Memories of an Upstate New York Suburbanite on 9/11

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I was brushing butter on toasted bread. Two teenagers jockeyed upstairs for first dibs on the use of the bathroom, and our toddler picked at her Cheerios scattered across the table before her. My husband gulped down a cup of lukewarm coffee. I was busy trying not to mess up my work clothes. After all, with a family of five, the clothes budget was tight. The television was blaring the Today show in the rec room.

“Beautiful day”, my husband bellowed from the room. It was cool and sunny outside, an early autumn morning. I looked across the open area between kitchen and TV and agreed. On the screen, Kati Couric was on the sidewalk of New York City, smiling broadly. I excused her cuteness. After all, NYC needed a little upbeat chatter from an adorable lady.

“What the…”, my husband yelled.

I ran to join him. On the television screen was the sight of one of the twin towers on fire. My heart raced. Kati Couric stammered into her microphone. Suddenly a plane slammed into the second tower, rendering Kati speechless. So was I. What was this? Perhaps the traffic controllers had made a horrendous mistake and sent hundreds to a fiery death?

I tried to listen to the newscasters attempting to make sense out of it all. Chatter turned into dead air as all those whose job was to relate the news suddenly had nothing to say. So it was at our house. The teenagers no longer argued, my husband and I abandoned any work plans, and the day became increasingly confusing and unfathomable. We sat in front of the television, now our source of understanding and watched people plunge to their deaths attempting to escape their prison of fire in the towers. People scrambled along the streets in a billow of smoke. Good men and women, trained for emergency plunged bravely into hell. Some saved others, many could not save themselves. That night, those who had been spared death crawled across the city toward their homes and their loved ones. I could not help but wonder what they were feeling. Our neighbors banded together. When it became apparent that the disaster was committed by mid-eastern terrorists, one of our neighbors, a Lebanese family, quickly found an American flag and hung it on their lawn. They were anxious for others to know where their allegiance lay.

Although our town was located six hours north from NYC, the grief and shock of what had happened hung over us as if a relative had died. Indeed they were, and still are, our family. That night I looked at my own family and mentally gathered them close. There was a threat out there to all of us, and I knew as did we all, that the America that we had known and taken for granted my whole life had been taken from us. We would never be the same.

We revisit this tragedy every year, still thunderstruck by the enormity of our losses, and dumbfounded that we as Americans, so eager and innocently quick to help others, would be so hated. We lost our innocence.

Patti Emanuele | News Cult