Ten years ago the world changed. Ten years ago we all changed. We may not realize it, but we have. We think about things a little differently than we did before September 11, 2001. Even if we don’t fly or even go to airports. Our world view is different.
I was living in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida when the towers fell. I’d been there since I was 2 yrs old. I was born in Brooklyn, NY. My parents had lived there for the first 30 yrs of their lives. In fact, we moved in February of 1971. The north tower had only been open for two months. The south tower wouldn’t be finished for another year. Strangely, when the dust settled on that horrible day the New York skyline had returned to the way it was in my parents memory. We moved to Florida following down my mother’s sister and brother-in-law and my maternal grandmother. Leaving behind aunt’s, uncle’s and cousins and friends.
When the news show I was listening to at work that morning broke in to report the news, I was stunned. In disbelief. I mean, those towers had become an icon of my home town. That’s how I though of New York. How I still think of New York. Florida never felt like home. And the few times I’ve gotten to go back to there, I always felt more at home and at ease than I did where I lived.
They set up a TV in a conference room where I worked. Everybody popping in for a few minutes at a time before going back to their work. Over and over. I’d been in the room for only a few moments watching the news report when right in front of the camera… a second plane hit the south tower. Fear. Now we all knew that it had to be terrorists.
About 45 minutes later I went back into the conference room to sit for a while. By now, the only people in there were other transplanted New Yorkers. We chatted and watched the TV, watching those towers burn. I kept calling home to find out if my mother had gotten a hold of her high school friend who had just moved from Greenwich Village to SoHo, only a short walking distance from the World Trade Center. As we sat, the south tower fell. It felt like being punched in the stomach. We stayed and watched – not knowing what else to d – everybody on phones now trying to reach friends and family in New York. We watched when the north tower went down. It was like the whole world crumbling. I’m so glad that I was in a room filled with native New Yorkers to go thru that with. I may never have lived there, but I’ve always felt like a New Yorker, never a Floridian.
Sometime that day they gave the order to land all the planes. Air traffic over the United States was to come to a halt. Engines shut off. The skies were quiet.
I remember going outside on the 12th. I remember looking up and seeing only the sky. But more. The air was quiet. Oh, there were noises going on. Street traffic, construction, people talking. But I lived only eight miles from Ft. Lauderdale International Airport. I grew up three miles from it. The sound of airplanes taking off and landing, jet engines flying over head or just the sound of the planes idling on the runway waiting to take off is a sound that filled my ears for 30 years. After that long you don’t even consciously hear it. But when that sound stops…it’s eery.
For three days the air traffic was stopped. For three days the skies were silent. For three days I could look up into the sky and not see an airplane. For three days we all held our collective breath.
The terrorists that thought to cripple us that day did not win. America doesn’t crumble. We’re made of tougher stuff than that. Maybe somewhere else the population of a nation would fall into despair and depression and stand around crying, but not us. Push us, we stumble but recover. Hit us, we get angry. That’s what I saw during those three days and for months after. Flags flying. People making sure not to stay home from work. US made products flying off the shelves. Down in Florida we couldn’t help our friends, family and countrymen up in New York with the aftermath. But we could show our solidarity. And we did this by not letting it get in the way of our getting on with life. We stood up and said “Look at us. We’re going to work. We’re going to school. We’re shopping. We’re banking. We’re loving. We’re living.” We thumbed our noses at the terrorists who thought to disrupt our lives and yelled “SCREW YOU!” Quite literally with some. We got on with our lives as quickly as we could not out of disrespect for those who went to work in the financial center of America that September morning, never to come home again, but out of respect for them and their families.
Ten years later we can proudly say that the war wasn’t won when Osama bin Laden was killed a few months ago. We can say that the war was won when we, all of us who lived outside of Manhattan, got up on September 12th and went to work or school. Or, like my dad, celebrated their birthday on the 13th. Or went to do their usual grocery shopping that following weekend. Those terrorists thought to bring us to our knees that morning. How little they understood us.