Ten years later

I don’t want to watch the 9/11 tributes that are filling the airwaves this week to the exclusion of all else. I don’t want to read the New York Magazine cover story, I don’t want to change my Facebook status in honor of the fallen, I don’t want to look at the commemorative pens my office is handing out with a donation to the 9/11 fund and I didn’t want to put my thoughts on video about it.

I just want it to be September 12th.

I tear up a lot less on September 12th.

Maybe it all sounds a little harsh. But I’m sure I speak for other New Yorkers who were here ten years ago, I don’t need to relive the day over and over with news footage and new, never before seen video tape!  to remember it.

I remember 9/11 just fine, thank you.

Five years ago, I wrote: I’ve had five years to get used to it and I’m still not used to it. I don’t know if I ever will be.

And now here I am, five years beyond that, thinking the same thing.

You’d think I’d feel a little more at peace with it. Better about that gaping void in the downtown skyline, or the yellowed tribute photos that still hang on that fence near my old apartment in the West Village. But I still get a pit in my stomach at the mere mention. I still get nauseous thinking about my birthday plans, and  whether it continues to be too creepy to celebrate anything that day.

I still think about that distinct prophecy I had ten years ago, that things would never be the same again. In some ways they are. That’s the one good thing. But in other ways, they’re not. Because every time I walk through the airport metal detectors barefoot;  sign into an office building just to pop up for a dentist appointment;  scold myself for not always, always having a full charge on my cell phone or cash under the mattress, it’s a reminder that things have changed.  Every time I drive past that wretched construction site just south of Chambers street, it’s a reminder that things have changed.

I’ve had ten years to get used to it and I’m still not used to it.

I’ll check back in with you in five more years and we’ll see how that’s going.



62 thoughts on “Ten years later”

  1. I still cry, but I also grow angrier each year. I’m not entirely sure why – mostly because it hurts to think about it too much to analyze my feelings.

    (Still wishing I could be there for your birthday. Hopefully for my birthday, and we’ll celebrate both then.)

    1. We cannot forget, but it’s so very painful to remember. I was thinking today about how dishearteningly divided our country has become, how tough times have been and continue to be for so many. I just want to curl up into a ball and hide under the covers.

      But I’d totally come out to celebrate your birthday on the 12th.

      Wishing you a weekend free of all types of media and much time with your family. Happy birthday.

  2. It was supposed to be a perfect day, we were supposed to start a new life. Neither of us died, but my faith in safety and justice were destroyed. I long to get to the 12th, but somehow even when it comes, it only dulls the still-raw wounds.

  3. I’m not prepared to be told how to remember 9/11, which is what I see happening in the news media.

    Like you, I remember it all too clearly, and nothing has ever really been the same since.

  4. totally agree. i wasn’t even here in NYC at the time and yet, over the last few days, I just can’t go there.

  5. I had just moved to DC three months before so everything was new and yet I’ve never looked at the city the same since walking through it with them masses that day or walking past military vehicles in the street in the days after. My vision of the city and of our country shifted even though some things have settled, I concur so much with your flash points when we remember that so many things never will.

  6. Today is Barrie’s birthday, she’s 48, and we’ve been talking about this. Imagine, Dale and I are flying to Berlin tomorrow night and landing on 9/11. We have never been in Germany. I’ve never gotten over that and it’s 70 years. We will surely never get over 9/11/01……..at least not those of us who were in Manhattan that day. For me, that day and the day JFK was killed are seared into my soul. The movie is in my brain.

  7. It’s my husbands birthday as well. We also struggle with celebrating on that day.

    Happy Birthday


  8. I live a long ways from NYC, so I only know how it feels to witness this tragedy from TV. My neighbors were not affected. I did not know anyone who died. I can’t even IMAGINE how that feels for New Yorkers. I pray for everyone on this day for strength. One thing I do feel however is that I don’t want the footage to stop. I want my children to see it. I want them to see what happened to our country that day. I don’t want the memory to die with our generation. I know that I have no feelings about Pearl Harbor really and I don’t want my children to say the same someday of 9/11. That is such a hard thing to balance- sensitivity and yet remembering.

    1. I feel the same way, Lenette. I’m not even an American – I am a Canadian, and I am proud of the way my fellow country-folk reached out to the stranded passengers in need. I am proud of the missions our Canadian Forces have launched since them. I don’t know anyone who died, I know people who know people who lost their lives, and I have friends who live and have lived in NYC, but most importantly, I don’t want my children to forget. I’ve chosen this year to tell my children about it – they are only 6 and 9 YO, and weren’t even born yet when 9/11 happened. But they know about it. And this year, I will teach them about it, it’s impact on our history, and what it means to us.

      1. I’ll just say that me not wanting to think about it right now is not the same as wanting my children to never know.

        1. I understand. I did not ever mean to seem insensitive. I have just been thinking about this since I now have children. I can’t hear or watch anything about it during anytime of the year without choking up. I do understand that many people will never ever forget. I know that people who experienced it firsthand feel different than those of us who did not. It was the day that our world changed. I just want my kids to learn why the world changed. You have prayers from a family in Arkansas and I do hope that you are able to enjoy your birthday.

  9. I live in California, and I’m really tired of all of the coverage everywhere I turn. It’s not that I want everyone to forget (as if we could). It’s just so exhausting and draining to have it all in my face all of the time. From 3,000 miles away, I was scarred forever, and no, I’ll never be the same. I’ve been wondering how those of you in NYC were feeling…if you feel that it’s important to keep this day in the front of people’s minds, so that we will never forget, as Lenette mentioned.

    I hope you have a peaceful birthday, Liz. Maybe you should start celebrating your 1/2 birthday instead? You could have a party in February or March, and people would be happy to have something to celebrate during those dark months, and maybe it wouldn’t feel so weighted down by sadness.

  10. I wasn’t even in NYC and I’m still not over it, either. I think of things as before and after – before 9/11, and after. (The only other time I think of things as before and after is before kids/after kids.) Both those events – 9/11, becoming a mom – changed MY life, my view on life, and my future.
    Speaking of 9/11, now. I remember the day so vividly, right down to what I was wearing, who I was with, what I was eating, and how I felt. It was hands down the scariest day ever. And it did change the world, and I can’t imagine being in NYC. I understand how you just want the day to come and go as quickly as possible. I am still in shock, every time I see the images or videos from that day. It doesn’t seem real, still. I still don’t get how that happened. And even last night, I cried fresh tears watching, and thinkin about everyone who lost a loved one. The fear, the horror, it’s too much, really. My children are too young to fully understand, but we do tell them about that day the best we can when they ask. And when my youngest is asked to take off his shoes at the airport, or has his rubber ball that is filled with water and sprinkles taken away from him at customs, it’s another reminder of how his life has been changed because of that day.

  11. I already feel anxious and overwhelmed and we’re still days away from the anniversary. I can’t watch much TV or listen to the radio, because hearing about it over and over again is traumatic.

    And I don’t live in NY.

    I hope you have a great September 11th, uneventful in every way except for a wonderful birthday celebration.

  12. I don’t live in NYC and can’t even begin to grasp how that day must weigh so heavily–like a bad memory you can’t outrun. I have turned off the news coverage at every moment–it is still to fresh and it isn’t something that we have forgotten.

    Hope you are able to enjoy your birthday.

  13. Your dad, is awesome.

    I hate being told how to remember something, especially something so personal. The one person I knew who was killed had a favorite word, so on that day I’ll use his favorite word a time or two, and wish you a happy birthday. I will not do what anyone tells me to do, because that is my definition of losing.

  14. I think that if people feel drained and emotional about all the news coverage, it’s good. I often remember something one of my college professors told me, “Every once in a while, take on the pain of the world.” The pain of those who lost loved ones, and those who lost dads and husbands and sons and daughters fighting after 9/11.
    I think because you can see, maybe on a daily basis, the actual hole that used to be the Towers, that makes is more of a daily reminder for you, than those of us who don’t seen the reminders all the time. So I can see the frustration in wanting it to be over…but there are people out there who need to be reminded. They need to remember.

  15. I am with you. And I don’t live in NYC, and I was not even in the country when it happened. Which in some ways makes it even weirder to remember. My husband has been watching a lot of documentaries on it, and it just makes me sad, sad, sad. I won’t turn away from it, but I can’t wallow in it either, if that makes sense. 10 years later, and, I for one, am still trying to wrap my head around it. *big hugs*

  16. i can respect what you’re saying and nod with you. i can even mildly grasp your reasoning, being someone who is not from nyc. while the memorials and tributes and magazine covers have certainly been overwhelming this week, i have found comfort in knowing it’s on the minds of so many. at the same time, i can see how you are ready for it to be sept. 12, and i wish you a happy birthday.

  17. I can only imagine what it’s like for you and your fellow NYCers or anyone so closely effected by the tragic events of that day. I hope September 12th comes soon for you.

  18. I read two people’s posts every year about this day. One is Elisa’s series from being stuck in the city on business unexpectedly when everything fell apart, and one is yours, about your birthday.

    Not that I need to co-sign anyone’s experience (because that’s where we run into trouble, usually, is thinking we have to do that) but I think you can feel however you very well please about it. You walk directly in and around the fire, in your neighborhood? It’s your call.

    We don’t have to actively try to remember or watch or recount to be unable to forget.

    Happy birthday, my friend.

  19. I often wonder how difficult it must be for those who lost loved ones on 9/11 to hear/see all of these reminders. It’s not as if they don’t live with it every day. My 11 year old daughter has a school friend who lost his Dad on 9/11. He HATES all of this. Doesn’t come to school on 9/11 because he doesn’t want to hear about it. It’s important to not forget, but it seems like it might be too much. I don’t know the answer.

  20. Nothing much to say – except I agree wholeheartedly. My parents were still living in NY at the time and thinking about it brings back my fears for them. Thanks for saying what I’ve been thinking 🙂

  21. Every year I scour the photos, remember the loss and battle the guilt. That day I turned away from the images feeling it a gross fascination to watch people burn to death, or jump out of desperation. The day after I thought, no, I should have linked my spirit with theirs and endured their suffering too. I was 21, far from home and waiting to hear news of a cousin, who got up for work late that day. That day messed with my heart.

    Yesterday I had a thought, “This is the most perfect September day.” and immediately felt a chill travel my spine. That day still messes with me.

    1. It’s funny Babs, whenever there’s a perfect, clear September day in New York, we all say “it’s a 9/11 day.’

      1. In San Francisco, such days are known as “Earthquake Weather”, because of the beautiful weather on Oct 17, 1989. As if Earthquakes or Terrorism only happen on such gorgeous days.

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  23. 9/11 is my sister and cousins birthday as well. Granted we are from Chicago so there isn’t as large of an impact on the birthday activites as yours, but they get the same reaction every time we go to a bar or out to dinner. ” oh no that is a crazy birthday to have! Do you remember what you were doing?” everyone remembers what they were doing, birthday or not. It was my sisters 21st birthday and we went out to dinner as a family instead of her going out with friends because my dad was scared to let her anywhere near the Sears Tower. Yes the date is tainted forever, but you have an amazing blog, 2 gorgeous little girls and a wonderful husband. You make me laugh everyday on Twitter or reading your blog so you deserve to celebrate you. It won’t tarnish the memory of the ones we lost. It won’t change people’s opinions of you. Let your loved ones celebrate you. As a mom I know, it doesn’t happen as often ad it should. Happy Birthday.

  24. Thank you for this post. I was starting to feel very out of place in not wanting to watch or participate in any of the 9/11 tributes. I was not in NY, but I was very pregnant with my first child, and had to watch my husband don his Army uniform and head out with a bunch of soldiers to the local reserve center. I cried alone at home all day. It’s not out of any disrespect that I don’t want to think about it, there is just only so much sorrow one can take and still function, and I need to do that on my own schedule.

    I hope you have a very happy birthday.

  25. My husband was 15 on 12/7/1941. He never forgot where he was (home in the living room), what he was doing (listening to a show on the radio) and how he felt (extremely patriotic and filled with sorrow and anger). He was too young to enlist; as soon as he was old enough (17) he took (and failed) the physical. So an uncle got him in some kind of union down at the docks in NY which enabled him to join the Merchant Marine. On 9/11/01 he told me that this would be my Pearl Harbor.

  26. I’m the kind of person that appreciates ceremony and remembrances, and yet I don’t want to watch all this either.

    I’m grateful that it is no longer being used for poltical gain in the way that it once was, but like Julie above, I find myself angrier than I’d like to be about where we have come to from there.

  27. Touched by your writing here, Liz. Thank you for creating a space in which to sit with it, to be still for a few minutes.

  28. I an not going to watch any traditional news media remembrances or coverage today. I absolutely cannot bear it. I am reading some of the posts people are leaving over on BlogHer. But eventually I will stop doing that too. I’ve re-posted my own story from my experience being in NYC that week. And I read my own story over again…marveling at the details that are etched indelibly in my mind…and the ones that I had forgotten in the internal re-telling.

    Each story I read is so compelling. And so painful. I felt so isolated on that day, but in a way we were all together. That somehow give me hope, even as each story make me cry.

  29. I didn’t know 9/11 was your birthday Liz. My daughter shares your day. I’m planning to celebrate hers. I hope that by doing that I’m also honoring those who were lost 10 years ago, just in a different way other than crying. Maybe I’m wrong, but I really want to embrace hope today.

      1. Thanks, and Happy Birthday to you too! It’s still weird when people ask me if I remember what I was doing on 9/11, not knowing when my birthday is.

  30. I’m throwing away the NY Times special section today without even looking at it, I still tear up when anyone says “Cantor Fitzgerald.”

    Happy birthday, Liz! Lots of love to you.

  31. I feel the same way. On the one hand, I still remember the horror and don’t want to negate it, but on the other, the best thing we can do is go on living. So today we had a sleepover, birthday party, went to the zoo, and while I knew what day it was I avoided much of the media coverage myself. Because – esp. New Yorkers – we don’t need it to remember.

  32. Liz, I hope you had a good birthday and that by the time you see this it will be September 12th. Thank you for sharing your writing with all of us, especially when it is hard for you to think about that day at all.

  33. I don’t think you’ll ever get used to it, and I don’t think any of us should. When a glass breaks you don’t leave the pieces on the floor and keep walking on them and say “I’ll just get used to it.” When the world breaks we can’t do that either.

    Even though I feel terrible that this anniversary falls on your birthday, it does make the day better for me to be reminded every year that wonderful things happened on that date, too.

  34. First off, happy birthday. I now will think of you on September 11th as a spark of joy on that day and rememinder that life not only goes on–it goes on to amazing, beautiful things.

    I’ve had a hard week leading up to it, just thinking about it. And I felt the exact same way when I thought about all of the facebook updates, the TV shows and everything.

    BTW, you should read Amanda Soule’s piece on 9/11. http://www.soulemama.com

    xo, Liz!

  35. I can hardly believe that it is already ten years now and I can’t foget all the happenings during the time of attack. I can’t get over with it because it’s so very painful to remember. Many lives were changed because it’s not easy to loss people who are very important to you but only the treasured memories of them makes us to move on and to continue life.

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