We saw the column of smoke over Manhattan but didn't yet know. We had been out early to go and vote in the primary and were walking to the subway when we saw it. We spoke, kissed and I went down into the subway to catch my train into lower Manhattan for work. I was reading the paper standing up leaning against the doors as the train pulled out of the tunnel and made it's way up and over the Manhattan Bridge and then as the towers came into view almost all at once half the people on the train car cursed. Together just one soft under our breadth curse. The train was suddenly silent. No rustling, no conversation no movement just silence and then the soft sound of a few people crying. It was one of the trains that brought workers to the World Trade Centers and I know the people crying had to have worked in the buildings. By then both buildings had been hit. A man standing near me and listening to a radio said that two small planes had flown into the World Trade Centers. And we all looked at him and then back at the smoking buildings - what?! The train had stopped for a moment on the bridge and we remained silent and watching and then it lurched and we were pulled back into a tunnel this time on the Manhattan side. Coming out of the subway onto Broadway the crowds just stood and stared as the sirens just kept on blaring. Every police car, ambulance and fire engine screaming it's way downtown as the smoke continued to rise.
A few minutes later I stood with two other women and screamed and cried and held each other as first one and then the second building came down.
I was sent to go out and get water and food staples. On the street I saw people praying with their hands together and their eyes closed. I saw an Orthodox Jewish Man standing and swaying mumbling his prayers. I saw a Muslim man stop on the street put down a small mat and bow to say his prayers. We all prayed, silently or out loud, we all prayed. And worried.
We had no idea if those were the last planes or if it was just the beginning. We couldn't get the television reception. The trains had stopped. If you wanted to walk over the bridges home you could but it would and did take many thousands of people hours and hours of walking. I decided to stay in Manhattan. Sometime in the afternoon the phone lines opened up a little bit and I was able to talk to my husband.
A little girl in the very long line at the store told me she went to school near the towers and she had been evacuated. She said she wasn't sure if she was going to go to school tomorrow. Her mother and I looked at each other but we didn't say anything to her.
The next day the fliers started going up. Fliers of missing friends, husbands, daughters, cousins. Always the best photo of the person, smiling, happy, sitting on lawn chairs or at kitchen tables, laughing and always always looking out at you. Every single available space was pasted with these fliers. "If you see ...Please call her Mom." Her Mom. I thought at the time - no...you're supposed to put your name down. Your name. Mary, or Sue or Lisa. Not mom. But of course, what else could she do? Her daughter, who looked so young sitting at the table laughing, her daughter was missing. Maybe she couldn't remember her own name. For weeks I walked to work looking at my feet, unable to look up at all those faces. The fliers stayed up for months after we all knew no one was coming back.
Union Square became an outdoor living memorial space with the fences shrouded with the fliers and people singing, playing music, praying. Buddhist, Christians, Muslims, Hindu's the world, everyone there praying and singing and walking slowly past the fliers.
And what have we done since then? Invaded a country that had nothing to do with these murders (but does have a lot of oil.) We have murdered more than 100,000 people in the name of what? Revenge? Is that who we've become?
And now all these years later, as neglect our own schools, and homeless and sick. As we send so much of our money to go and murder more in my name. In my name. As children are blown apart. Children blown up a dozen or two at a time while we are looking for the one or two terrorists in their midst. Now, we are about to vote to keep in another warrior. A man who thinks that war is the answer. A man gunned down during one illegal war that we started - that if we had not started he wouldn't have been a prisoner - why does no one say that - WE started the Vietnam War. It was OUR fault. The Vietnamese never attached us. And still we are doing it again. In our name. And children are watching us kill their friends and family and they are making vows of revenge.
I am so tired and so sad and so angry.