Silent Unity


I believe anyone who was born in the 90s or earlier will have a memory of exactly where they were and what they were doing when they learned a plane had just hit the North Tower of the World Trade Center, just as those of earlier generations will remember other such landmark events like Kennedy’s assassination or the moon landing. At 8:50 am on September 11, 2001, I was a freshman in high school, sitting in my speech and debate class and our teacher had just begun the lesson for the day. Noticing the teacher from across the hall had silently entered and was standing by the door, he gave him the nod of acknowledgment, to which he quietly said “A plane has just hit the twin towers”. My teacher stopped his lecture immediately and briskly walked over to the old CRT TV on the rolling cart so many of us remember from those days, saying as he did so “This can wait, THIS is huge”. As soon as he powered on that TV it was the first thing we all saw; the smoldering building. It was on every channel and every TV in every classroom for the rest of the day.

For me, it wasn’t just about where I was at that moment, but remembering where I had been exactly one month prior. Many don’t know this, but I was born and raised on the East Coast, in Brooklyn to be precise. When my family decided to move out of New York we decided to see all of the things one never does when you live someplace, the World Trade Center being among those. So, as my summer vacation was winding down, we hopped the subway into the city to say goodbye. With friends and family all over the city, my father always had connections to skip lines, see sights and attractions and meet people. Getting to the observation deck on the 107th floor of the North Tower that day was no different. I vividly remember my father pointing and making a comment about how planes were flying lower than us. We have very few photos of that day, as camera phones did not yet exist and even digital cameras were still a new technology. Most of the film we did have was regretfully lost when my camera was stolen that freshman year.

There is a lot of speculation as to why the terrorists chose that particular day for their attack. Many believe it was simply the symbolism of the numbers themselves in relation to the US emergency call number, or its historical significance to Islam as the day the King of Poland pushed back the advance of Muslim armies in 1683. Whatever the reason, in those hours I spent watching the towers inevitably fall, the thought that I could have been there loomed over me. Those thoughts later became I SHOULD have been there, that I should have been in the place I had once considered home to somehow help. I spent endless hours crying that day and attempting to make calls on school phones, trying to reach family and friends I knew were near ground zero. Luckily no one I knew had been lost or injured. My stepfather had been at ground zero that day and continued to volunteer his services in the following days. As soon as the airports reopened, my father was on the first flight he could catch to New York. I wish I had gone with him.

Seeing it in history books today gives me mixed feelings, and watching documentaries and movies about that day is still hard for me. Every year on September 11th I attempt to abstain from social media, as it didn’t exist in today’s common handheld form of communication back then. Instead, that was the day many of us remember as the day the world stood still. While it did feel like a terrible sci-fi movie looking back, we didn’t remember it as such because extraterrestrials visited, but rather because it was a day everyone, everywhere in the world, stopped what they were doing and watched. It was something we all did in silent unity.