I’ll be honest: I’m dreading the 9/11 anniversary. I get an anxiety in the pit of my gut thinking about it – I wish it wouldn’t come. Is that bad? I feel bad about it. Do other people feel stressed as it draws near?
It’s not that I want to forget about what happened; it’s not that I don’t want to remember… I just don’t want to re-live it.
I never need to see those planes hitting the towers again. The images are etched forever in my mind. I can’t bear to see the building fall, the growing cloud of dust chasing terrified people through the streets of Manhattan.
Should I feel guilty that I just want to skip it and keep it in the past? I do!
I know some people need this day to cope… maybe I should need it too. But I don’t. Why don’t I need it more?
I have wonderful memories growing up in the New York area. I can still hear my mom’s voice begging me to be careful on the indoor observation deck of the south tower… I was nine year old and my toes were pushing up on the protective railing, my face pressed against the cold glass - looking out over the city. From the top of the World Trade Center, Manhattan looked like a gray Lego-metropolis, with a zillion miniature cars zipping about. My dad pointed out all the landmarks including where we lived in New Jersey. He told me that we could see the twin towers from our town. I was incredulous; why hadn’t he told me this before?
On the way home to Ridgewood he proved it to me. We drove up to the lookout on Heights Road. It was an amazing view of the NYC skyline – right in our backyard. There they were, the king and queen of the skyscrapers - towering over the other buildings. I was just a little boy, but I felt like I had just done something really big; I had been to top of the world.
Ridgewood New Jersey, the town I grew up in, is a train stop twenty miles from New York City. A lot of the residents commute into Manhattan for work each day. By September 11th 2001, my family and I had long since moved to California. I always suspected that Ridgewood was hit hard by the attacks, but I had been gone for fourteen years and had little or no contact with any of the kids I grew up with. I really didn’t know for sure.
In 2004, I found out the truth. I accidently ran into an old baseball buddy in my new home of San Diego. I hadn’t seen him since high school. We had a few beers and talked about the baseball teams we played on together, the guys we played ball with, who the pretty girls from school married – the typical remember-when type stuff. When I asked him about 9/11… he told me something I will never forget.
The morning after the attack… there were twelve empty cars in the Ridgewood train station parking lot – people who took the train to work that day and never came back.
So, here we are; on the eve of the 10th anniversary of the attacks, I feel that dread creeping up on me. I want to run from it; I want to ignore it and go on with my life, but then I think of those cars in the Ridgewood train station parking lot, like twelve metal tombstones seared in my mind – and a little voice inside my head whispers to me… if those families can live with it everyday, then I can relive it for one.