Tuesday, 11 September 2012
Every year I wonder if I will remember to forget the significance of the 11th of September. But every year when I wake up I am filled will memories...
You see I was there!!
It is not something I often talk about and not a story I relish the telling of because of all the days I have traveled this one, this one day not only changed me the most.......
I was to fly home out of JFK that evening but NYC was just to much city for me to waste time in my hotel room preparing the journey home as is my habit. I woke up really early, just after 5 and made my way to central park. In the days leading up to that morning I had spent a lot of time walking the streets but time and time again found myself at the park. That morning I felt drawn to the Alice in Wonderland statue and so I hailed a cab from the Belvedere Hotel to East 74th street. I spent about an hour just taking some photos and writing in my travel journal. I had been blessed the previous day to have made it all the way up to the open area on the top of the World Trade Center. I was so chuffed because on both my prior visits I had only been able to go as far as the observation area because of the weather but this time....this time as dusk was falling we were allowed all the way to the roof!!
I had watched Time Square start to light up, I had felt the breeze coming over from Staten Island and I had watched the last ferry of the day come into Battery park. It had been one of the highlights of my trip.
I got hungry and since it was my last day I had some Dollars to spend (how I would regret my frivolous nature later in the day) so I walked to the fanciest McDonald's ever on 160 Broadway. It has a piano player and no plastic forks but rather the real deal. On my first visit to NY I had done a tour and they had brought us here for lunch. It was a fond memory and it felt right to end my trip here.
I remember ordering a McMuffin and orange juice and as I sat down I realised I had not gotten any tomato sauce (ketchup) so I got up and fetched some.....it was then on the way back to my table that the ground beneath me shook.
I don't really have the words to describe the minutes and hours which followed because I don't think there are any that can with any accuracy explain what it was like to see paper and pieces of steel fall from the sky, to have the air fill with a smell that defy's all logic and to hear hundreds of screams permeate the air!!
Seeing smoke fill the air and people covered in blood will remain in my minds eye forever but what fills my nightmares is looking up from the debris covered street to the sound of an airplane engine and seeing it crash into the second tower.
There are no works than can possibly convey the terror, the horror and the complete and utter devastation that followed.
A very kind policeman helped me find my way enough so that I could make it back to my hotel. I knew that he was frustrated because he want to be where the action was but he saw the frighten women who was all of a sudden horribly lost in a strange city under siege.
The lobby was filled with people all with the same blank look in their eyes. Someone gave me a bottle of water and a wet towel and as I sat down with my fellow guests in front of the TV and saw the replay of what had happened I knew that our world had been changed forever.
Once the airports were closed and flights cancelled the hotel very generously put some of us up free of charge. With the phones down I could not get word to my family that I was ok and that was the hardest part, knowing that they would not know that I had survived until the phones were working again.
One of the German guests had a satellite phone and several hours later he was able to get a signal and allowed some of us to call our families. I can't begin to express the gratitude I feel towards this gentleman for allowing me to call my parents who were beside themselves with worry. I also need to express my thanks to the policeman who got me out of danger and made sure I could get to my hotel, I need to thank the kind soul who gave me water and a wet towel and I need to thank the hotel who gave me a place to stay and fed me without asking for compensation.
I only had about $50 left so I was in a desperate situation when on 13/09/01 friends of friends of friends from church arrived from Connecticut and without knowing me took me into their home and their hearts for a week.
I have yet to go back and after listening to friends who have visited ground zero I am not sure that I will ever return to the site although I would love to visit New York again.
Many lives were lost that day but I think many lives were touched as well.....
So this morning when I woke up and remembered what day it was my eyes filled with tears because many lives were lost on this day eleven years ago but I think that many lives were touched by our resilient human spirit.......I know mine was.
So today I CHOOSE to remember those who lost their lives on 09/11, I CHOOSE to remember those who have fought and lost their lives in the fight against terrorism, I CHOOSE to remember the brave men and women who helped the helpless but most of all I CHOOSE to remember the incredible acts of kindness shown to me during the terrifying hours and days which followed.