Every year on this day, I think of my friend who did not make it out of that second building. I think of all of the firefighters and policemen that my close friends lost. I think of those who died that I barely knew, but instead knew the ones who mourned for them.
I know it was a sunny day, that I was getting ready to walk with two of my kids to vote in a local election when my phone rang and my neighbor told me to turn on the news, and then she hung up. I could not turn away, could not turn it off so my 4 year old would not repeatedly watch the plane crash into the building, again and again. The media at its best.
I immediately began making phone calls, wracking my brain to think quickly which of my friends worked in the city. But the phone lines to anyone in New York were jammed up.
I remember going to vote and running in to people who hadn’t heard yet. People who had loved ones in New York, shocked that anything like this could happen.
Every year I am angry. For my loss, and everyone else’s. Because we will never truly know exactly what happened. But today I find myself thinking about the survivors.
This is a sculpture of a red balloon flower made by the artist, Jeff Koons. It sits in a round fountain outside the 7 World Trade Center building, and is an homage to the survivors of 9/11. I imagine people could see many things in this, maybe a heart, or fresh blood pumping through a healthy structure. Maybe the circular shape of the fountain for some represents the circle of life. The twisting balloons can possibly signify strength, flexibility, continuity and maybe even infinity.
So… what about the survivors? Those that rushed in from surrounding areas without hesitation because that’s what they do. What about their partners, families and friends left behind feeling helpless praying for their safety, and the safety of those in the buildings and the planes? I think of my friend, who was 35 when she died senselessly that day. What about her parents, and all the parents and children who had no control over how their lives would be forever altered by the horrific events of that day? Let us not forget those that escaped, that got out and I imagine ran for their lives, living with the reality that they survived and others did not. The questions they must ask themselves.Those that got out and live with injuries, mental and physical, reminders every day of what they endured.
And what about the images, the nightmares that will be permanently etched into the minds of first responders, of local everyday heroes, of anyone who found themselves in the middle of a tragedy with helping out as the only option? The noises, the sounds of steel collapsing, moaning foundations, cries for help, how does one forget these types of sounds?
Do they get past all of that? As time goes by, do those images get less vivid, or appear less often? Do the sounds go from screeches to whispers? And how do their families support them in their journey to move on in a normal life when they will never fully comprehend what people witnessed first hand that day?
I was in the city in November of 2011 with a friend, and at 6 am on a Sunday we went as close to the sight as you could get. No one was around and you could get limited views through fences of the rubble, the piles of destruction, the cavernous chasms left in the earth. The stench was unforgettable, and we stood in front of a sign that read, “anyone going past this point will be required to go through wash down procedure before exiting the site.” We were closer than I cared to be.
So here we are, 15 years later. We are strong, we have rebuilt, but we are not the same, left with voids impossible to fill. Those that died that day are gone, but not in spirit, and surely missed. But my question I ask you to reflect on today is, how do the survivors survive?