Tomorrow marks the 13th anniversary of 9/11 and I am absolutely dreading the flood of Facebook posts from non-New Yorkers. It sounds awful, but let me explain why.
I am a New Yorker, born and bred. My Da’s side has been here since before the Civil War, Brooklyn is in my bones. I am a part of this city and my blood is tied to it.
I loathe how Ground Zero has become a tourist trap. People from the South, from the Mid-West, etc come here and purchase fake flags from the vendors and shed a few crocodile tears because America, Fuck Yea!
But they don’t support my people. They don’t support the survivors, or the ones who witnessed the sheer horror of the attack. Or even the ones who had their innocence so cruelly ripped away from them, like my generation.
They badmouth the Blue States, the liberals. They support the same damn policies that got us into this mess and they support attacking Middle Eastern countries, which helped to fuel the fires that burnt the Towers to the ground.
While I know that not everyone who goes to Ground Zero does so with a false tear in their eye, I’m just sick of the spectacle. That is hallowed ground. New York’s blessed dead reside there, and it left a jagged, psychic wound that still hasn’t healed to this day.
I refuse to ever step foot there. The few times I’ve passed by because I had no choice, it set my hackles up. The innocent blood that was spilled there still stains the ground and it ripped open a hole in the Otherworld that I’m not sure can ever be closed.
No one I knew died in the Towers, but my Aunt Susan lost a friend. I honestly think I have PTSD and scars that will never, ever heal from the event, because after 9/11, flying freaks me the fuck out. I know eventually I will have to visit my BF’s family in California and I am absolutely dreading it. I still freak out when planes fly low and I get nervous when friends, loved ones, and family members have to fly anywhere.
September 11, 2001. I was walking to high school–I was a sophomore, then. The sky was so blue that it hurt to look at and the trees were so green that it broke my heart to be cooped up inside. It was summer’s last blaze of glory, and I wished to the Gods I could’ve been at the pool club instead, lounging in the Sun.
You must remember that this was a time before cell phones were a thing and around 8:50a.m., some of my classmates who were Jewish began to get phone calls and texts. I paid it no mind, shrugging it off and thinking it had something to do with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It was naught to do with me.
But oh, it was. How naive I was. How…innocent.
An undercurrent of tension slipped into the room and I keenly remember rolling my eyes at my classmate Al, who said that he heard a rumor that a plane had hit the Empire State Building.
‘That’s stupid. A plane wouldn’t do that.’ I thought. ‘It must’ve been an accident.’
It wasn’t until second period, when my Spanish Teacher Mr. C came in and told us the news. I went into shock and then panic mode. As I’ve said, no one I knew was in the Towers but my Aunt Susan works for the Army Corp of Engineers, and I was worried that she wouldn’t make it home.
We were allowed to call our parents and ask to come home, and I was practically crying on the phone to my Mom. She reassured me that my Aunt Susan was fine–she’d stayed home from work today due to menstrual cramps and only found out about the tragedy just now.
My Dad came to the school to pick me up, and we took my friend Vanessa home with us, as her Dad was stuck in the city and was going to walk over the Brooklyn Bridge to get back and her mom was stuck at work.
It didn’t feel real, the images we saw on television. My usually snarky friend sat stone-cold quiet as we watched the Towers crumble and fall. It felt like a scene from a movie, but I knew it wasn’t.
Back then, AOL/AIM profiles was the social media of the day, and in my profile, I said that I lived in NYC. Throughout the day, I kept getting IMs from random strangers who I would never hear from again asking if my kith and kin were all right, to which I reassured them they were.
I remember IMing with my neighbor Jenna, whose words were prophetic: she predicted the tide of Islamaphobia that would wash over this country like a dark tidal wave and the hatred people would have for the Middle East. Being half Lebanese, she was terrified and I know now that she was right to be.
I will never, ever forget my neighbor John sobbing on my stoop. He saw everything, as I think he worked near the Towers. The collapse, the people jumping. He heard their bodies fall and I know it’s haunted him ever since.
I was an innocent teenager and in one swift instant, it was taken all away from me. I will carry those scars with me for the rest of my life.
My people were hurt, maimed, killed. MY PEOPLE. We were the ones who had to witness it in sheer horror, to lose our innocence and sense of security. So don’t you dare pretend to mourn OUR DEAD at Ground Zero and then dishonor their memory by perpetrating the very actions that led to this attack in the first place.
I’m avoiding TV tomorrow too, I don’t want to watch the documentaries where you can hear the people jumping out of sheer desperation or see the images that are burned into my people’s very psyche. I don’t want a media spectacle, it’s disrespectful to my people, and I’m sure those in Pennsylvania and Washington D.C. feel the exact same way–after all, it was their people as well.
I want to share with you a quote from my high school yearbook that sums up the unique scars that the Millennial generation of New Yorkers bare:
These students have experienced a unique history, different from all of ours. As freshmen, they glanced into an insular American society with a burgeoning future of attainable goals and some beautiful dreams.
Then, in 2001, everything changed drastically and suddenly. 9/11 has altered our consciousness forever. These graduates were here for the before and after.
They have been forced to mature more than most high school students before them and they haven risen to the challenges of these times here at the Prep.
They have demonstrated amazing abilities to cope and rise to the occasion of these stressful times. Their discussions of philosophy, literature, and possibilities of scientific advancement in the 21st Century, of which they are purebred, are replete with hope and prayer for the making of a brighter day.
Please, honor my people’s Blessed Dead tomorrow by living and promoting laughter and joy. Hug your families, kiss your pets and please, promote that which will lead to peace and tolerance in this world, so that no one else will ever have to undergo such a horrific tragedy like this ever again.