Posted by: jevcat | September 11, 2010

September 11, 2002

The morning of September 11, 2001, found me settled on a bench by the water in Battery Park with breakfast and the New York Times, anticipating a relaxing vacation day exploring parts of Manhattan I usually had to rush through on the way to work.  Yes, well.

I made it to the ferry in time to get home to Staten Island, maybe the last boat to leave that morning.  I wasn’t entirely certain I wanted to be on a bright orange boat in the middle of the harbor at that moment in time, but the need to be Home, and in some semblance of safety, over-rode that.  A group of us stood on the back of the boat, watching the towers burn.  Someone tugged at the sleeve of a deckhand, worried about an small, unmarked truck aboard, and the deckhand, whom I had seen walking up and down the lanes of vehicles before the ferry cast off, answered, “It’s okay; it’s one of Ours” and I thought, with almost a of sense of wonder, “This is what war is.”

Home, I watched the television news and the smoke over Manhattan.  Moments after the towers fell, a low rumbling came through the open windows and I thought, “My God, what now?!”, then realized it was the sound of the collapse, making its slower way across the harbor.

I took September 11, 2002, as a vacation day, too—not, as some did, out of fear, but more out of the need, in an old-fashioned sense, to honor both the day and the dead.  I came into the city early with two friends, and we sat quiet by the water in Battery Park, waiting for the exact moment of anniversary.  As the bells tolled, there was a gust of wind, and my one friend whispered that it was like the souls of the lost passing.

After a bit, my friends headed to their offices.  I walked them to the subway entrance and headed back alongside the perimeter of the park, drawn to it, not certain what I wanted to do next, feeling the need for an undefined something else.  A small group of people gathered in a circle just inside the park drew my attention, perhaps because they were in a fenced-off area, perhaps because there was a police officer standing guard next to them.  At about the same moment that I realized from a sign alongside that it was a Muslim group, a young woman who was part of the group noticed me and extended a hand in invitation.  Seeing her gesture, the officer stood aside, allowing me to enter.  Somewhat self-consciously—I am a Christian and the cross I always wear is small but was visible in the open neck of my shirt—I did.

A few people spoke—of the need for understanding, of the fact that Muslims, too, had died that day, of tensions they’d experienced in the year since—and then we bowed our heads and, together, prayed for peace and reconciliation.  As the circle dissipated, the young woman who had invited me turned and said, “I am glad you joined us.”  I heard the wobble in my voice as I answered her, “I can’t think of any more meaningful way to have spent this morning than with you.”  I still can’t.

Our arms went around each other and we held on tightly for a moment, both of us in tears, then stepped back, smiled, and went in different directions.  She headed for the subway, I back into the park, realizing as I did so that we had not even exchanged names.

Here is a sharing from two other blogs on the events of September 11, 2001:

PlaneJaner\’s Journey: Remembrance

Telling Secrets: I Dream of Peace

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Responses

  1. Oh, Janet. Wow.
    Thank you for sharing…and blessings on your day of remembrance.
    jane

  2. I cried as I stood on 6th Ave. and watched the second plane hit. From the small group that had gathered on 6th and 15th we already new that it was a terroist attack as one of the women was from Europe. Another had a radio so we listened. How horrible it was. One woman, her husband worked on the floor that the plane hit. She could not get him on her cell phone. She sat on the curb and could not move. Ilana offered to take her to our office and do what we could for her. I tried to convince her it would be safe. She would not or could not move. By the time the buildings came down I was in the office. What a day. I hope we never have to relive that experience.


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