It was a day very similar to this one. I remember it being cloudless and beautiful with just a little bit of coolness to remind you that summer was over. We had recently moved to Providence, and Jamie was having his orientation as a new clerk for the Supreme Court of Rhode Island. I, meanwhile, was on my way to Braintree to go to work.
I had gotten off to a slightly slow start that morning, so it was a little later than usual for me. As usual, I was listening to NPR on the radio. I remember NPR saying, almost off the cuff, “There are unconfirmed reports that a plane has hit the World Trade Center in New York.” I remember thinking that it was a bit bizarre. That someone must have been flying a little twin prop or something and lost control – or even gone a little crazy and done it deliberately. I remember not thinking much about it – figuring that I’d hear the details later, but sure that it was just a minor accident of some sort. Maybe they grazed the corner or something. The mention on NPR was brief and unconfirmed, so I essentially dismissed it. I must have been pretty close to work because that’s all I remember hearing on NPR.
I remember walking into the office, saying hi to my colleagues and turning on my computer. One of my friends asked me if I had heard anything about this plane that had flown into the World Trade Center. I replied that I had heard something on NPR but figured it was a twin prop. They hadn’t really heard anything either. I remember that as soon as my computer booted up, I immediately IM’d a friend to wish her a happy birthday. I wanted to make sure I didn’t forget. She worked in Boston, on Boylston Street near Copley Square. I remember her replying with a thanks, and then telling me that she had to run because they were evacuating the building. I still hadn’t made the connection to the report I had heard on NPR. It was at this point that I realized that something major was going on (a little slow, I know).
I began trying to get on all the news sites. New York Times. Boston Globe. Everything was down. It seemed like the entire Internet was crashing. Everyone in my office went to the little conference/break room. We had brought in a little TV there. It didn’t get great reception, but it was some window into the world. And we just stood there. Watching. The news reports still thought it was an accident. I don’t remember how long we watched. I think I went numb. I suspect we all did. People from the office across the hall – people with whom no one in our office had ever spoken much – came in to watch with us. I don’t know how they knew we had a TV.
I remember watching both of the Towers fall.
In the days and weeks afterward, we all heard about friends or colleagues that were affected or killed. I remember talking to friends in New York who worked nearby and how they came home covered in dust. There were stories about strangers stuck in cities due to conferences that rented cars and vans together to drive home. There were stories of infinite kindness and many, many stories of sorrow.
I can’t capture the tragedy of that day, and I’m not going to try. I also can’t capture the feeling of unity and patriotism that swept the nation – even the world – in the days following. But for a girl who tends to forget bad things and has a horrible memory for past events – I remember a lot about that day nine years ago.
We cannot forget. But neither can we allow our memories to hold us hostage. Nine years later, that’s what I worry most about.