9/11: Until yesterday, I always thought of the infamous date as a tragedy, an emergency phone number, and a disaster, but I never fully experienced it as more than that. I learned about that awful day fifteen years ago again and again throughout middle and high school, but it always seemed so far away from me, and from my life. After all, I was only in preschool at the time and had none of my own memories from the day, only the memories which were told to me by others.
Living in the city for college has opened me up to an array of opportunities. I stumble upon endless happenings by simply walking outside of Stern’s Brookdale residence hall in Midtown. Every day in New York brings a new exciting experience. When I arrived into New York City on 9/11, it was clear that my urban home was well aware and involved with the day at hand. I, on the other hand, felt like an outsider.
I was in the car driving down the West Side, not far from the Hudson River, when I suddenly hit standstill traffic. I grew annoyed as five minutes turned into fifteen, turned into thirty, and I was still not moving. Anger aroused within me as I looked out the window prepared to yell at whoever was causing me this inconvenience. I was surprised to see a peculiar parade of motorcycles speeding across the avenue ahead of me. Peering closer, I realized that each of these motorcycles carried an American flag, and that the parade was surrounded by police. I realized that this parade was, of course, for 9/11.
On my walk later that evening to meet a friend, who lived nearby, I couldn’t help but marvel at the lights and buildings which encompassed me in every direction. I passed by Madison Square Garden and gawked at the massive lights announcing the upcoming sports games, concerts, and other events. As I turned to continue my walk, I noticed two large beams of light extending endlessly into the sky from further south. I realized, excitedly, that these beams were the 9/11 memorial lights I had always read about, and seen pictures of, but never witnessed.
As my night progressed, I stumbled upon many other displays and memorials for 9/11. To my right I saw American flags undulating over buildings tall and short. To my left I saw in the distance the top of the Empire State Building, glowing red in memory of the victims, and highlighted with white and blue lights to make the combined colors of patriotism. It seemed as if the whole city, vast and busy as it was, had paused in order to commemorate the distant day fifteen years ago.
I’ve never felt unity in New York like I felt today. I’ve never seen this city, nor any city, come together like this to commemorate. The concrete jungle I now call home no longer felt like a city of broadway shows, law firms, and lights, but like a city which cared about it’s inhabitants and it’s history passionately. I greeted my friend with a smile on my face and a feeling of pride, that I too, lived in this city.