I wasn’t in New York on 9/11. I had never been to New York on 9/11. I was in my 9th grade World History class in Bloomfield Hills, MI. My teacher refused to turn on the TV, claiming that we had all become desensitized to violence through movies and the media in general. It’s ironic, really, that my history teacher couldn’t recognize the significance of that moment.
As I made my way to my next class, band, the reality hadn’t yet sunk in. I hadn’t seen the footage on TV and was blissfully unaware of the way the world had changed in those few hours. We didn’t get out to the football field that day for marching practice.
In the afternoon I had Spanish with my favorite teacher. She had lost her younger son a few years earlier in a car accident. Her older son lived in New York and worked in the financial district. We sat quietly at our desks while she talked on the phone. Her son was OK. She hadn’t lost everything.
Eight years later I moved to New York. My story isn’t significant, and I barely feel part of the city that went through 9/11. It’s different now, forever changing. “That’s New York City,” you could say, and it wouldn’t be a cliche.
I stood out on my fire escape this evening. From out there you can see an OK view of the lower Manhattan skyline. It’s distant and slightly obscured by the low-rise apartments and warehouses of Gowanus, but the beams of the Tribute in Light shoot past the tops of the buildings. They do not end. Around them, the landscape has changed. What was once rubble is now fountains and construction. “This is New York City,” they’re saying to me. “Forever changing. Forever the same.”