I began blogging well after the terror attacks on September 11, 2001. Even though the focus of my blog is Postpartum Mood & Anxiety Disorders, I have always tried to post something in remembrance of this day each year. It’s a day which will always replay in my mind, a day which replays in all of our minds. A day on which, we all came together as Americans swallowed whole by grief and yet spurred forward filled with intense renewed resolve not to allow our country to falter in the dreams of our forefathers.
Sure I know where I was that day. As do we all. I don’t want to rehash where I was, what I was doing, how I watched the second tower hit live on TV, the first tower fall, and then the second tower. We all know where we were with intense detail. What I want to share with you today are two separate events – one involves a road trip last September 11, the other involves my visit this past December to the Memorial Site in NYC.
I’ve already blogged about the road trip because frankly, it took my breath away. But I’ll rehash it here. I was on my way to Georgia to visit with my kids. I had NPR on because they were broadcasting the services from NYC and then from the Pentagon. As I listened to this coverage, the requisite moments of silence, I drove. Not a tear. Not until Spartanburg, SC.
In Spartanburg, SC, patriots gathered on the first overpass over I-85 with all the American flags and then some they could find. They stood on that overpass, waving their flags at all the passing traffic, covering it on either side with the symbol of America’s enduring freedom.
I lost it. Tears poured forth at this raw yet powerful show of patriotism, a stark reminder that when it comes down to it, we are ALL AMERICANS.
Then, as I turned off the interstate, I pulled off to the side of the road for a motorcade of motorcycles riding in memory of 9/11. I stayed there for a good 10 minutes, out of respect for their ride and the day at hand even as other vehicles raced past me. I sat there, blinkers on, quietly respectful.
This past December, while visiting a friend in Northern NJ, we planned a day of sightseeing in NYC. He advised me to think about what I wanted to see while there so we could plan our travels across the city. As I thought, long and hard, I realized there was nothing I wanted to see more than the WTC Memorial site. How could I be in NYC and *not* visit?
Once I decided to visit the site, I braced myself. You see, I have this knack for sensing emotions and feelings when I visit places. Given that this was a site of such tragedy, such heartbreak, such…..darkness, I had no idea what to expect so I began to steel myself against the barrage of what I was sure would be negative emotion as early as I could.
We arrived at Penn Station early in the morning, ate breakfast across the street at Europa then booked over to the site. We walked by and he, assuming I’d be like everyone else he’d taken there, thought we were done. I said, no, I want to go in. So we stood in line to get our tickets. (They’re free, by the way, donation suggested but free.) Then we killed some time until the first available “tour.”
Walking into the site is a somber, somber experience. Everyone is quiet. Sure, some people are talking, but their tones are respectful. We move toward the entrance to the site. There are no less than 4 security checkpoints, one which is Airport grade, requiring you to remove jackets, bags, etc. You have to keep your ticket out at all times to prove you are supposed to be there.
Once we got into the site, we walked quietly for the most part, talking a bit here and there. I was taken aback completely. Not by the beauty of the monument, but by the sense of peace and beauty filling the space. I prepared myself for an onslaught of anger, frustration, sadness, and god knows what other negative emotions. But instead, there was peace, love, acceptance, solitude and solidarity, completely blowing me away.
You can search for names at kiosks on the far side of the memorial. We walked around both towers. I couldn’t help but reach out and trace some of the names etched into the memorial. Families milled about, people by themselves, friends, etc. In that space, just as on September 11, 2011, we were all Americans paying respect to lives lost in what my generation and those not alive for Pearl Harbor will remember as one of the most atrocious attacks on American Soil in our lifetime.
I am glad I went. My friend thanked me for wanting to go inside as he’d never been even though he lived just 30 minutes away via train.
New York has done right by the victims of 9/11 with the memorial. Sure, there are people who argue they haven’t or will criticize other issues surrounding 9/11 from a political standpoint. But the enduring peace and solidarity I felt inside that memorial space is all that matters to this American.
Thank you to the first responders who rushed toward the towers as they burned. Prayers and thoughts to the families and loved ones of the victims lost that day, to those who survived the day. Thank you to those who rushed to sign up to fight for our great nation and defend her honour. Thank you to those who worked tirelessly to clear the rubble after the towers fell. Thank you to those who worked endlessly to ensure the memorial site was a respectful one, as you succeeded.
May God bless America as we continue to heal from this tragedy. May we never, ever forget and always, not just today, but every day, be grateful for the freedoms we hold dear in this country and always be ready to fight to keep them.