On September 11th, I was living outside Boston with my cousin for a brief time and working on Mass Ave & Newbury in the city. Somewhere on the 30 minute walk from my cousin's place to the Commuter Rail Station for work, Flight 11 collided with the North Tower. Everyone at the Station was silently huddled around the coffee & muffin window, where the clerk’s little black & white portable TV was playing the live video feed of the thick bellows of smoke pouring from the wreckage. Whispers of “What happened?” and “Oh my God” began echoing through the station every few moments as more people came in and were hit with the news…
The MBTA commuter rail train finally arrived and the stunned commuters boarded, saddened, but not yet in possession of the rest of the story. At this point only the first flight had hit. Listening to the live radio reports while on the train, I waited for more news. And then Flight 175 hit the South Tower.
I must have shouted something aloud. The others in my train car, without radios of their own to hear what was happening, turned and looked at me... I was the one to inform them that the country was now under attack.
Arriving in the city a few minutes later, everyone was looking up into the sky. Granted, we were hundreds of miles away from Ground Zero, but the news had by then been released that two of the planes had come from Boston and at this time nobody knew what to expect. It had also been released that the F.A.A. had issued a no-fly order across Boston… and it was with shock that as I passed through Copley that I heard a Jet in the sky moving over the city. Thankfully, it was nothing: maybe the last commuter plane to land at Logan or maybe a passing Military plane scrambling to action… But there was a brief moment of fear that the Prudential or John Hancock buildings, between which I happened to have been walking at that moment, could have been next. The next two planes fell, ending scores of lives and compounding fright everywhere... The fear of that morning hit nationwide. And nobody felt safe.
Nine years later, here we are. Last night, I actually had a dream regarding the work now beginning anew at Ground Zero. As often happens with dreams, I recall almost nothing. But I do remember standing on Trinity Place near Liberty Street, looking down to a sub-street level of ground, where a combination of grass and construction were visible. In the dream, there were no skyrise towers but a sort of combination of retail/office space and public parks with trees and fountains. The curious part, to me, was that it was sub-street leveled, the way it would seem now if you were there looking down into the foundation -- as if, in this dream, these new structures were purposefully built this way as a reminder that, although some tall glass-and-steel monolith could have been erected there, it was more important to remember that and those who once lied beneath.
I'll actually be visiting New York City tonight and most of tomorrow on one of the typical walking trips. I'm planning on crossing the Brooklyn Bridge at sunrise, walking the streets of Washington Square, the High Line, Central Park, the Strand, maybe Columbia University or Roosevelt Island. I'm not sure if I'll make it to Ground Zero. If I do, though, much of the aforementioned commuter rail trip will probably come back to me again. More so than last night's dream. Sometimes it goes that way, though. Sometimes we more clearly remember the nightmares.
May God, or who-and-whatever you happen to believe in, bless New York City, this whole world of ours… and all of you.