My First 9/11 in New York City

This is a cross post, originally posted on Twenty Something NYC.

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Although not too many people are talking about it, the days leading up to today were somewhat stressful, especially when you remember what happened in Boston. People are so conscious of the rise in anxiety; the news wasn’t even talking about it. I don’t know if it’s always like this, or if this year things were different, but there is a tension in crowded areas—then again, maybe it’s just me.

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The presence of police could be felt this week since Saturday. The subways are usually somewhere you will spot police, but this was different. On Sunday I saw one officer step onto my subway train. He was dressed head-to-toe in gear. I saw his hand-sanitizer dangling from his belt. Compared to everything else he was warding off, I remembered in New York we all have to ward off colds as well—even our boys in blue. His demeanor nice, but his eyes quickly darting underneath seats and toward large bags. He stayed on for one stop and then got off at Times Square. A little boy sitting next to me who was probably 5 years old looked at his mom standing in front of him, “did you see that mommy?” She replied, “did I see what?” He answered back quietly, “The police man… that was cool.” She knew why he was there, and he was too young to understand.

It’s a scary thing when you move here. My first week here back in June, I remember talking to my friend about how lonely it was. I had no friends here yet, and in typical twentysomething drama I was telling her how scared I was that something was going to happen to me, like getting run over or being pushed onto the subway tracks. She was like, “isn’t your first fear an attack? That was my first fear when I moved here.” She lives in L.A., and my response was like well yeah, actually that came across my mind too.

A week or so after that happened, the NYPD started running tests on the subway system. They were trying different ways to see our vulnerabilities if someone were to attack the system with poisonous gas. I saw the report on the six o’clock news. At first it freaked me out until a girl my age came on the TV and said she was happy they were doing the tests, because we need to know what to do in case something happens. She made the point that that was the only way to prepare ourselves.
It’s not just police on the lookout; the residents here too are taking extra caution. Everyone is looking around, scouting you out. I walked on a train this morning with a man who was facing the entrance and visually scanning everyone who walked through. Then you had another guy on the other end, scanning the guy scanning the people. It was a little much, but I felt a sense of pride and safety. We’re all looking out for each other here. Although I haven’t even been here that long, that so far has been very apparent.

It wasn’t too long ago, about 3 weeks ago, that I took my parents to the September 11th memorial. We took a tour guided by two men who had both been personally affected by the attack. One of them a firefighter, and the other an employee who was late to work that day. They both looked about retirement age, and there they were, volunteering their weekends to tell my family and me about this horrible tragedy they experienced first hand. I heard their stories, and I saw their loved ones’ pictures. I heard about the lives lost and wanted to thank them a million times over for continuing to tell their story. A little over a decade ago, I imagine they thought that something very different would be capitalizing their time at this stage in their lives.

I talked to a few people at my office, and one of them I asked if I should take the subway or not. I’ve heard of people not taking it on 9/11. He said, like the majority of people here would probably say, that he still takes it. To keep going, to trust, and pray. He then went into his recount of the attacks, and how, long after watching the coverage of the events that day, he realized that his office in Times Square might be a target that day. He said it took him a while to think about his safety, because everyone at his office was glued to the TV witnessing the chaos happening just a few blocks south of them. He said people were crying. They were all in shock. Without thinking, I flashed back to my memory of the crying. I remember on the night of the attacks I sat in my room and prayed for the victims and the families. I was in Texas, far, far away from those hurting so deeply… but we felt it. We all felt it. I remember watching George W. Bush’s speech. In my childhood my family knew the Bush family because of some work my dad had done with the Texas Rangers. I flashed back to those memories of him, and then back to the screen and remember feeling so incredibly sick that someone I knew or even met was going into history this way.

I can’t even begin to tell you how inspiring New York City is. This place is magical. It remains strong in its character and its diversity. Its American spirit hasn’t faded, just like the memory of 9/11 will never fade to those who experienced it.

In New York, it’s hard to walk around the city and not feel grateful to be here. By here I mean the city, but also, the United States. It’s only my opinion, but I think our society’s freedoms and our recognition that life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are fundamental and essential makes us the luckiest people on the planet.

It was announced today that a UN probe found 8 massacres have occurred in Syria in the past year and a half with thousands of civilians killed in the bloodshed. If you compare the headline to 9/11 reporting on our thousands lost, you are left with an eerie feeling. It is a travesty what we do to one another for power. And although we have a memorial today to turn to in order to honor our loved ones lost, I feel for all those families who have lost someone because of a terrorist attack and have no where to reflect the lives of loved ones.

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For more images, see BuzzFeed’s report or this special report I saw on Upworthy.

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