Tomorrow is the eleventh anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. I have been living in a cocoon of denial for those eleven years, refusing to watch video footage of the planes, unable to even consider seeing one of the movies about that day, and avoiding conversations on the topic. I just recently discovered that I can finally approach the subject without breaking into sobs.The World Trade Center was my home away from home for the month of August, 2001.
|The Marriot was in WTC 3. A walk through the lobby of the North Tower and across the bridge got me to work each morning. source|
While I worked at the Financial Center across the street, I stayed at the Marriot WTC, a twenty-two story hotel that was completely dwarfed by the 110-floor towers on either side. There were coffee shops everywhere, and it was nice to get a big cappuccino and sit in the plaza and people-watch. There were so many good restaurants in the hotel and the WTC complex that I didn’t even have to leave the building on busy working nights. There was a huge shopping mall below the WTC, and a big clothing store across the street, so any last-minute necessities could be procured immediately (and late-night shopping urges could be satisfied).
|It was not uncommon to find a tourist sprawled in the middle of the plaza with a camera pointed upwards, trying to get as much of the towers as possible. source|
I had the subway figured out, at least enough so that if I got off at the wrong stop once in a while I didn’t worry, but either got back on the next train or just explored a new area. I walked miles and miles of city streets and was forever getting turned around. I found more neat little shops, tiny churches, and colorful neighborhoods than if I’d somehow found my destination the first time. I dined on caviar at a Russian restaurant, drank sangria at a Spanish restaurant, saw a Broadway show, and found kindred spirits in the Village. I shopped for linen suits (August in New York City!), and shoes to replace the ones I wore out. By the end of my time there I was pretty sure I could stay forever. I enjoyed that assignment in NYC more than any other during my nearly 20 years of on-the-job travel.
|A familiar sight: approaching the towers at street level. source|
Why did I have such a prolonged emotional response? It’s common enough that there are popular theories: survivor guilt, misdirected anger, generalized anxiety. I think it is simpler: just plain grief. It was a strange, terrible day, and it’s been a strange eleven years, but I seem to be waking up from the nightmare finally.
Patriot Day, as we call it now, does not make me feel patriotic, it makes me feel sad. But it also makes me nostalgic for a wonderful summer I had once in New York City. Tomorrow when I take a moment to remember the victims, the rescuers, and the survivors, I will also remember what was there before.