Fifteen Years Ago

twintowers

Time waits for no one…

Life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans.

We’ve all heard these words before, but this year, the weekend of 9/11 strikes close to home, and it is not without deep reflection.

My wife is a Bruce Springsteen fan, and seeing him in concert was a bucket list event for her. Back in June, I discovered The Boss was going to be playing Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh. I was able to secure decent tickets and get the time off from work, but it wasn’t until I started searching for hotel reservations that it hit me…the concert is on 9/11.

While I don’t feel as if some eerie karma is attached, taking a road trip on the 9/11 weekend does bring on a flood of memories. As I’ve mentioned in other posts, in 2001 my bride-to-be was still living on Staten Island, her native New York City home.

I came to visit her about once a month as my work schedule allowed, and Monday, September 10th was a beautiful late summer day. We had lunch at the Cargo Café, overlooking the harbor as the Twin Towers rose majestically above the skyline and we wistfully soaked in the moment before I departed for Virginia once again. I returned to work the next morning at 8am and was stunned, along with the rest of the world, at the events unfolding with each passing minute. I frantically tried to call her but phone lines were jammed. Cell service wasn’t what it is today so that was no help but I finally got through late that afternoon and the harrowing sound of her crying was even more desperate than I already felt.

The months that followed were like tending an open wound and I’ll never forget when ferry service was restored to Lower Manhattan. I ventured over with her and her daughter and we stepped off the boat into a surreal version of New York none of us had ever seen before. Thick gray dust clung to everything, streets were devoid of cars, taxicabs, or buses, all replaced with utility trucks and various city service vehicles. Remnants of office equipment, paper, and fragments of furniture lay in the oddest of places while posters of missing people occupied almost any flat surface.

Once we were close enough to see Ground Zero, the impact was overwhelming. I have never been to war, never trodden the streets of a city or town bombed beyond recognition, but I could only imagine it must have looked similar in appearance. To have stood in the shadow of these phenomenal feats of engineering and construction, to have strolled the courtyard, stepped inside to view the top of the world, and browsed through the multi-level complex that lived below the street, only to see it reduced to smoldering rubble was devastating.

Yet to me, the most impactful sight of that day was the people. Those who stood near us, wept beside us, and cried out in pain, but they did so with no regard to their differences. People in suits or street clothes, different races and gender, and I can only assume various religious faiths, all stood side by side, leaning on each other, holding each other, and offering comfort. In the months that followed, the outpouring of humanity in the city was an inspiring sight, and it was living, breathing proof that deep down, we are all human. We all bleed the same color, we all know loss and pain, and we all are capable of holding each other up in times of need.

The rebuilding process in Manhattan still marches on, and they continue to prove they can overcome virtually any obstacle. We still make the trip back as often as we can, and with each visit we see and touch the diligent work that many hands have labored to create. All shiny and new, but still with thoughtful, caring reminders of the sacrifices paid in dearest flesh and bone.

In the passing years, September 10th has been good to us, with new things to show us and prove that life still brings joy despite our downfalls. My precious granddaughter was born on 9/10/11, so my wife and I will always have reason to find happiness on the day before 9/11. This year, our Springsteen road trip affords us the chance to visit the Flight 93 Memorial on our way home and I know we will stand together, looking out over that grassy field and remembering how far we’ve come.

In the years ahead, I’m sure the day will arrive when someone will ask me about living through those dark days. While I can certainly share my personal experience, I’ll be just as happy to relate how many rose to the challenge in the aftermath. How so many gave so much when it was needed most, but more than that is the truth that time alone doesn’t heal all wounds. No, time is required but it’s how much we love and care that soothes the pain. It’s how much we do with the time granted to us that makes all the difference.

Time marches on, but don’t stand by and watch. Get on board and enjoy the ride. You’ll make wonderful memories that way.

  • T. August Green
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