Monday, September 11, 2006

9/11: five years later

Let us take a moment to reflect upon 9/11 - five years later. It is very painful for me to think about this, especially since I am writing from Manhattan - specifically lower Manhattan. On 9/11, I was not in NYC, rather, I was in upstate NY, watching The Today Show before a Film Analysis class. I was also chatting with some friends online in Australia. Suddenly, out of the corner of my eye, I saw on TV some report about the WTC being attacked. I thought it was a retrospective on 1993, I didn't think it possible. It took me some time to absorb the fact that it actually happened. Then, just as I was absorbing the fact of the first attack, I saw, live on TV, the second plane hit the WTC. My mouth dropped open - I thought it was a toy plane or something! I thought it was a model! I just couldn't believe it actually happened - I was in a state of utter shock. Dazed anc confused, I walked over to my Film Analysis class, where I met a friend of mine who worked in an internship over the summer at the World Financial Center - right near the WTC. He had no idea if his coworkers were okay. I also learned the Pentagon was under attack, and there was an attempted attack on the White House. I was beset by this sudden fear that the nation was under attack. I remember thinking "ohmigod, this feels like an alien invasion, like the movie Independence Day! That movie kept on running through my mind, because the whole thing felt so unreal to me. Then, during the Film Analysis class, the professor started showing an anti-American propoganda film - probably at the same time as Flight 93 was crashing. I felt sick to my stomach watching this. He eventually shut the film off, said it was not appropriate for this day (well, duh!), and dismissed the class. I left to wander around the small upstate NY town I was living in, dazed...until I remembered that I had (and still have) family that lived in Battery Park City - right near the WTC! I remember going home, crying, feeling so sick about the state of the world, and frantically calling my aunt, only all the phones were engaged. It turned out later that my aunt was at the WTC subway station stop at the time the Towers were struck. She is okay, but ironically, her husband, my uncle (who was also at the site), died 18 months after 9/11, of cancer. The day or two after 9/11, a massive vigil at my college was held to mourn the loss of all those who had just died. It was a tremendous atmosphere. Almost the entire school was there to pay respects to the dead - we are talking maybe 18,000 or 20,000 people, jammed together, crying. We all knew people who lived or worked by the Towers and/or Pentagon. And the thousands of us all held candles and listened to speeches, attempting to cleanse our souls. I remember the feeling of genuine fear at the time of 9/11 - a fear that the attacks were going to continue until our cities were wiped out. I remember being in that upstate NY town, and being unable to bring a backpack with me to a movie theater - out of fear there might be a bomb in it! No one knew how to deal with this threat. Four months after 9/11, I ended up moving to NYC. I moved when the fires of the rubble was still burning. I remember being so afraid to ride the subways, but doing it anyway. Being so afraid to walk through Times Square, but doing it anyway. And that's how the nation has generally reacted - we have moved past our fear. Yes, we are still afraid, as we should be, but we do not live every waking moment in fear, because if we did, we would go crazy. We have gone on with our lives. NYC has gone on. It is a booming city - after 9/11, save for that hole in the ground, the city has bounced back and is better than it ever was before. Sadly, the same cannot be said of New Orleans. I do not think New Orleans will ever be the city it once was. And I do think that Katrina proved that the disaster relief system in place, post-9/11, is simply not at the level it needs to be. More has to be done. But on this fifth anniversary of 9/11, I would like to take this time to mourn the loss of those who died, but to celebrate the spirit of those who have survived. We are alive, and we are forging through, and will not give up. It will take more than a plane or four to quell that American spirit. We will never give up. I will never give up. And I would like to take this time to say how proud I am to be an American, and a New Yorker.

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