Many months before the attack on the World Trade Center I knew for an absolute certainty that September 11th was going to be a black and horrible day.
I knew because that was the day that my girlfriend of three years was moving from NYC to West Virginia. We had a storybook break-up and were best friends immediately.
We lived together for three months after the split and September 11th was the day she had earmarked to leave. I was not so keen on the idea because that was also the day I got married seven years before in Central Park. A marriage that ended badly and thus leaving a bitter taste in my mouth about 9/11 all together.
On the morning of September 11th 2001 I was literally helping my girl friend, or ex-girlfriend pack her rental-car. Her sister phoned-us-up from West Virginia. She asked me how far we lived from the World Trade Center. I said two or three miles, why?
Then she explained that a plane crashed into it.
I grabbed the remote and clicked on the local news channel, then Sara walked in. When I saw the size of the whole in the side of the building I knew it was a terrorist attack.
It was clear to me because I was a courier at the time of the first attack on the World Trade Center and I always had a feeling that they would be back. But nothing prepared me for what we witnessed that morning.
That was the day that I truly became a single man. Living alone and missing the woman I still loved. Living in a city of hard-core tough New Yorkers…we don’t do fear well.
I endured many losses that time in time. My company almost went out of business and work was so slow that I ultimately wound up delivering videos from a store that was ironically one block from ground zero. In retrospect I feel it was a macabre honor to have done such a job because I was witnessing history up-close and personnel like few ever will.
My life was changed. I have been financially in the red ever since. The economy and joblessness situation in NYC is the silent secret the government and media feels best not to really share. I am still a bike messenger but found it vital to start a small apartment cleaning business to survive.
I think I speak for all messengers and delivery people in NYC when I say that it was a strange and disturbing loss for us. We are the people who were in the building all the time and saw the people who we later witnessed fall or burn to their deaths. I know several bike messengers who had just come out of the building and some on their way in. One friend saw the first plane hit and moved south to get out of harms way and then the second jet soared over his head. He told me that at first he thought he planes were chasing him. As far as I can tell not many messengers were in the building, but that doesn’t matter because people were. I am back at the courier business and ironically our office is less than a block from ground Zero. I am sure I have seen that sight more than anyone who was not assigned to work there. I still look up into the sky. I want to see it. I remember every detail of the building. I can hear the Path Train I the basement and the swish of the crowds rushing about.
In a way I feel sorry for those who have not been here. For those who do not live here. On the other hand I feel they are blessed. We are here not really knowing if we are experiencing posttraumatic stress disorder or if we are simply in denial.
We are confused. Security in NYC was a sad joke even immediately after the attack…now it is virtually non-existent. I worry because I am a student of history and I am frightened in my confidence that they are not only here but that they will strike again.
I would like to close by sharing a story.
I attended Catholic Bible School as a child even though I was not Catholic. I did it to keep my best friend company. At the time the Vietnam War was going on. A nun had us pray for the solders in Vietnam, fighting. She added: “And pray fort the enemy too children”. That was the moment I understood true Christian compassion and something I never understood in The Bible: Pray for thy enemy.
In closing, we of course must bring the killer(s) to justice. But as children of God we must also pray for their salvation and/or enlightenment.
“Forgive then father, for they know not what they do”. –Jesus
Pray for the children