Monday, September 11, 2006

Where were you when the world stopped turning that September day?

As you all know, today is the 5th Anniversary of September 11th. No need to all know what happened. I remember that day and those that followed as if they were just moments ago.

My senior year of college I thought I was such a big shot. I'd just gotten back from a summer internship in our glorious nation's capitol after working for a United States Congresswoman. I was the Corresponding Secretary of the Stern College Student Council and had a fairly light courseload. So as I cruised (late of course) to my 9 AM Psych class I figured it was just any other day. I walked north on Lexington Ave from my apartment to the 245 Lex building where my class was being held. Had I been walking south I probably would have had a straight view down Lexington Ave and seen the smoke that would have been rising at the time from the first tower that was hit. Instead I continued on to class stopping in the Caf to buy my signature Diet Mountain Dew. Being on student council meant we were issued pagers to help correspond with each other. We also received news updates on them. I got a buzz around 9:10 saying that a plane had crashed into the first tower (the updates weren't always speedy). I was like whoa, thats crazy for a pilot to not notice the WTC. A moment later came the one saying a second plane had also crashed. I panicked since no one else in the classroom knew what was going on so I quietly stood up and slid out of the room. I got in the elevator since I knew there was a television set downstairs. I passed the Jamaican maintenence man who informed me he had been on the roof of my school building and had seen the second plane being hit. He was totally shell shocked. Already seated around the TV were two Deans and no students. Students that were awake at that early hour were only up if they had a 9 am class. I watched the horrific replay on TV for a minute and then received a page from my mom. I knew something horrible was happening since it was just after 6 am in California and my family is never awake that early. I reached for my cell phone but all the lines were jammed. The Dean let me try the call from her office but at that point all the land lines were down as well. Pay phone was also a no go. I needed to let my parents know I was okay, after all, I lived only a couple miles from Ground Zero. I ran up to the computer lab remembering that those used cable modems and should still work. Unfortunately the only person on my Buddy List who was signed in was a guy I'd interned with that summer. He was in college in St. Louis so he wouldn't have trouble making a call to my parents. I quickly asked him to call my folks. Then I got all nervous because my parents were about to receive a call from a stranger saying, "Mr. and Mrs. Goldstone...this is James Smith...I'm calling about your daughter". But, Thank God, he quickly explained that he knew me from DC. After I knew they were notified I walked back into my classroom in a trancelike state. The professor was still totally unaware and continued teaching. My friend Jenny asked me what was wrong and I told her to go downstairs and put on the news. I then grabbed my stuff and left the class. Someone told me he dismissed the class a few minutes later after 100s of police cars and fire engines began to race down Lex to reach the site of the crash. I found my roommate SS and broke the news to her. Her father worked in the area so we walked over to her sister's dorm to wake her up and let her know what was going on.

As we walked back to our apt we passed this woman standing there crying in the street. I stopped to ask her if there was anything I could do. She shook her head and just stood there, tears rolling down her face. I feel like this must be what its like living in Israel. These horrific things happening all the time and people displaying their raw emotions in public. I'm the kind of girl who cries easily during a sappy movie, hell, a sappy commercial will even get my waterworks going. So I didn't understand why I wasn't crying that day. It seemed so appropriate but I wasn't able to squeeze out one tear. Seriously, I tried. What the hell was wrong with me? It wasn't until I finally spoke to my dad and heard him crying over the phone (probably the first time I'd ever heard him cry) that I finally lost it. Our parents are supposed to protect us. Provide for us all that we could possibly need to stay safe. When something like this happens we become so vulnerable. Here I was in the big, bad city so far away from my parents, and all they wanted was to hold me and make sure I was okay. It was now my job to show them I was tough and could take on these challenges alone. So many parents lost their children on the idyllic Tuesday morning and so many children lost parents. But instead of beating us, our enemies have only made us stronger. These 19 men on a suicide mission believed a perverted version of a beautiful religion. They were taught to hate instead of love. We as New Yorkers have pulled our emotions from the rubble at Ground Zero. Those 19 men were trying to tear us apart. Instead all colors, creeds, and religions have pulled together in a United effort to never forget that beautiful September day when the towers came crashing down. I had wanted to go to the hospital and donate blood like I often did...but then word came out that blood wasn't needed, many of the most seriously injured has succumbed to their wounds. Jewish people honor their deceased by ensuring that shomrim (literally watchers) guard the body from the time of death until its burial. Some of my friends became locally recognized when they acted as shomrim to the 100s of bodies that were being brought to the NYU hospital mortuary. Of all the bodies being brought in there was sure to be some Jews and they wanted to make sure that they received the same honor they would had they passed away in a different fashion. This is one of the greatest mitzvahs (acts of charity) a person can do since it is one that can in no way be returned by the person you are doing it for. I remember the LA riots when I was younger and remember the looting and the violence that followed. We also were dealing with a horrible horrible attack and almost all New Yorkers were acting completely selflessly. We stopped to help strangers on the street. We told our friends and family how much we loved them. We went to our houses of worship and begged to understand what had happened.

I leave you with the lyrics to Alan Jackson's "Where Were You" which he penned in the days follwing the attacks.

"Where Were You (When The World Stopped Turning)"

Where were you when the world stopped turning that September day
Out in the yard with your wife and children
Working on some stage in LA
Did you stand there in shock at the site of
That black smoke rising against that blue sky
Did you shout out in anger
In fear for your neighbor
Or did you just sit down and cry

Did you weep for the children
Who lost their dear loved ones
And pray for the ones who don't know
Did you rejoice for the people who walked from the rubble
And sob for the ones left below

Did you burst out in pride
For the red white and blue
The heroes who died just doing what they do
Did you look up to heaven for some kind of answer
And look at yourself to what really matters

I'm just a singer of simple songs
I'm not a real political man
I watch CNN but I'm not sure I can tell you
The difference in Iraq and Iran
But I know Jesus and I talk to God
And I remember this from when I was young
Faith hope and love are some good things he gave us
And the greatest is love

Where were you when the world stopped turning that September day
Teaching a class full of innocent children
Driving down some cold interstate
Did you feel guilty cause you're a survivor
In a crowded room did you feel alone
Did you call up your mother and tell her you love her
Did you dust off that bible at home
Did you open your eyes and hope it never happened
Close your eyes and not go to sleep
Did you notice the sunset the first time in ages
Speak with some stranger on the street
Did you lay down at night and think of tomorrow
Go out and buy you a gun
Did you turn off that violent old movie you're watching
And turn on "I Love Lucy" reruns
Did you go to a church and hold hands with some stranger
Stand in line and give your own blood
Did you just stay home and cling tight to your family
Thank God you had somebody to love

I'm just a singer of simple songs
I'm not a real political man
I watch CNN but I'm not sure I can tell you
The difference in Iraq and Iran
But I know Jesus and I talk to God
And I remember this from when I was young
Faith hope and love are some good things he gave us
And the greatest is love

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Good Sus...I enjoyed reading sad and vivid as the memory is. I can't imagine how it was for you. Vanna