Fourth Anniversary of 9/11
This coming Sunday will be the 4-year anniversary of September 11th. For some, this tragedy took away loved ones and livelihoods. For many others, it changed their lives in more subtle ways. Feelings of grief, loss of security, sense of mortality, anger. For me, it was a significant factor in my decision to find a new job and regain some semblance of work-life balance. But it also triggered a relapse into depression - something I have battled with since my early teens. In this fight, empathy is my enemy, and my heart the betrayer.
9/11 was on a Tuesday. The Friday before, I flew out of Newark airport on an international flight to Singapore. I remember the skies being exceptionally clear and blue that day. As the plane angled to the left after takeoff, Downtown Manhattan came into view. As did the twin towers. From my perch in the sky they stood out like two gleaming jewels, reflecting the sun back at me. I scrambled for my camera, intending to capture this extraordinary view from the airplane window. But before I could get my camera in place the plane dipped to the right and moved away from the metropolis. I chided myself on my sluggishness, but had the consolation that the return flight would provide another photo opportunity.
Four days later, the towers collapsed in a twisted pile of fire, metal and broken lives. I had just seen the new Godzilla movie with my cousins, and the whole family was up late. The flat suddenly became ominously silent. Everyone was crowded around the two TVs. It was the World Trade Center. And it was on fire. I didn't believe it at first - it was too unreal.
I stayed up into the early hours of the next morning (evening in NYC) watching the coverage, long after everyone else had gone to bed. My eyes were glued to the screen. Images of those poor souls falling to their deaths will haunt me forever. I could feel my soul screaming as I desperately wished I had the ability to reach out and catch every one of them. I could hear my heart breaking as I thought of all those who were trapped on the upper floors, knowing there was no way out. They are heroes too. There's bravery in making peace with the inevitable. Even writing this, remembering that day, is causing the tears to well up again.
Every now and then I wonder "What if the terrorists had chosen Friday instead of Tuesday?". An international flight out of Newark, heavy with fuel for the Atlantic crossing, would have been a target in their plot. I try not to think about it, just as I've tried to forget those images of people flying through the air with nothing and no one to catch them. And I mostly succeed in forgetting, at least for a while. That is, until the anniversary of 9/11. Then the footage is re-aired, memories are dusted off and tears fall once again. If the measure of a tragedy is the length of grieving, this is the greatest tragedy I have yet encountered. And I am unnerved to admit, that includes the death of my own father.