As a kid you live in a bubble where the idea of terrible things happening is unfathomable, that it’s fiction. I realize this is a privilege not afforded to every child, I wish it was, but it was true for me; I was lucky. When I was 13 on September 11th, 2001 that bubble burst as I was brought to the front doors of my middle school which opened to reveal hundreds of screaming and sobbing parents panicked and desperate to get their children. I was terrified and had no idea what was happening, no one had been allowed to tell us what was going on. When my mother explained to me what had happened in the car on the short drive home I couldn’t understand it. I didn’t know what terrorism was. Surely this was all a misunderstanding and everything would turn out okay. I learned a lesson about the world that day, about the best and worst of humanity.
I also learned that my father was a true hero. He was always, and still is, a hero to me; I knew he was a cop and that he helped people but I didn’t know at that point that he helped people at the risk of his own life. I didn’t realize that until I saw how upset my mother and grandmother were, how every phone call was the most important call of our lives because it could be horrific news or it could be him on the end of the line saying he was okay. He was okay. I am lucky. But he couldn’t call for a while and that period of not knowing was gut-wrenching. I didn’t know until years later that my mother had called him on his way to work that morning and pleaded with him to come home but he said he couldn’t. He couldn’t because he had to do his job. He had to run towards danger and tragedy while others ran from it. He is a hero. He was at ground zero that day and many days afterward helping in anyway he could. Saving lives, seeing terrible things, going above and beyond because that is who he is.
I am lucky because I still have him and I know that I very easily could have lost him that day 17 years ago. My heart aches for everyone who lost someone they loved that day. Who have lost people they love in the years since due to illnesses from that day. Those people and families are in my heart and thoughts at all times; you are all heroes. My mother is also a hero, it’s not easy to try to make things normal for your children while living in fear that your husband won’t come home. September 11th 2001 happened because of the worst side of humanity and then the best side of humanity rushed in and picked up the pieces. The cops, the firefighters, the EMTs, all real life superheroes.
Today is a bad day for me, a hard day. I don’t like to be on social media, or to be out and have to have conversations about September 11th or see photos from it. It is a reality I live with every single day, that every New Yorker, every first responder, every survivor, and every person who lost someone that day or because of that day deals with every moment for the past 17 years. We will never forget, we will continue to mourn, we will continue to rebuild and we will continue to love. That’s the best side of humanity and I am grateful for it.