In Happier Times (July 2001)
It is near impossible not to remember where you were when those harrowing images appeared of the twin towers slowly disintegrating on every television screen. Today marks the thirteenth anniversary of the tragedy that had the whole world stunned.
I was a mere twenty years old when it occurred. I’d had the most incredible summer working in Wisconsin at a summer camp. I’d been looking after two little bundles of joy aged three and one. I had made many friends, basked in the sunshine, taught art, got my tattoo, ate far too much ice cream, climbed over the fence to return into camp grounds after curfew, been a tourist, had numerous crushes and was caught under-age drinking, (not one of my finest moments to say the least). It had been another summer of adventure (this was my third) and as usual, life was absolutely perfect (aside from the conveniently forgotten phone calls home in tears due to homesickness!).
The summer was divided into two sessions and the second session found me being wooed by a rather handsome New Yorker. He was there for two weeks and we quickly became enamoured with each other. After he left I was plied with flowers and cards through the mail as well as a promise to stay in New York once my working summer was over.
As I organized travel dates, flights and destinations, I was nearly ready to go. Three other friends were making their way to New York so we rented a car and drove there. With all our belongings crammed in, the four of us bundled inside and began our road trip. On arrival we would depart and go our separate ways.
The eventful trip included pulling over onto a street in the Bronx where our car was surrounded and shaken by a number of residents then further on in Queens we stopped at a gas station where our tire was deliberately punctured. Other than that we arrived safely, if not a little shaken! With butterflies of anticipation, I looked out to see if Adam was there to greet me. As I saw his face the void that had been filled with such longing vanished and was replaced by pure elation.
The time spent together was precious but as it continued I had a nagging need to move on to the next leg of my journey. This feeling became increasingly urgent and I wanted to leave New York to travel to Chicago as soon as possible. I rearranged my flight and flew on the tenth rather than the eleventh of September. With a heavy heart I said goodbye and traveled on.
Upon returning to England there were many friends to catch up with. The very day I landed I went to visit the store I had worked in prior to leaving for the summer. As I walked into the mall the window of an electronics store was lined with televisions in various shapes and sizes. Their screens boasted picture clarity to entice the passers-by. Today was different. I was frozen to the spot as I saw the harrowing images of people finding themselves in a death/death situation. It was utterly shocking to see people jumping from the burning buildings which eventually collapsed.
Tears flowed down my cheeks not only for the atrocity itself but for the surreal circumstances of having visited just a few days before. Emotions arose for the safety of both Adam and other friends who were there and for the miracle that had somehow removed me from the possibility of being involved in such a horrific incident.
I did eventually manage to contact Adam who was safe and well. His experience of it was upon entering the subway station the towers were there and when he alighted they had simply disappeared.
We all have our versions of where we were and this is mine. Like many others I had an uncanny escape. Changing plans eliminated a situation of which the consequences don’t bear thinking about. I forever count my blessings. My need to remember all those who lost their lives on a personal level is even more necessary because of my own mortality.
I didn’t realize how emotional it would be to write this and it’s has been my respectful account where I have paid homage to those that were not as fortunate. Nothing will erase the colossal amount of lives lost that day and I hope the families of those who passed have somehow attained a form of peace. This blog is dedicated to each and every one of those people who lost their lives and to the families who are reminded every day of that loss.
They may be gone but they will never ever be forgotten.