9-11 memories marked by survivors
Seven months later, I finally visited the site.
Maybe it was because everyone I knew had already seen it, or maybe it was because I had a guest in town who really wanted to see the former site of the World Trade Center.
Or maybe I finally admitted to myself that I was curious, that I would join the others who stood in line to get tickets to see the site of the Sept. 11 destruction.
But I finally gave in and took the number six train downtown. It took me a while to get my bearings and figure out which way to walk, and I led my guest in the wrong direction a couple of times before finally finding it.
Without mountains or other geographical markers, New Yorkers use buildings as their compass.
Where I lived in Greenwich Village, north was the Empire State Building and south was the World Trade Center.
Despite having lived there for four years, without the twin towers I sometimes felt lost among the avenues and alleys that make up New York City.
It was nothing. All that was left was an empty space – a common construction site.
After months of obsessively reading the New York Times, attending candle-light vigils and exiting my apartment building only to find masses of people at numerous makeshift monuments to the lives lost, I didn’t feel like I had missed any of the action by avoiding Ground Zero.
My life had been saturated in the confusing events and conflicting viewpoints surrounding the terrorist attacks.
One year later, few things have been clarified. My images of the events are still disjointed.
Television news images have been mixed with my own first-hand experiences.
I still see the interpretations of the attacks by 8-year-old children lining hospital walls and park fences. I still see masses of burning candles, piles of flowers and poster upon poster of “missing persons.”
I remember walking through Washington Square Park, the center of campus, after realizing that the first tower had collapsed, and then hearing screams and seeing people running.
The second tower had collapsed.
Despite my foggy political beliefs and sometimes-fuzzy version of Sept. 11, one thing has been clarified a year later: As an American accustomed to the comforts of being an American, I have begun to understand the paranoia and feelings of uncertainty that the majority of the world’s population lives with everyday.
And as a history student, I saw what I already believed – that to truly understand an event of this magnitude, the past must be studied and time must be allowed for the excitement and confusion of the present moment to lift before true analysis can be made.
Maybe my perception of the events is skewed by having been there, and having lived the everyday experience of seeing neighbors wearing gas masks and old ladies wearing surgical masks and rubber gloves to the post office.
Although many people visited ground zero to understand the events of Sept. 11, I didn’t have any expectations when I visited the site.
The real story lay with those who survived it and those who continue to live, work and play in the city that never sleeps.
Christina Nelson is a reporter at the Sierra Sun. During September last year, she lived in New York City where she was a student at New York University.
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