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Thoughts on 9/11 - Ten Years Later

New York City was my home for 8 years. I started my career there, I started my real life there, and on 9/11, real life came in.

In August, 2011, I started work on the 38th floor of Tower 1 of the World Trade Center. I consulted for Lehman Brothers with my friend, and roommate Peter. The towers, even on the inside, were enormous. During the first month, someone asked which floor we worked on and I remember our friend Michael arcing his hand up, “We work.. up there…”, presenting the tower as an astronaut would present his spaceship.

I remember waking up on the morning of 9/11, to leaflets of paper floating from the sky, and concerned passers-by craning their necks upward as I had done every day since I had moved to NYC, absorbing each tall skyscraper.

I wasn’t at work when the planes hit – being a perennially late sleeper, I had walked out of my downtown apartment, which was blocks away from the Trade Center, at around 9:10 am, minutes after both planes had hit. People were video-taping the towers, people were pointing, but of course, no one could possibly know what was coming next.

When the first tower fell, I was blocks away at City Hall. I was caught in the crowd, swept up like a heart-beat into the lower cavity of Manhattan, and then, a pouring, a spilling, a massive throat clearing of people, like a flock of birds taking flight all at once, out of downtown.

I ran. I ran swearing expletives, the same word over and over. I ran until the crowd slowed down, and people started to crowd around radios in electronic shops, trying to get some news, and make sense of it all.

I remember my mom’s voice-mail to me on my cell-phone, terrified.

I remember my mind going numb when someone told me people were jumping.

I remember Peter being in the front lobby of Tower 1 when the first plane hit, and then having the wherewithal to run back to our apartment to find our passports to check us out of NYC.

I remember thinking that life would never be the same again.

For the first couple of years afterward, I had a perverse sense of wanting to have been in those towers, or at the very least, to have experienced what my colleagues at Lehman experienced. Almost everyone made it out from the 38th floor. I only watched from below. I felt like a fraud, like I should have at the very least, been up there with them.

Now, ten years later that feeling of wanting to experience everything, every single emotion a human can process, has run its course. I am content with the love of my wife, my dog, my family, my friends. I don’t need anything more. I don’t want anything more.

People are always curious to know what it felt like to have been through 9/11, and it’s hard to articulate because every year it changes as you change. I don’t think about it for months, even years, and then I’m right back. One day it drives you, it fuels your passion, and another day it makes you stop and cry for your family, miles away.

It strips away everything fake and fluff and staged, and in its place is raw human spirit – raging, withering, laughing, trembling. The only thing I can compare it to is the vulnerability of giving and opening yourself to one person. I am married to a beautiful, strong, and kind woman, and she generates in me the same kind of emotion that 9/11 does.

On that day, on that run/zombie-walk out of downtown, I had no idea where I was going, or what I was going to do. But I had a guy, a stranger, beside me who also didn’t know, and beside him there was another guy and we were just a bunch of people, walking to the best place we knew, and we were together.

129 comments to Thoughts on 9/11 - Ten Years Later

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