I was there. On a hot late-August day in 2001 I was on the deck of the ferry headed toward Manhattan from Liberty Island.
Less than two weeks after this picture was taken, this skyline changed dramatically…and so did the world forever.
I’m no devout meta-physician; I don’t sit at home and polish my crystals or wax my Ouija board. I don’t have a celestial calendar that I align. But I do believe in premonitions, in those feelings that we just cannot explain and in those voices coming from the invisible entities resting on our shoulders.
Upon completion of this day spent wandering the magnificent island and in the train back out of the city from Madison Square, I looked back out the window at the lights of the city glowing in the night’s darkness. What overcame me has yet to be explained, a power I merely dismissed as awe of that gripping city skyline and the lights that outlined those two iconic buildings.
There was no way I could have ever known how much more that feeling would come to represent.
Not as though it was evidence that would have prevented the atrocity yet to come, nor would it be a strength upon which I could have leaned in the days that followed.
But I felt it – overpowering and inexplicable.
This picture was taken with a camera loaded with film that required development. Three days after the world came to a stand-still, I stood in Wal-mart having just collected the processed pictures…and my hands shook violently as I flipped through the photos. So much so that I dropped that stack that scattered to the floor.
A kindly gentlemen behind me witnessed my tremors and assisted me in collecting those which I’d dropped, taking his own time to view the pictures. And he understood how I’d lost my grip on them.
“Huh,” was all he said when his eyes met mine with the same horror of what my photo-taking had captured and what we now both appreciated was missing.
I have been to some magnificent places in the world, my presence caught on dozens of photos that now serve as memorabilia of some of the marvelous experiences I’ve had and in so many different countries and cultures.
I’ve had foreigners tell me straight to my face that ‘America had it coming’, a stance I cannot – to this day – even begin to fathom. I had a British husband (now ex, for more than one obvious reason) tell me how much I was over-reacting to the entire ‘incident’ on every subsequent anniversary of terrorists flying planes into the World Trade Center buildings.
Memories all that are ingrained into my being and those that are electrified with even greater poignancy on every September 11th that rolls around.
Never will I forget that exquisite summer day on that boat or that vision that took my breath away along with the salty spray as the wind blew us closer into the harbor.
I can’t say that what happened that day made me a stronger American; I’ve always been well-aware and appreciative of what it means to be on the soil of the greatest country on the planet. When the rubble fell, all I wanted to do was quit my job and leave all I had behind to go to New York and help…to clean up. To feed the desolate, to tend to those injured. I wanted to do what I defined as my part, feeling utterly helpless and useless and numb doing nothing but watching hour after hour of news coverage in disbelief.
I didn’t sleep for days.
Part of me will always be numb; will always hate, will always ask why, and will always consider myself truly blessed for having experienced the most majestic skyline in the world as it was captured in this photo.
And I’ll never forget. And I’ll never minimize the pride and humble thanks given quietly to those who were there on that fateful day.
God bless you all.
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