I woke up this morning at nearly exactly 8:46, the time flight A11, the first plane, struck Tower One of the World Trade Center three years ago. I had a sick feeling in my stomach, as though my body remembered before my mind did. Outside, it is a perfect early fall day with blue skies and warm temperatures, eerily similar.
Three years ago at 8:46, I was about to get on a train, headed straight for Manhattan and straight into a day I won’t ever forget, even as the ache of it fades and its memory becomes less raw. Even as the day itself has become an abstraction, a tool to be used for political and geopolitical gain.
Some of its images are mine alone, unfiltered by television or commentary: The television on MacDougal Street, with people huddled around it, watching the scene taking place only a mile away downtown, obscured by smoke. The tower collapsing, slowly, in bits, and the glimpse, the horrible glimpse for just a moment of the perfect blue sky there in the place the tower once stood. The men in suits trudging up Broadway, covered in ash, moving like zombies. The plume of brown smoke rising up over the tip of the city like some monstrous hand and index finger, pointing down to the devastation. The thousands fleeing the city on foot over the bridges. The signs of the missing on walls and telephone poles. The flowers at the firehouse I used to walk past each morning. The gap in the skyline, so jarring looking down 8th Avenue.
The smell too, is still immediately accessible to me: an acrid stench of burning tires and smoldering plastic and charred flesh and hair. It lingered for weeks, riding on the crisp autumnal air through the streets of New York. Ill winds.
My daughter’s fourth birthday is tomorrow, so like every year, there is little time for grieving, what with the party preparations and the last-minute gifts to buy. This hastily-written remembrance will have to suffice. I have to keep looking forward, and maybe that’s for the best. I have that luxury. Let us never forget the 3,000 people who do not.