I recently read Adam Gopnik’s review of the Memorial and Museum in the New Yorker and his subsequent praise of the ‘dazzling’ Freedom Tower, (now officially One World Trace Center or 1WTC) had me curious…
On September 11th, 2001, I was living in London. My work and family brought me back ‘home’ over the years yet I had never once returned to the Twin Tower’s destruction site. I never wanted to go.
In fact, most New Yorkers I know that still live and work in New York, never went to Ground Zero either. New Yorkers (amongst other things) are resilient, but we are also fiercely stubborn and nobody was going to go until they were ready to go…or had to go…for themselves, or sadly…for others.
Perhaps because my children are slightly older… or perhaps even because of other atrocities occurring which caused endless delays at the airport flying out last week…or possibly even perhaps this time, as a Native New Yorker, I was ready. I wanted to go.
It’s a slightly odd thing to do while on vacation (holiday) with your family. I know friends of friends that tragically died on the day, but my only personal connection was that I am from New York. My children are not.
In fact, at their age, their only experience of 9/11, is that their mother gets tearful on the day every year, and I remain somewhat uncomfortable over how much detail to go into at their age.
This year, back on American soil, over breakfast at Balthazar, and my 3rd cup of coffee (I am jet lagged afterall, despite the horrendous and slightly surreal discussion, I need lots of coffee anyway), I let C1 and C2 know what the plans are for the day.
I decide that the less said the better… probably because I am somewhat jittery after that 3rd cup now, but more likely…I am terrified of what questions may be coming so will only offer more detail if there are any questions…
First question, C1 asked, ‘Are Cousins J and D meeting us there?’
No, not today.
Next, ‘How long are we going to be there?’
I don’t know. As long as it takes.
Then, ‘If all those people were inside the burning buildings, where did they go?’
Errr….They did not get out of the building…that is why it so important for us to go and pay our respects and remember them.’
C1 returns to the Boiled Eggs and Soldiers…I know I know…WHERE IS MY SALTED BAGEL AND TEMPTEE CREAM CHEESE I love so much.
C2 then asks, ‘Why on earth would an airline pilot crash into a building?’.
Errr…CSr? Want to take that one? I need another cup of coffee.
So over C2’s Brioche French Toast with Applewood Smoked Bacon,
I start to cry…and obviously not because I wasn’t having my beloved New York (or New Jersey as last time), breakfast of Salted Bagel and Temptee Cream Cheese.
After breakfast, further downtown at the Memorial, it is a somewhat startling contrast to the towering skyscraper above. What are referred to as ‘reflecting pools’ are not reflecting pools at all, but rather huge gaping holes that correspond to the ‘footprint’ of both towers.
The names of the deceased are engraved on the surrounding bronze
It is only when I saw the names and viewed the cascading water and its roaring echo,
I turn to C1 and say ‘this is why we are here’…
To remember the people that worked in the offices that once stood so high…
To honor the policemen and firemen that ran into burning buildings never to return…
To respect the wishes of the survivors and the people of the city that rebuilt 1 WTC.
And for me…to let my children know that I will
and in somehow, someway, perhaps…just perhaps that means for them…
On the way home, we eventually stopped for lunch.
C2 out of nowhere said, ‘I would never sacrifice myself to fly into a building’.
Okay… I felt oddly reassured by that statement.
C1 wanted to know, ‘Are cousins J and D meeting us for lunch NOW?’
I didn’t have to tell him not until my Birthday BBQ tomorrow. C1 was too excited to see his favorites on the menu.
Peace to my family, friends and loved ones on BOTH sides of the pond. Much much love.
No drinks tonight. Sleep.