Everyone remembers what they were doing when the September 11th attacks happened.
Well I don’t. I have no idea. And for some reason I’ve always felt a little guilty about that. Almost 3,000 people died and I can’t remember what I was doing.
I flew into New York yesterday, coincidentally Friday, September 11th. It was a strange feeling, I must admit. I’ve easily been on a hundred flights in my life and I genuinely enjoy flying; the thought of my flight not landing safely has never been an issue. The turbulence during the descent into New York was so rough that a woman on the flight began screaming and I suppose everyone was a little on edge that day, due to the memory of the events that occurred 14 years prior, because for the first time even I felt a little nervous during the flight.
Upon landing in New York, my faith in humanity was again restored. I befriended my uber driver, a Pakistani man, and we spoke about God and kindness, the Quran, joy and fullfillment; he reminded me that although bad things happen in the world, people are innately good.
I made sure to visit the 9/11 memorial that day to pay my respects to the men and women who lost their lives. I don’t know what to say about that experience, and I’ve tried all day to form a beautiful and eloquent sentence to summarize it. However, the best I can do is: it was sad.
I was touched at the amount of people, from all walks of life, who were at the memorial that day. It’s a beautiful and very human thing, to grieve for those we’ve never met. What hit me the hardest however, was the people at the memorial that had actually lost a loved one in the attacks.
You could always tell who they were. They were the ones who brought flowers. They were the ones who washed the dust off the plaque where a name was written. They were the ones who lingered, in front of one name in particular, with their fingers gently tracing each letter, as if that by some reasoning was a means of communicating with the person they loved.
I watched one young man who stood in front of a name for a while. He looked to be my age. I was seven when the attacks happened. That means he could have been seven, too. And there he was, standing frozen, tracing his fingers over the name of a man who, by the Sr. at the end of his name, I could only assume was the young man’s father.
He stood there crying, and I stood behind him crying, too.
Spending 9/11 in New York wasn’t the easiest way to kick-off a weekend of exploring the city, but it was a worthwhile reminder of the human capacity for great cruelty and simultaneously, immense compassion. And with that, I am ready for my five days in the big apple.