Our daughter had just started kindergarten — so fresh and shiny and new in her school uniform. Our son couldn’t wait to go to pre-school the next morning. My husband had dropped our daughter at school — promptly at 7:55 am — and had gone right to his gallery in midtown Manhattan. I was in the middle of my morning routine when my husband called shortly after 8. “Turn on the TV” he said. “A client just told me a plane crashed into one of the Twin Towers.”
I propped up our son in front of his Legos, or maybe a train set. Whatever it was, I ran into the bedroom and clicked on the television. Reporters were incredulous, flummoxed, some of the earliest local reports conjecturing a commuter plane had careened out of control. That notion was quickly dismissed however — no commuter plane could wreak such damage. Then the second plane hit and there was no longer any question about what had happened.
What I remember most about September 11th is the silence. Noisy New York suddenly silenced, ground to a halt, in lockdown, no traffic, airspace closed, people in utter shock and disbelief. But no noise. Not where I live anyway, uptown in a residential neighborhood and relatively far away from the World Trade Center, far enough away that I couldn’t even see the Twin Towers.
I think a lot about that 8 o’clock hour — a typical New York morning, rush hour traffic on the West Side Highway, taxis skimming down the avenues, horns honking, brakes screeching, people scurrying to school and to work. Did I hear either of those planes hurtling through the city sky before hitting their targets? Could I have? They were flying so low at that point, how could I have missed the roar of their jet engines? Or was I just so inured to the sounds of New York on a typical day that I simply blocked out the noise, an urban survival instinct?
My husband came home — on foot — everyone walking, walking north, everyone slightly dazed. And then we walked together across the park to pick up our daughter at the end of her school day, marveling at the crystal clear blue sky and the utter silence.
We sat as a family in the middle of the park, quietly talking about what had happened, no hum of traffic, and no jetstream plumes that normally would crisscross the New York skyline at that hour. And I knew that our children’s world was all of a sudden very different from the one my husband I had grown up in. Not that the threat of terrorism hadn’t been there before. But there, right there, was the paradigm shift, on a beautiful sparkling fall day, cloaked in terrible noise, and then in silence.
Photo courtesy of Lil' Mike via Flickr