WEEKEND EDITION

9/11: What Brings You Back? We Asked, You Shared

| September 9, 2011 9:39 AM

MetroFocus asked our readers to respond to this question: Is there an image, place or object that instantly brings back your experience on or after 9/11? We shared our stories with you, and here are some your contributions.

Flickr/Katelynmarie

“This 9/11 will be the 20th anniversary of my first date with destiny and the 10th anniversary of my second. Both destinies are tied to a single image: a dozen yellow roses. On 9/10/2001, the florist arrives at my desk with a perfect bouquet. The yellow was a crisp complement to the austere gray linearity of the offices at Helen Keller International, my employer at the time. We were based at 90 West Street… [It] was separated from the towers by a comparatively humble parking lot with a little jewel in its crown — a one room Greek Orthodox church. I sometimes imagine those yellow flowers shriveling in the heat of fires that gored 90 West, destroying our offices; fires that started when the engine from the second plane hit the roof and continued when the towers fell. Every year on this day, 9/11, the anniversary of that tragedy, I remember the yellow roses and love of the man who sent them to me. That man is my husband, and 9/11 is also the anniversary of our first date.” — Jennifer Kirby

Flickr/Susannyc

“I was on a British Airways flight on September 11, 2001 from LHR to JFK. The absolutely sparkling blue sky was glorious.  Our flight would land early and I would be in a cab by 10 a.m. About 30 minutes from landing, we were told the flight was being diverted to Logan, which was just weird. Why Logan? Something was wrong. I kept thinking it had to have been at Kennedy, maybe a crash, it was just too beautiful a day –- it definitely wasn’t the weather. We landed and were told, “Due to an attack against the United States, all US airspace is closed. You will deplane and await further information”. I stared out the window at that brilliant blue sky and just waited to be told what to do. They ushered us off the place and I asked what had happened and was told “they’ve attacked the WTC and the Pentagon”.   Nothing else. Certainly nothing about planes, the towers — nothing. Throughout the ensuing chaos, I kept looking  skyward thinking how it didn’t make sense, it was too beautiful a morning for horror. Every year since, there is one day when the blue, cloudless sky is just so –- and I’m overwhelmed with sadness.” – Adriana Payne

Rockefeller Center. AP/Kathy Willens

“On 9/11, I worked on Wall Street… I saw the explosion of the first plane hitting one World Trade Center. In my office building, we congregated in the lower levels until we got the all clear to evacuate lower Manhattan… When I reached Rockefeller Center, it was eerie. A place that is usually a bustling hub of tourist activity was a ghost town. It was almost completely empty except for me and a couple, clearly tourists, who stood in front of the Today Show studios reading the ticker tape with the news of what happened that day. They were stunned, with mouths agape. I stood there and after hours of feeling numb with the events of the day, and almost three hours of walking, it all caught up to me and I started to cry… My office is now in on 48th and Park and every day I walk home to the west side of midtown and walk through Rockefeller Center. After 9/11, I will never be able to walk home through Rock Center and not remember that day.” –Bianca Russo

Delancey Street Stop, J/Z Train Subway. MetroFocus/Sam Lewis

“For me, there are a couple of things which are my triggers: police with dogs, a military patrol person, express buses and the J/Z train. Why these? After it happened, going to and from work each day in that area, I saw dogs, military personal and police all around the area on patrol so it became a mental association of where you were. As it relates to the bus, I was riding into the city from the Long Island Expressway and watched as the plane hit… As for the train, I had to stop taking the bus — it was a reminder, which stressed me — so I started taking the J/Z subway line instead…” — Valerie B.

Manhattan skyline, 1992. Flickr/Sandar Lamme

“While watching a show on TV that takes place in New York City they panned the city skyline, and for one brief moment the Twin Towers are there! Then I am brought back to 9/11, the horror of watching the buildings come down, seeing people walking up from downtown with a glazed look in their eyes, the quiet, and what followed. Caravans of ambulances their sirens blasting coming up Sixth Avenue from downtown 20 to 30 at a time. This would go on for many hours, until it abruptly stopped. All this from probably one second of an image on TV.” — Phyllis Hershkowitz

Piers off the West Side Highway. Flick/Jes

“… As city hospital employees, we were mandated to stay at our posts, in case we were needed as emergency workers.  Our hospital prepared to enact our emergency disaster plan, for the presumed dead and injured.  Several nurses from Jacobi, our sister hospital, were deployed to Bellevue for the expected crush of survivors.  However, we waited until 8 p.m., and then were released, to go home. The following day, another nurse and I went to Chelsea Piers, which was the staging area for volunteer rescuers and medical staff… We were the only car on the West Side Highway, and at every light, armed National Guardsmen, in uniform, stopped us and asked us for identification.  We finally arrived at Chelsea Piers, and there were thousands of volunteers, just like us, waiting to help.  And wait, we did… There were doctors, nurses, EMTs, psychologists, firefighters, police, rescue dogs, everything you could imagine, plus supplies to feed and keep all of these volunteers.  But like the previous day, we were not needed.  Only later would we discover, that there were no survivors to help. To this day, when I… drive down the West Side Highway, I remember.  And I have never been able to go into Chelsea Piers since.” –Aileen Steiner

  • Jennifer L

    For me, it was the flyers. I lived in Hoboken at the time–a community hit hard by the attacks on the Twin Towers because so many people who worked there lived across the river in Hoboken. There were so many memorable images from that day, as we watched the towers burn and fall from across the river, but the saddest was the hundreds of flyers that papered the town in the days and weeks afterward–photos of the missing, posted by their loved ones, in the hope that someone lost would be recognized, found, reunited. The smiling faces of sons, daughters, husbands, wives, mothers, fathers, lovers, neighbors and friends stared back at us, putting names to the horror around us. These poignant, desperate, futile flyers also gave a small window into the lives left behind–forever changed. Initially, each day brought more flyers as families and loved ones searched in vain. And then the flyers stopped coming. The ones that had been up since the beginning began to fade, tatter and blow away. The truth of loss settled in.

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