The ten year anniversary of 9/11 is this Sunday. Since we live in New York City it’s impossible, even if one doesn’t watch TV, to not be aware of it. Last night as Richard and I walked home, having spent the evening on our weekly “date night”, we stood with dozens of others in Union Square and looked south upon the two beams of light shooting upward from the site where the World Trade Center towers once occupied.
Nic was fifteen months old at the time and I was in my second trimester of pregnancy with Emma. In fact, that Tuesday morning, September 11th, I had an OB/GYN appointment at the Elizabeth Seton Birthing Center. Richard was in the shower when I looked out the window of our living room, with Nic in my arms and saw the gaping hole in the north tower made by that first plane. I remember holding Nic and yelling to Richard, “They hit the tower again.” I was referring to the first terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in 1993, when the terrorists detonated a truck bomb underneath the north tower. My first thought was that this too was done with a bomb. It wasn’t until we ran up to the roof of our building, just as the second plane hit the other tower, that we began wondering whether this might not be terrorists, whether it was some bizarre coincidence or whether airplanes were being used as bombs.
We readied ourselves to keep our appointment and off we went to the birthing center, just five blocks south from where we live. My midwife’s best friend worked in one of the towers and I remember she was visibly upset and worried. Other than that, I remember little of my routine exam, beyond feeling dazed and concerned with the events that were occurring outside of the birthing center. (Years later, after Emma was diagnosed, one of the many specialists we saw wondered that there might be a connection to the rise in autism and the toxins released by the collapse of the towers, but we never heard or read anything further to substantiate his thought. It now seems unlikely as, sadly, the rate of autism has risen world wide and not just to those who lived in close proximity to the World Trade Center at the time of their fall.) When we left the birthing center to return home, we were told the first tower had collapsed and the magnitude of what was happening began to seep in. Still Richard, who’s office was in Soho, went off to work and I returned home to Nic and our new caregiver who had been hired the day before.
As the events began to unfold, the day became increasingly surreal with reports coming in regarding the other planes, the president’s whereabouts were unknown, our cell phones didn’t work, the bridges and tunnels were closed, and the sirens from the police cars and fire trucks citywide created a cacophony of deafening sound impossible to ignore.
The next few weeks remain a blur in my mind with various images melding together to create a kind of collage of memories – Not being able to sleep because it began to rain and worrying about all the survivors who would be wet and hungry. (This was before we fully realized there were almost no survivors.) Walking on Fifth Avenue and seeing a tall man covered in tattoos, weeping. Hugging a total stranger in Washington Square park where people had posted flyers with photographs of missing friends and relatives. The smell of burning rubble, the quiet that descended upon the city like a thick carpet and through it all the unbearable, collective grief that we all felt.
For more on Emma’s journey through a childhood of autism, go to: www.EmmasHopeBook.com