Today has been hard for 19 years, and I am sure that it will be hard for the rest of my life. Nineteen years ago I went to work wearing a white pencil skirt and a black and white button down top complete with heels, I had no idea when I dressed that I would have to walk so much, I had no idea my life would change, the world would change, that my heart would break. We traveled to work with the same group as always, my boyfriend at the time (now ex-husband) my sister, our friends, Kerry, Greg, Stephanie and Stephanie's parents Joe and Cookie. We rode the Staten Island Ferry, laughing, chatting, same as always. Once in Manhattan we separated taking our respective subways to our parts of the City to work. Getting to work it was normal, settling in, put my stuff down and like normal me and my boss Sandy headed down into Penn Station for breakfast, I was trying to be good diet wise so I got one of the pineapple smoothies from Smoothie King, we came back up to our floor and when we got to our little lobby we saw on the TV behind the reception desk that a plane hit one of the World Trade Center towers, shaking our heads we continued to watch the coverage thinking it was an amateur pilot in a small plane and as we watch a second plane hit. The shock started then, I never finished that smoothie and I never went to Smoothie King again, not ever.
At this time not everyone had cell phones and my dad was supposed to be on a plane. A plane from Newark airport where some of the terrorist planes took off from. We didn't know where he was for a long time. Everyone was in a panic and phone lines were busy but I was able to talk to my mom and boyfriend and friends via AOL Instant Messenger, we sat tight, people cried, people bonded, people freaked out. My sister was doing her Summer Internship at the same publishing company where I worked, she was up on a higher floor. Nineteen years later her voice calling to tell me she watched the towers fall haunts me. Nineteen years later I remember the voicemail from my dad, the voicemail telling us to stay together, telling us he was safe. I took my father's words in that message very seriously and I made my sister stay with me as though we were tethered, I went to the restroom she had to come to. We worked out how to get out of the city. We met up with Stephanie and her parents and Greg and Mike the ex met up with us and together we all walked, we walked from midtown Manhattan to the Staten Island Ferry Terminal. We made our way downtown and as we did the sky filled with ash, the image of burnt pieces of paper floating on the ground and stuck in trees is so ingrained in my brain, I will never forget. These things were on someone's desk, was that person alive?
We were on one of the last passenger Ferries to leave Manhattan, they were later used for debris and bodies, how was this happening, we were so happy and normal this morning and now our Ferry would be used as a floating morgue. The relief I felt when I saw my mom, waiting for us at her front door is not something I can describe. I know she tried to feed us, I know it was pasta, I went into shock around this time. The next few days I went through cycles of watching news and baking. I would watch news until Mike told me to stop and then I would bake things, there was no sleep, I wasn't eating, I just watched news and baked. My friend Jim got in his car and drove from Florida to New York, I was in bad shape and he came to help, something I will forever be grateful for. I didn't go back to work until the following Monday, and for months I wouldn't commute alone. The first few days Jim commuted with me. He would deliver me to work and pick me up at the end of the day. When he headed back home my friend Greg and I worked out a system. We commuted in together and then he would IM me when he was leaving his office and I would head down to the subway, wait on the platform by our pre-established car and wait until I saw him waiting. Then we walk from the train station to the ferry. I felt uneasy all of the time, I felt uneasy seeing the service men and women carrying their weapons and patrolling Penn Station, uneasy because it was necessary, uneasy because I was afraid to be under ground, uneasy because the terrorists were winning, I was terrorized, I was frightened.
It was close to a year before I would commute alone, I never sat outside on the Ferry again, even though that used to be the spot me and my sister sat so we could watch the city as we headed home. I never felt safe again. So many lives were lost, people we knew, lives were changed forever and we were safe by minutes. Thirteen, thirteen minutes was the time between us passing under the World Trade Center and the first plane hitting. My dad was safe, he never made it on a plane thankfully and came home the next day. The nightmares lasted for over a year where I would be searching for my sister and my dad's voice would just keep saying "stay together" these dreams come back now and then, never gone. Nineteen years, I've lived a lifetime and also it feels like yesterday. Nineteen years the world changed, I changed and I will never forget.