I still remember passing by a dark classroom in between periods, and looking in to find a teacher glued to a tv in the room. I thought it was odd she was watching the news, but I kept walking and had no idea what had just unfolded. I stepped outside of our building to head to the library when the counselors started to separate the students. All we knew at this point was a commercial plane hit one of the towers in NYC. I immediately told the guidance counselor I needed a phone because my mother was on a plane to LaGuardia that morning. We called and called. No signal, no service, due to the cellphone towers being out. I started to panic, but I don’t think I fully grasped the entire concept of what was going on. After all I was only 12. I was staying with my friends parents who immediately came to pick us up. I honestly couldn’t tell you if it was minutes or hours until I heard from my mom. All I knew was that she was on the other end of this nightmare.
Mom landed in the city minutes before the first plane hit. She remembers being in the airport leaning against a guardrail and feeling the building/ground shake. She always says how she didn’t think much of this because she assumed a plane that was pulling into the terminal must have just hit into the building. So she kept to her own and headed to pickup to meet my Uncle. It wasn’t until he arrived and frantically got her in the car and asked her if she knew what was going on! By this time it was clear, both towers had been hit. This was definitely not an accident. Everything after this moment my mom has only described to me once. She honestly has been incapable of talking about this day and what she witnessed ever again after that first time. The entire city was shut down, but they were able to get through and into the heart of devastation because my mother had her nursing license on her. They were letting ANY medical/first responders in because there was no other option but to take any help they could get. She was on her way to the hospital to find my 80 something year old great grandfather which was the purpose of her trip. At this point no hospitals were answering phones, people were being moved anywhere and everywhere to make room for the thousands of wounded. So she had to go hospital to hospital to find him. She ended up being forced to stay in Manhattan just feet from ground zero for days because no flights were allowed in or out. She worked tirelessly the entire time volunteering at the hospitals while she was stuck in the city. She kept videos, recordings, photos, and newspapers from everyday she was there that we still have (although hidden) at my mom’s house.
From the numerous amounts of people laying around the hospitals with not nearly enough help to be found, to the city raining ash for many days, to the sounds mom described as “bombs going of” which ultimately were bodies hitting the ground of those who chose to jump rather than burn, to the sounds of the buildings caving in, and continuing to crumble and shake the earth all hours of the day. It’s hard for me to even conceptualize the horror of those minutes, hours, days, and weeks to follow.
This is just the story of my mother and I. Two nobodies in the midst of this monumental day. Every time I think of our story, which by the grace of god ended okay… I think of the hundreds of thousands of those whose day didn’t end well. The men, women, children left behind to endure the pain of losing those they loved. The questions they must still have, the moments missed. The ones who survived but still suffer now from cancer and diseases due to the exposure of all the toxins in the air for weeks… months… to follow.
Mom returned home somehow days later as soon as some flights resumed. I still remember it was late at night and she and my great grandpa pulled up to my friends’ house. I ran out and we cried, cried, and cried. Holding, hugging, never wanting to let go again.
I’m so grateful to those who ran in to help with no questions asked, to those on the planes who called and warned anyone they could, to those who tried to take down the people behind this, and to those that still today work to prevent disasters like this from happening again.
Let today be a day to show love for all of humanity. We are all humans. Flesh, blood, mind, soul, spirit. Let us remember that. Put aside our differences and find the beauty in one another – always.