I feel like every year at this time, I am forced to reflect on the events of September 11th. This time more than ever, as it marks the 10th anniversary of the day that shook our nation to the core. There’s always this innate feeling of needing to be sad. I’ve tried so many times to squeeze out just a single tear just so I can say I’ve mourned and move on. Living in New York City, I feel like I have an obligation to tell a different, more personal account of what happened that day. Yet, all I’ve ever felt was a disconnection and this constant urge to feel something for that day. I’ve known so many people whose lives were mysteriously saved by an event that caused them to be outside of their office, and their experiences do make me feel like I was in as much danger as they were, but that’s obviously not true. So I sat down and tried to recount that Tuesday in its entirety.
I was in school. Only been in America for a little over a month, and I don’t recall if I still spoke in broken English, if I understood my teachers, or how I communicated with peers. Then I remember classmates mysteriously disappearing throughout the day as parents came to pick them up. When school ended, I walked through the back entrance (this was before I was approved to ride the school bus) to find mom very somber and upset. They all said the sky was gray that day, even at where we were. I don’t remember that, I remember it being the most glorious day. When mom told me what happened in the car, I didn’t understand the gravity of it all. A lot of people cried, and I knew it was a sad day, but two and two didn’t click. Once I walked inside the house, I spotted Jeff glued to the news, watching and rewatching the clips of the towers crashing. It wasn’t until I was presented with a visual, that I began to remotely understand the horror of it all. I don’t remember doing anything else that afternoon except sitting in the living room with the tv on and my parents’ grinned faces. At night, Kimberly came home and the adults then talked about what had happened. Then the most distinct memory I have of that day, was how when mom was cooking in the kitchen, Jeff and I made up a game, where he said that we had to attempt to conduct ourselves around the house without being seen by the adults. I remember running back and forth between the kitchen and the dining room, giggling and sometimes bursting into laughter. Then Kimberly catches us and says, “Why are you guys so happy on such a somber day? Don’t you know what had happened?” I felt a sense of guilt, for not being human enough to feel the pain, but was I sorry at the time? Not entirely. I went to bed that night knowing that though all wasn’t well with the world, I can sleep as if it were. It was a safe night, I was secure. The next day I woke to the great news that school was out for the next couple of days.
As I finished recounting that day, I couldn’t help but draw a parallel to the 9/21 earthquake in Taiwan. I think I was about 6 when it happened. I believe that everyone else but me in central Taiwan felt the magnitude of the 7.2 earthquake. My friends certainly did, since they all claimed to being terrified the days following. What was I doing? Oh yea, I have no recollection of that ever happening because I just so happened to have slept through it. I saw the aftermath in my neighborhood with my eyes, and the aftermath was enough to fill me in on what I had missed, but there was always a little part of me that wished I woke in terror in the middle of the night to the grounds beneath me quake; I had wished that I wasn’t able to sleep peacefully the days following; I had wished that I could join my classmates in the conversations of how we attempted to protect ourselves that night. But I was asleep. Of the two more monumental tragedies that happened in my life, I have grown up today and felt absolutely nothing about these events. Perhaps this pattern was intentional; I’ve grown to live without much fear, but there was always a part of me that wish I felt more pain.
Every year on September 11 I would watch & post up Jon Stewart’s monologue. It was the closest thing I could come to feeling emotional about the attack. Now that I look back, I realize that he closed the monologue with one message: hope.
I was always able to be hopeful because I never felt the tremors of terror in my bones.
The view from my apartment was the World Trade Center. This symbol of American ingenuity, commerce, and strength, and they attacked it. But you know what the view is now? The Statue of Liberty. The view from the south of Manhattan is now the Statue of Liberty. You can’t beat that.