My Thoughts On 9/11

I read enough posts of “where were you” and things like that, but I thought I’d put together something simple to explain what the World Trade Center and 9/11 have come to mean to me.

My first time laying eyes on the World Trade Center – the only time I saw them, actually, was on the morning of July 1, 2000. Canada Day. That summer, my friends and I were left wondering what to do to mark the birthday of our wonderful country. Our normal custom was to go to a friend’s cottage, but he was away in Australia that summer. Early in the week leading up to the day, my then girlfriend said “Hey, I heard that The Tragically Hip is playing in Central Park for Canada Day. We should go.” Now, for those of you who don’t know, The Hip is basically a Canadian institution, a rock band that by that point in my life, at age 20, I’d probably seen live at least ten times. We laughed off the idea, however, based on geography. New York City was some ten hours’ drive from our home in the suburbs of Toronto. To drive that far for a concert seemed ridiculous.

Until the Friday night, the 30th. We still had no plans, and so the idea came up again, and we piled, five of us, into my friend’s Hyundai Excel. We loaded up on Jolt Cola and started driving to NYC. Crossing the border in those days took no passports, no hassle. We just went.

My friend Shaun drove the whole way, and I slept a good chunk of the trip. When I woke up, we were in Newark, New Jersey. And horribly lost, because Shaun had jumped off the NJ Turnpike to dodge what we later learned was a $0.35 toll, and we were trying to figure out how the hell to get to the Holland Tunnel, and from there to Central Park. We did find it eventually.

Anyhow, I’m getting into the weeds. When I woke up, the first thing I saw was the Twin Towers. It was the awe-inspiring sight, the symbol of New York City, that told me we were almost there. I remember seeing it, before launching into my compatriots about why we were lost. We did make it, and managed to park on Fifth Avenue at 72nd, right near the stage for the show which also featured Great Big Sea and Jeff Healey. It was rather a serendipitous day, as we had no idea where in the park the stage was, nor how massive Central Park actually was.

I wouldn’t return to New York City until the summer of 2006.

And we all know what happened in between.

Tuesday, September 11, 2001, I was dragged, literally, out of bed by one of my housemates, Carrie. She had been up first, I think because she had class. Making coffee, she had TV on and saw the news reports about the first plane crashing into the WTC. I don’t know how much time had elapsed by the time she got me out of bed, but it wasn’t long, and she just said “You have to see this!” I sat watching for a while and my jaw dropped when I saw the massive explosion of the second hit. I knew – as everyone watching knew – what was happening. And so we watched. All day.

That night, being a Tuesday, was an administration night for the Reserve Force Regiment to which I belonged, having joined a few months before in January. A conference was scheduled for that night about an hour away, and I was slated to attend with my supervisor and some other folks from Peterborough, the city I lived in at the time. We went, and tried to conduct the meeting but it was almost impossible to talk about anything other than what had just occurred – and to wonder about what would happen next. We had no idea, but we all wanted to do something. If we were told we were headed to NYC to help try to find survivors or whatever else, we would have packed up and left that night.

The night ended for me in the Junior Ranks Mess at the Peterborough Armouries, we sat around a large table watching the news, watching video of the attacks over and over again, and feeling different than we ever had – we knew nothing would ever be the same. I remember remarking that it was our Zapruder film, a comment that 10 years on I think remains correct.

Flash forward almost five years to 2006. My wife and I were headed to Georgia to visit her family, and we made two stops. The first was New York City. We went to the WTC site in the evening – late in the evening. Taking the subway down, we passed Cortlandt St. Station, which was under the site and destroyed in the attacks, the first eerie sight of the night. We then headed to the actual site – it was a fenced off site being cleaned up. Simple signs told the story of the buildings, their construction, and their collapse. I remember being struck by a sign, which said something to the effect of, “To preserve the sacred nature of this site, please do not buy anything here” or something like that, which was striking.

More chilling, however, was the sign explaining the ongoing demolition of the Deutsche Bank Tower, which was left unsound. It was being slowly taken down, and remains were being discovered constantly in the wreckage. It was a reminder of the cost of that day, and how it still had not been fully reckoned.

I visited New York City again this summer. I didn’t go to the WTC site. I didn’t feel any need to, I guess.


2 comments so far

  1. Bill Koller (@playamaya) on

    Nice. Thanks.

  2. Jodi on

    Well done.

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