endure.
Twenty years is a lot of life. Those who were twenty would be forty. Those who were forty, sixty. And those sixty, in the golden ages of their lives. There are so many moments and possibilities in between those twenties years - kids, graduations, marriages, accomplishments, etc... - that was lost. I think about just my life, and all that has occurred since 9/11 - there are too many families who have missed out on those moments. It's so incredibly crushing.
- A small sub-thought from the above - have we really done enough for those heroes?
Essential workers from COVID would like a word on that as well.
- Also, speaking of heroes - don't ever forget those heroes onboard United Airlines Flight 93.
- I STILL think about the abuse and discrimination my friends of Muslim faith or middle-eastern identity faced in that aftermath. Lost in the beauty that is and was a united country full of pride - more so than I've ever experienced in my life (and still to this day), was the ugly of attacking these people - our people. I'll never forget friends I personally knew who were harassed, had their windows smashed in, endured random assaults in public, etc...it still breaks my heart.
- It's still surreal to think about this time - with no cell phones. My mom walked home from the Upper West Side of Manhattan - across the Brooklyn Bridge - and caught a ride with a group of strangers all headed to our neighborhood.
I'll never forget playing football in the street that night in order to take our mind off of reality - and the scene of armored vehicles, and men with large guns, sweeping down our block towards us.
It's the little things like clouds of ash settling on your very step - thick heaps of it - for days and weeks afterward that you knew came directly from the World Trade Center.
And of course, there was that surreal feeling when you no longer saw the Towers in the areas throughout the city where you always marveled at them. Gone. A constant reminder that it was real.
Those little things still cause my mind to ponder when reflecting on 9/11.
- It's amazing to sit here and type this post twenty years removed and examine the outlook of our nation. It's quite jarring to see how the displays of "patriotism" and the narratives around what dictates and qualifies as pride in country have evolved. Truthfully, we've bastardized the organic beauty, complexity, and the naturalness of "for country", for the sake of political narrative and lack of individuality (historical) perspective.
- I also can't help but think about a war that just ended in Afghanistan and its ties to 9/11. Countless bodies were sacrificed in the aftermath of seeking revenge, and in many ways, many of us are left unsure of the positioning or the reasoning for the war. There are also the billions of dollars spent and the innocent native-Aghani lives lost in bombings and attacks in this region. In many ways, it makes you wonder, what was the point? And also, could we reasonably deem it all as justice?
- How about Mayor Rudy Guliani? And how history will sort itself out on his legacy. Once regarded as "America's Mayor" following 9/11, he eventually became the sad dude selling every part of his soul, dignity, and political equity in the final days of the Trump Presidency, standing in front of a botched press conference at the Four Seasons Landscaping company. Yes, not the hotel.
- The clip of George Bush throwing out the first pitch at the World Series in New York still gives me chills. In fact, all of those games at the old stadium does.
So does Mike Piazza's home run.
- Finally, I tip my cap to the New Yorker. The true New York City resident who endured the trauma that was 9/11. Carries it. The kind of "never forget" that is more than just a fancy, sentimental, feel-good slogan, but more so the kind that is not an option. It's burned into your mind, your experience, and who you are. That day - all of it - triggers in a unique way.
But also, the same New Yorker who also endured and experienced COVID. Not experienced anywhere else like it was here. Again, there is trauma, this time not so understood or evokes much empathy shared by the masses. There is hurt. There are the stories, memories, and scenes you'll never shake from 2020. But again, you continue on.
Even in carrying that baggage, there are times I look at images, video, and read other experiences from 9/11, and I still can't believe it. The same goes for NYC in 2020 during COVID.
New York City - we've been through some shit. I love you all. I love my City.
Stay strong. Tomorrow is never guaranteed. God Bless you all on this emotional day.
Photo Credit: Dan Loh/Associated Press