Nine years ago today I laid out my party clothes on my bed before I went to the office. September 11 was the date of our annual client gala at Tavern on the Green and my plan was to stop home and change before the event. I had just returned from a week hiking in Utah to a promotion as Director of Sales for NY1 News. Life felt pretty grand. It was one of those brilliant sunshine filled Fall mornings that makes a New Yorker fall in love with their city all over again.
I never anticipated that later that day I would be walking up 6th Avenue amidst a sea of strangers with three of my coworkers in tow. From our offices on 19th Street you used to be able to look downtown and see the Twin Towers. That day, each time I turned around all that was visible behind the throngs of frightened New Yorkers was a thick, dark cloud of smoke that looked like it was trying to find a way to swallow the whole city. One of my crew made us stop inside the Catholic church on 23rd Street. That was the first time the numbness of what was happening wore off of me and I broke into tears.
When I think back every moment of that day becomes real again. But most days it seems like an awful horror movie that could not possibly be true.
The days after now seem just as unreal. That feeling of solidarity in this city and country strengthened by our collective grief. We all felt it, what America is supposed to be about, freedom and our right to own it and protect it. No matter what. We would go on and we would be stronger for it.
I even remember liking George W. Bush for a brief moment. In one grief stricken, vodka induced so I could sleep through the night period, I thought maybe he was going to really prove to us all that there was something more to him than he was intent on presenting.
But that passed quickly, as did the feeling of a united America. Nine years later what should have made us stronger seems to have pulled us further apart. A new order in the world has been used as a way to stronghold politics and to gather following based on fear instead of strength and faith.
And for what seems like so many reasons, this year I am thinking about it more than most. I suppose it was that pastor in the South that has gotten way more press than he deserves. One misdirected man in search for his ten minutes of fame is now the symbol for everything that is wrong with America. Perceived intolerance, irrational behavior and a media that fuels it all.
But I, as you all know, am the girl with the glass eternally half full. I am hoping that on this day, nine years later, that maybe the gift of one man’s irrational behavior and the inappropriate attention the media and our viral world has put on him will at the very least cause all of us to take pause today and start to regain our senses.
This is not a country formed by holding on to anger and fear but just the opposite. One based on freedom from tyranny and the gift to practice your faith to whomever you call your God however you choose.
The idea that the rest of the world might judge us all as we do that Pastor seems unfair and untrue. Yet there are those still so angry and fearful about this day nine years ago that they want to judge every person who is of the Muslim faith to be a terrorist. And in doing so seem to have created their own brand of terrorism.
So today I pause and I remember. I will allow myself to feel again the horror of that day. It is something none of us should forget. I am also going to remember that the picture the media creates for us is a version of the world we are living in. It is designed too often more to draw attention for ratings and revenue than a true interest in good journalism. I will remember that I am not alone in my sanity. That there are others like me. But because I and they are not burning anything on the balcony today, the media cameras will not be focused on us.