Remembered 2017.

I feel like there’s nothing else I can say today, except this. I wrote it six years ago today, which seems blindingly, crushingly, fast and overwhelming. I’m holding many people in my heart today. My story took place, 16 years ago around now:

Everyone has their story. Where they were, what they were doing and thinking. No matter how close to the situation or how far away, we all have our stories. Some of us were halfway or all the way across the country when we found out the news of the burning towers. Some of us were halfway or all the way across the world. No matter where or how, we fell to our knees.

I myself, was close. I certainly wasn’t as close as many but I was close. Close enough to see the smoke. Close enough to hear horror stories from close friends. Like everyone says, it was a brilliantly beautiful day. I had a 1st period class during my senior year of college, which is pretty much what happens when you don’t declare your major until the end of junior year but know you have to graduate within four years just the same. This class met Tuesday and Friday mornings. I’d take the bus off-campus to class and then hit the College Ave dining hall at Rutgers right after where I would dine on Cocoa Krispies and cheese eggs. Make that cheese sauce eggs. It was awesome. On this particular day I was glum, for lack of a better word. I had been dumped by a long-term boyfriend just a few days or weeks earlier and I was nursing a very rare broken heart. The dining hall was serving food with a French twist and with French names and this made me think of Montreal which was where my long-term ex and I had gone in the beginning of our relationship, to fall in love and slide down the slushy streets.

I was in a bad way. I sat down alone with my exquisitely prepared food and read the Daily Targum. I was tuning out life around me but I couldn’t tune out the sound of a guy sitting alone at a table next to me. He screamed. Right in the dining hall. Then screamed again. Then looked at me and asked, “Did you hear that?” I asked, “Hear what?” He bolted out the door and I never saw him again. In silence, the rest of us dining hall patrons listened to the radio on the dining hall speakers. The first tower had been hit. I ran out of the dining hall and reached for my phone. My recent ex (Montreal slushy streets guy) worked right next to the World Trade Center. I couldn’t call anyone. I got on the campus bus which was shockingly quiet. We all listened to more news. Classes were canceled indefinitely. We were told to go home where I met my bleary-eyed roommate at the door and told him classes were canceled. He was thrilled until we turned on the news and saw it unfolding.

A lot of the rest is a blur. People came and went. People called when calls could go through and otherwise, life was eerily silent. I wasn’t far from NYC – maybe 35-40 minutes. Eventually long-term ex, let’s just call him “E”, got through on my phone. He was ok. Didn’t even make it to the financial district before his bus was turned around. He was one of the lucky ones who made it back to Jersey before public transportation shut down. He was disturbed beyond words. He needed me. I went to his house, a normally 25 minute drive, and it took hours. The roads were clogged. Even that early, people stood outside with American flags. Everyone looked lost. I arrived at E’s house and he melted into my arms. We got back together, as many did after September 11th. You just sorta started to see what was important at the time, even if it didn’t last.

We aimlessly drove, somehow, to the Atlantic Highlands. There were hundreds of large crabs washed up on shore. Hundreds. I was so busy staring at them I didn’t see what was behind them – two towers burning. That’s right. I could see the smoke and the fading outline. We heard from a close mutual friend who had seen people jump off buildings. He couldn’t talk about it for months. For years. I really couldn’t either. I was close. Not as close as my friend. Not as close as thousands of people. But close enough to see and smell the burning. Close enough to see the horror etched on every face I saw. For months.

The major I eventually chose was journalism. Months later we were told to do a meaningful interview for one of my newspaper writing classes. I interviewed a friend of E’s who had literally tripped over the red blurs of bodies while carrying other alive people in his arms in the lobby of one of the twin towers. He was somewhat of a hero but too disturbed to talk much about it but he told me. I came into class the week after the interviews were handed in to see my normally loud teacher sitting in silence until everyone filed in and then she read my interview to the class. I got an A++++++. I finally wrote something that brought 30-40 people to tears and I wasn’t even happy. I was still disturbed by the story. The stories.

I didn’t know I was going to write about September 11th here until the last possible minute. I didn’t know if I deserved to, if that makes sense. I wasn’t there there. Yet, I was there. I didn’t know if I had anything to say. But I do. Everyone does.

I can’t talk about politics, anger or blame. Or tell you what it was like to lose someone directly. All I can do is tell my story.

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  1. I am with you between 9/11 and the hurricane in Florida, I just have very little words I can put together today. So just sending some hugs to you, as I could use some myself right about now and will gladly take some from you in return, too today and any day <3

  2. I never knew what it really meant to remember where you were when something happened until that day. My husband was in New Jersey and he called me up to tell me as I was getting ready for work here on the west coast. While I was relieved he was ok, I was not prepared for what I would see that day. My heart hurts for so many affected. A reminder to never take anything for granted.

  3. This is powerful, Tamara. You don’t have to be right there to be profoundly affected and touched by the disaster. How traumatizing for E’s friend. I can’t imagine the hundreds of thousands of folks who were heroes that day. Carrying people, searching through rubble. It’s important to remember, but still painful. Thanks for sharing this again.

  4. I remember this day all to vividly and try to not think about it too much, because I was actually there. I just happened to be down there with my eldest son, heading to the Department of Health. We saw the plane crash into the tower, saw people jumping and it’s something that’s haunted me all these years. While everyone remembers, I try to forget.

  5. Yes, we all have a story of that day. And it’s important to tell it, so that we never forget. I remember my oldest son had just started kindergarten, and he had just left on the bus for school. It was so hard not to run to school and scoop him up, because we didn’t know what was going to happen. Visiting the memorial museum at ground zero a few years ago was one of the most powerful things I’ve ever experienced.

  6. I was going to watch a special last night about a “minute by minute” of 9/11. I started, but then realized I couldn’t It is funny how “close” this all still feels. Still tender and raw. In a strange way, I still can’t believe it happened. That very morning, my daughter had been asked to draw a picture in school of something she had seen, and she drew the twin towers. Right before it happened – crazy, right?

  7. We all have our story don’t we? I was in the hospital holding a days old brand new baby. Every year as we celebrate her birth, I remember anew. Never forget.

  8. OH Tamara… Do you still have that story you wrote back then that the teacher read to the class? Oh, I hope you can publish it here…

    Thank you for allowing us into your world on that horrific day.

  9. Even as a Canadian, I know where I was and what I was doing.

    That day was a distinct turning point… our world would never be the same. I felt that way even before it was publicized that 9/11 was a terrorist attack.

    I remember that morning – I was terribly ill with strep throat but couldn’t get a hold of my boss to open the daycare for me. So I took a cab to work and it was in the cab the taxi driver told me, almost glibly, that the World Trade Center Towers was hit by an airplane. I couldn’t make sense of it.

    Parents dropped their kids off at daycare and when my boss got to work and saw my fevered face, she sent me home. I remember lying on my couch. Drifting in and out of fevered consciousness. My dad called me. My ex-husband called me. The images. The stories.

    Yes, the world would never be the same. The timeline of history is defined by pre 9/11 and post 9/11.

    I wish it weren’t so.

    Thank you for sharing your story with us.

  10. I hear you so well on this. I was in DC at work when it happened and saw the smoke billowing from the Pentagon building. The panic, chaos, roads like a parking lot… sigh. It was too much. It still is too much. Sixteen years doesn’t seem like a long time, and every year like clockwork, it hurts to think of what all we experienced and saw.

  11. Funfetti cupcakes are my favorite, I’ve never had any with a surprise chocolate filling, now that’s exciting. Fall makes me want to bake also, sadly I live alone and I don’t eat many sweets so I have no one to bake for, but I hope to one day have a house full of kids I have to feed or at least a couple of kiddies. Thanks for sharing this recipe. I might make it for my friends

  12. It’s still hard to think about, all these years later, when it feels like just yesterday. I wasn’t there there either…but everyone I know had a story. Our neighbor was a firefighter with a young son at home. He never came back that day. One of my childhood friends lost her dad. A girl I flew to Miami with witnessed the jumpers and never spoke about it, just like your friend.

    I hope we all take a moment, an hour, whatever to reflect on the world that was before it all came down on 9/11.

    Xoxo and thank you for sharing your story, sweet friend <3

  13. Still thanks for sharing this, no matter how painful. I guess I’m one of those halfway around the world, and even I remember this. I was in high school, and in school when it happened. It was global, still is, and all over the news.

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