The people I know say they’ll never forget where they were when the first tower fell, then the second. Mom says she was in her room, I was on her bed, and she was changing me. I’d only been around for seven months and already wore a birthmark of the world; 2001 was a year of death. But it’s taken me twenty years to learn how deep the scars really run.
I remember when 9/11 landed on a Sunday a few years ago, and Mr. Bob came to church looking weary. He’d been a pilot for United, he said. He was supposed to be flying one of their planes that day. His daughter was a stewardess. She was supposed to be working a flight that day. I can’t remember why, but neither did what they were supposed to be doing and both are alive today, members in our congregation, marked by what could have (and did) happen.
We braved New York City back in June, and it got late, and we stepped off the ferry and decided to walk to Ground Zero before we left. It was a long way on sore feet. We passed Broadway and Wall Street. Things were quiet (for the city that never sleeps). We turned a corner and walked down a hill, past a park with white benches and two young people, alone and in love.
Ground Zero is the bed of the World Trade Center – a square hole in the earth. I’ve heard there are fountains and engraved names, but it was all roped off and dark just then. It was after eleven. We sat down on a bench and started configuring a way to get back to the hotel— Lyft, Uber, taxi, we tried them all. While we waited under the streetlights, I stared into the hole in the ground, then up to the hole in the sky. There were no stars; just a blank piece of the heavens.
When people talk about that day, I can only go by video clips I watched in school, of smoke and screaming people. I was seven months old. I can’t remember where I was.
But Mom can, and Mr. Bob can, and the people in my congregation and on my street can. And so while I can’t remember it, somehow, I can never forget it either.