historical Jersey Shore

9/11: I’m sorry, I still can’t forget

In my fiction, I write a lot about bad guys. It’s fun for me to channel for a few dark moments what it might be like to have hatred in my soul. But then something reminds me that the real world holds real horrors for real people. And that’s not fun.

Today is Sept. 11. I don’t mean to be a downer, but I can’t let today pass without remembering the thousands who lost their lives in the terror attacks 13 years ago today in lower Manhattan, Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C.

I know some want to forget, but I can’t. I lived about 45 miles outside of Manhattan back then. While I was fortunate that I didn’t lose anyone, there were no six degrees of separation for me. My town lost more than 30 residents in the towers that fell. A former co-worker was on the plane that crashed in Pennsylvania. My children’s friends lost parents. The mail room guy lost a sister-in-law. I still remember him standing in my doorway telling me a plane had hit one of the towers and that she was on the 101st floor.

nyc skyline
Pre-9/11 NYC skyline from Highlands, NJ, on the Central Jersey Shore.

Where I lived, I could see the lower Manhattan skyline from the end of my street. I still remember the clouds of smoke and debris floating in a haze over the city. I still remember the acrid, noxious scent of burning chemicals in the air. It lingered for days.

I remember the TV coverage–coworkers crowded around screens in the break areas while they frantically dialed loved ones who worked in the city, unable to get through the babble of cell communications.

In the days that followed, while national stations played the attack scenes over and over, local NYC stations captured images of grieving men and women looking for their family and friends, holding up signs with telephone numbers and pleas to contact them with any information. They posted them in make-shift bulletin boards all over the area–thousands of sheets representing thousands of lost lives.

I remember the survivors fleeing in all directions, some landing in my part of New Jersey, dazed and covered with whitish/gray soot, wondering where they were and when or how they’d make it home.

I remember ducking the first time after the attack I heard a plane overhead. Ducking, with my hands over my head, like that would protect me from a dive-bombing jetliner. It was a pair of F16s on patrol, circling the area on the lookout for trouble. They stayed for days.

We have moved on, it’s true, but all I need is this date to bring it all back.

So today I honor those who responded that day and in the more than 10 years since to save and protect lives. I remember those whose lives have been given and pray they’re resting in peace. I pray for their families and loved ones. I pray for all those around the world today who suffer under the tyranny of oppressive and evil regimes, for those whose worlds of bad guys aren’t fictional.

And I thank God I live in a country of people who want peace.


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