Ten years is a long time ago, except when it isn’t.
My friend Mark took this picture last night.
We were standing on the Brooklyn Promenade, along with Jared and Rich, staring straight across to lower Manhattan, where the Towers were until they weren’t.
We were quiet, each of us still and lost in our own thoughts.
I was out of the country most of the year that followed, only it wasn’t clear in the immediate aftermath that I’d be able to make it out at all.
And, I was thinking then about how in the days after, I didn’t leave my house, since I had nowhere to go. How, when I finally did, I would see fighter jets streaking across the sky, above the highways. Of how, that day, when I heard commercial planes, the same ones that I was scheduled to be flying three days later, had hit the buildings, I had broken out into hives.
And, then a second time, when my neighbor had yelled across the street “Turn on the news. The Towers just fell,” just as I pulled into my driveway.
All the while, I kept thinking So, this is what they mean when they say surreal; my mantra of misunderstanding.
For awhile it seemed everyone knew someone who knew someone who had lost someone, and, that was if you were lucky enough to be a few steps removed.
I was thinking, too about how my mother had called me in London, when I finally made it out of New York, to tell me that she had gone back to the office supply store by our house and learned that the wife of the manager, who had worked in the World Trade Center, had made it out okay. A small ray of hope among so much senseless tragedy.
That year, I’d see news report after news report of anthrax scares and other suspicious terrorist acts. During my travels, I would get stuck in a cafe in Nice for hours in order to avoid an anti-American protest.
The world seemed more frightening by the moment.
Except that each time I told someone in England I was from suburban New York, their immediate reaction was concern for my family and friends.
The owner of the restaurant where we ate last night told us about how they had kept their doors open, giving glass after glass of water to anyone walking by, so many having walked home across the Brooklyn Bridge.
Last night, the air was heavy with rain that seemed on the cusp of falling, and with so much fog, making the beacons of light fan out and seem otherworldly. In some ways they were.
I watched this clip from The Daily Show when I got home and realized that Jon Stewart was right. From the promenade, I could see the Statue of Liberty in the distance.
And, as we made our way back into Manhattan, the new Freedom Tower shone brightly, illuminating the night.