I will forever remember September 11th, 2011.
My story starts in Washington, DC but that’s not where it would end. I woke up unusually late and in a frenzy, realizing that I was late for my morning class at Howard University. I stayed off campus in a row house a few blocks away and after a quick shower, threw on some clothes and bolted out the door.
The streets were eerily quiet and I saw no one on their rush to class or even meandering around campus. Suddenly, I hit Georgia Avenue, the large Broadway-esque avenue of northwest, D.C. and was confronted by army tanks rolling down the street with soldiers commandeering them.
Jolted, I asked someone random on the street what was going on and they informed me that a plane had just hit the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
Those we lost live on in us. #September11th
My mind raced. I am native New Yorker and my mother worked on Wall Street, a mere few blocks from the Trade Center. Between catching the PATH train to Jersey sometimes and shopping at Century 21, the World Trade Center was a large part of life growing up in the five boroughs. Instantly, I reached for my cell phone to call my mother and realized that the service was jammed. Only busy signals greeted me, providing no comfort at all and allowing all my worst fears to ferment and prosper viciously within.
I ran to my friend’s apartment at the Towers, the on-campus apartment-styled housing and watched with horror as they replayed the first plane hitting the building. My childhood and adulthood meshed in that moment and my birth city was vulnerable for the first real time in my eyes.
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The thought of how many died sickened me and the reality of it tainted us all. I tried my mother again and still got a busy signal. My friends, who were also from NYC, received the same outcome and we were left wondering if our people were okay.
One of my closest friends told me her mother was in a remote part of Georgia at her family vacation home with no television, no cable, and bad telephone reception. This was one of the first times she had left Brooklyn to retreat back to her roots and my friend needed to go down there and bring her mother back north. She was emphatic and asked me passionately to ride with her. Although, still in shock, I went and we commenced a 9-hour long ride to the Georgia-Florida border to “rescue” her peace of mind regarding her mother’s safety.
She manuevered like a NASCAR driver and found an open road to the highway as all exits out of D.C. were practcally shut down.
On the ride, I finally talked to my father who informed me that my mother had to walk from Wall Street all the way to Harlem after the tragedy. For those uninitiated to NYC bocks, that is well over 100 city streets and avenues covered by the mass exodus of the financial nucleus.
I was relieved and when I finally talked to her when we pit stopped in Atlanta, she told me how if it weren’t for local election day earlier that she might have been underground in the train beneath WTC at that time. Her close friend literally dodged a piece of the building edifice that came down and a host of others had perished.
It was heartbreaking and I cried knowing that my mother was that close to total destruction and death.
We will never forget. #September11th
We careened into the small Georgia border town and my friend’s mother was in the small house safe and sound. She heard about the tragedy via radio and was surprised that we rode all the way down from D.C. to pick her up.
Although my mother was thousands of miles away, I embraced this mother as my own, happy that I could affect just one person’s life positively. Never have I felt so powerless and as I realized more of my friends were affected losing loved ones in the Towers, I wept and prayed for my city.
On the drive back to D.C., we all talked, laughed and enjoyed roadside cuisine happy to be alive and with family, both natural and extended. Driving past the Pentagon when we entered the northern Virginia / DC border was a reminder and eventually, I would visit ground zero and see what remained.
Let us all remember where we were and accept all the agony, pain and defeat we personally felt that day.
9/11 will always be our harsh reminder that a community united in love is our best defense to the uncontrollable, maniacal offenses inflicted upon us all.