September 11th, 2001, I was a freshman in high school at Providence High in the southern part of Charlotte. I remember waking up that morning, flipping the radio to News Talk 1110, and thinking, “Hm. Today is just not a good news day at all!” I try to never let that thought creep into my head. My superstitious fear is that when I think that, that something bad will happen in the world.
Let me back up. So I was born in Brooklyn, New York. My father worked for Lehman Brothers (which isn’t a thing anymore), and my mother worked as an admin. Except they used to call the admins secretaries which is kinda rude and not PC anymore I don’t think. Anyways, my parents worked in the city. Some of my earliest memories involved my dad taking us to his office. They must have looked at him like he was crazy, a young 20-something with three kids, at least two that would come to his office, enamored of Jacqueline, a pretty lady who was nice to us and let us color and gave us snacks while my dad did work things. Daddy took us to the office sometimes. We rode on the train. Once we moved to Long Island and he started commuting into the city for work, I remember driving him to the train station, our footie pajamas shoved into our sneakers. On weekends, my mom would go into work, and my dad took us to Taco Bell, to Chuck-e-Cheese’s, to play tennis, and apple picking.
I remember when Daddy went to interview for First Union in a place called North Carolina. We left all of our friends in the city behind, and started a new life in North Carolina, where people were friendly and had really funny accents.
We settled in, and since this was before a time of email, LinkedIn, and Facebook, when you moved, you moved, and hoped to see friends at weddings, or years later when you returned to New York to act like tourists (which we did in 1999).
So back to it, on September 11th, 2001, Mr. Greenleaf, my second-period biology teacher said something to the effect that we should turn on the TV because “something’s going on.” At this point, none of us knew how serious anything was. But he wheeled the television in, and among the clearest, bluest skies I’d ever seen, was the horrifying sight of thick black plumes of smoke cutting the peace in the skies.
I don’t remember the second plane hitting. I know I must have seen it, because we watched it happen real time, and papers gracefully fluttering to the ground, juxtaposed against the soupy smoke. But I remember the horror of realizing family and friends were near or around ground zero at the time. My grandmother, who died on September 11th two years ago, was shopping. A little old lady shopping, and no one could get a hold of her. My Uncle Gregory, a street vendor, wasn’t in touch. Friends of my fathers still worked in the towers. And because the phones were jammed and no one really knew what had happened or what was going on. Who was alive, and who hadn’t made it.
A few weeks later, my father dug out a tape, Stevie Wonder’s album, Characters, and told us that his friend Jim, who’d given him the tape, had died in the towers, leaving behind his pregnant wife. My uncle, a firefighter, lost not one or two, but many brothers that day. And that was the day that many of us realized that the world was not such a friendly place.
I wish I had a message here, that I could dispense to you some nugget of wisdom. But what happened was horrible. Disgusting. Hateful. And I think that sometimes it’s okay to not have the words, the answers. Because I think when something like this happens, maybe there isn’t an answer, right?