That Day in September

We weren’t here. Which was both a lucky and scary thing.

When we heard the news, we had just gotten on a bus in San Miguel de Allende, in the mountains of Central Mexico. We were excited to go to the market, see the colors, taste the food, people watch, and shop.

I think we were the only Americans on the bus. At the top of the hill, a young woman boarded. I’m sure I only noticed her because she was white. She noticed us, too. She walked towards us with purpose. She said, “are you American?”


“Where are you from?”

New York.

“Did you hear what happened?”

Dread. No, what.

“Two planes ran into the World Trade Center and one fell into the other and they both collapsed.”

I was crying immediately.

Melisa said, that can’t be right.

“It’s on the news,” the stranger told us.

Still crying, thinking of those revolving doors at the bottom of the towers, whoosh, whoosh, whoosh, around and around, filled with people. The vacuum-sealed sound of the elevator. The Musak in the mall. The people. All the people.

We got off the bus. We found an internet cafe. We logged onto The New York Times and watched, in disbelief, as the photo loaded. No, no, no.

We went back to the house and turned on the TV, the TV that hadn’t been on since we arrived. And like everyone else, watched the towers fall over and over.

We made sure everyone was alright. They were, thank God. We had tequila in little outdoor restaurants, where the pity and sorrow dripped off the owners faces and spread around us like a pool.

We had nightmares.

We came home on one of the first flights out of Mexico. Walked through the empty airport, the flight signs reading “God Bless America.” Watched the smoke rising for weeks above lower Manhattan. Felt fear every time we heard the wail of a siren, so often in those following weeks and months, and every time our building was evacuated. Cried every time we saw another fireman, in dress uniform, on the subway, going to yet another funeral.

We’ll never forget. It was a national tragedy, but for New Yorkers, it is a scar that won’t ever heal. We’ll never forget the tremendous loss of that day; never be able to hear a siren again without feeling fear stiffen our backs, what now?; never be able to look at the skyline without noting the tremendous hole where so much is missing.

Sometimes I dream that I’m there again. That I’m walking through the mall and into a Tower. Checking in at the desk. Taking the elevator up. Feeling the Tower sway in the wind. Looking out at the City.

It still feels impossible that they– the Towers, the people– are not there.

Lonely skyline by Hyunlab on Flickr


1 Response to “That Day in September”

  1. 1 PAT PARKINSON September 11, 2010 at 1:14 pm

    I was in an insurance office in Texas watching the Towers collapse. I stood in silence, unable to process the scene before me into any spoken word, with tears streaming down my face. I heard a co-worker say, by way of explanation…”She just moved back here from New York City”. My heart was quiet literally breaking.

    My daughter, who lived in Brooklyn & worked in NYC was out of the country in one of the remote, possibly unsafe, places I always warned her against visiting because that’s a mother’s job……to obsessively worry about her child.

    The Towers filled with people are gone….our world has changed forever…my daughter still lives in Brooklyn…I don’t object so much to her travels anymore.

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