This September 11: I Will Never Forget post originally appeared on Drugstore Divas in 2012.
I repost this every year because every year it deserves to be remembered to make sure we really never forget.
I’m from New York, born and raised. I lived in Queens until it was time for me to go to school, and then we moved up 30 miles north of New York City to the suburbs.
We moved out of the city, but my dad still drove the subway in there. He had since before I was born, did until he retired in 2015, and did on September 11, 2001.
I was in class in college when the first tower was hit. We didn’t hear about it in class. I was in college, in a building that was once an elementary school, but there wasn’t a PA system.
Honestly, no one really thought anything of it.
I had a meeting after class with the student activities director. I was in her office and she had her radio on.
“A plane just hit the twin towers,” she said. Very calmly. She didn’t think much of it.
“Was it terrorists?” I asked.
That’s the first time in my entire life I remember saying that word. It was such a foreign word, and why it came out then was just a reaction. I didn’t think much of it.
She turned the radio off, ignored her ringing cell phone, and we carried on our meeting about some school related activity I wanted to have: a fondue tower or a fundraiser.
Significant things then.
Insignificant things moments later.
My then-boyfriend ran into her office. “There you are!” he exclaimed.
“I’m in a meeting,” I said, slightly embarrassed.
“School’s closed. We have to go home. Planes hit the twin towers. You have to leave now.”
I didn’t know what was going on. His sentences didn’t make sense.
Then, all of a sudden, those phone calls and radio broadcasts we didn’t think much of became a reality. School was close to the city and we were asked to leave.
“Will you come home with me?” I asked my then-boyfriend.
It wasn’t even 11 am. My house was going to be empty. My parents were at work and my younger brothers were in school. I didn’t want to be alone.
“I can walk you to your car, but I have to see if my family is okay,” he said.
When I got in my car, I froze. I wanted to drive down to the city to see what was going on. It was so close. Not even a 30 minute drive to get to the George Washington Bridge to cross into Manhattan.
But what if I got stuck there and couldn’t cross the bridge to get back?
No, I couldn’t do that.
I figured I would go home and go online and see if there was anything there. But then I realized I would be tying up the phone line (yes, we still had dial up back in 2001) and what if someone needed to call?
And then it dawned on me. This was huge. This would be on the news.
I went home, turned on the news, and the now iconic footage was there. They kept showing the destruction, the people, the road closures, the subway closures.
I prayed so hard, on my knees, literally, begging God for my dad to be okay. “Bring him home, please,” I prayed, “Even if he is missing a limb, please bring him home.”
I called my mom at work and told her I was picking up my brothers from school. She said no, to leave them there. But I couldn’t. I didn’t know what was going on, exactly, but I didn’t want to leave them at school. I went to the high school and picked up my brother. Then, I went to the middle school and picked up my other brother.
“Why are you picking me up?” my youngest brother asked me in front of the 7th grade English teacher.
I looked at the teacher, and then at my then 12-year-old brother. “Because it’s a sunny day,” I muttered.
The teacher nodded in approval.
My dad came home late that night, but he came home in one piece. That’s a lot more than I can say for so many men and women who were in the September 11th attacks and so many men and women who have been lost since, defending our country.
No one I know personally was lost in the tragedy. I know people who made narrow escapes, people who should have been in the towers at the time but by the grace of god weren’t, but that’s as close as it got for me. I know people who know people who were lost, who were in the rubble, who escaped. I heard stories that bear no repeating but have branded my heart and soul.
Today is September 11 and with a few moments of collective silence around the country, let us remember what happened, how it affected us, and those who lost their lives because of that day. Let us honor them by never forgetting. Because no matter your race, creed, sexuality, or any other difference that tears us down and breaks us apart, remember, on September 11, 2001, we all remembered that we are American. And American we still are today, all these years later.
I updated this again in 2020 to add: It’s 2020 now, eight years after I originally wrote this, nineteen years after the September 11th attacks.
This year, I saw something on Facebook that said (I’m paraphrasing): I miss September 12, 2001, the day when everyone was a little kinder to each other and a little more united.
I never thought about it that way, but I miss September 12. Especially this year. This year when we feel so divided. Divided on politics, divided on masks, divided on social media, divided in homes.
How I long for September 12, 2001.