Eleven years ago

September 11, 2001, was also a Tuesday, a beautiful autumn day. My brother, Arvin, and sister-in-law, Carol, were visiting from Florida and I took a few days off to be with them. They were staying in a hotel about a mile from my apartment, which overlooked the George Washington bridge. We were supposed to take the boat trip around Manhattan, but went on Monday instead, also a beautiful day and not the predicted rainy mess.

I woke up my usual 5:30 but stayed in bed another hour or so, enjoying my leisure and looking forward to spending more time with Arvin and Carol. My constant early morning companion, the New York Public Radio station, was speaking calmly to me as I drank my tea and ate my breakfast. It seemed like a perfect day–until just before 9 when the announcer said in a calm voice, that a plane just crashed into one of the World Trade Center towers. I don’t remember exactly what he said. I think he expressed some confusion, but no panic, not until the second plane crashed into the other tower.

I don’t remember the exact chain of events. Traffic backed up on the highway crossing the bridge. Somehow, immediately, Manhattan was closed, isolated, no one could move and the congestion remained all day and into the night. I called my brother and found they didn’t know what happened, only knew the highway outside of the hotel was filled with noisy, horn-blowing vehicles. They packed up and left, only to spend most of the day trying to leave New Jersey in the other direction. No one went anywhere that day.

I was alone in my apartment, horrified and grief stricken–almost feeling paralyzed. From my terrace I could see all the backed up traffic, and in the other direction, the smoke clouding the towers twenty miles away. Later I could see the smoke and no towers, smell the terrible, chemical, electrical odor I have never experienced before or after. Much later, when people spoke about their fears of further attacks I realized my mind never went there. I dealt only with the moment, never thought about what else might happen. Finally, late in the afternoon, I got in the car and drove 5 miles west to be with my grandchildren. It took only 15 minutes to get to them. It took an hour and a half to get home; I lived too close to Manhattan.

This was my year to think about fear, or maybe lack of imagination. I don’t anticipate fear; I certainly feel it when I am confronted with danger. After the attack one of my Chicago cousins asked me if I was afraid of living so close to Manhattan. I thought about it for a long time and realized my only fear was of being hit by a truck as I made my daily trip across the bridge.

Last month I took that same boat trip. Here are some pictures of New York Harbor with the Freedom Tower rising where the World Trade Center towers had so dominated the skyline.

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