Mami Moments: Remembering So We Don't Forget

I wore my gray pinstriped dress with matching overcoat.  And black moccasins for some reason.  I never wore that outfit again and packed it up for giveaway shortly thereafter.  It wasn't until I read Meg Cabot's blog yesterday that I realized this. I had a 9 a.m. meeting with IT and was a few minutes early (or perhaps everyone was late).  Fred Smith (not his real name) comes in and asks me if I've heard that a plane hit one of the towers. But he says it in what I take is a joking way. I realize now he was probably thinking what everyone was: nah, it can't be.  I was playing with a pen that had a little race car video game at the top. It was fire engine red.  I walk out of that meeting room knowing others won't be joining us.  Headed towards my desk to call mami.  On the way there, I hear more rumors.  Someone stops and asks me about my brother, if I've been in touch.  I say no. I don't feel nervous.  My brother wouldnt' be by where the towers were. His precinct is in the upper west side.

I call mami. She has the news on.  Back then (I don't know if you can remember this time) there wasn't a lot of news streaming on the internet.  And what could stream wasn't coming up because everyone was doing the same thing I was. Someone was trying to locate a television.

The rest of the day is a blur of sorts.  A small television in Sandy's cube. The towers falling.  The shock.  A few of our colleagues were on a plane out of NYC that day.  Were they in one of them?  One of our co-workers from the New York office was on her way down for a meeting.  Her husband worked at the towers.  Did she know? I remember her coming in to the office in a flurry and someone making space for her, trying to reach her husband.  He hadn't been there that day, getting in late, I believe.

One of my favorite people had relocated to our New York office. She lived in New Jersey and her train would take her beneath the towers.  She wasn't on a train.  I kept trying to remember the last time I was in the towers, by them, around them.  But I couldn't.  What would cause me to commit something so common to New Yorkers to memory?  I was young when I left but that would always be my city.  I don't remember working that day.  I just remember a hollow in the pit of my stomach.

My mother called me later on in the day to tell me that my brother had gone to 1 Police Plaza that day with a buddy.  That he'd been there.  He ran to help when the commotion started.  But, as they were about to enter the building he got separated from his friend and he went to look for him.  The towers fell shortly thereafter.

At night, I became best friends with Peter Jennings.  He will forever have a special place in my heart. I fell in love with him that day.  And when he passed away, I cried for him as I did during those first nights.  I didn't sleep. I would lie awake in my bed listening to Peter.  And when Peter was taken off the air due to exhaustion, I listened to Charlie, or Diane or George. I'd never seen news anchors cry.  Never seen them lose their composure. This was a new day.  I watched coverage day and night. Unable to peel my eyes away.

I heard my brother and sister-in-law, both proud members of the NYPD were working the site.  They did that for months.  Either the site at ground zero or the site in New Jersey where all the evidence was taken.  They survived but those memories still haunt them today.  My brother still wakes up to nightmares of finding body parts.  It could've been them.  I know in my heart that a part of them stayed with the rubble at ground zero.  I see it.  They are forever changed in ways that people cannot understand.  I hear people comment that it's been so long, that they should be over it.  Haven't they talked to someone? Yes, they have.  And no they shouldn't be.

September 11th is something I struggle with understanding, naming, explaining.  For someone who was there, I can't imagine how they feel and could never even try to relate.  I give them their space.  Listen when they feel like talking about it.  Because they have something to say.  Someone to remember.  Someone to honor.

My dad insisted we fly to New York that Christmas.  He said it was the patriotic thing to do.  Even though he and my sister were profiled at the airport and searched to the side of the gate.  When we got there, we heard story after story of heroism, of compassion, of love.  For other humans and for the city.

I stayed up to listen.  Wishing I could take some of the pain away but knowing that as bad as I felt it didn't compare to what those that were there felt.

Today, I write for them.  And for all those left behind with the guilt of still being here.  Not understanding why.  Feeling an inexplicable obligation to carry on the memories.  I write for the families that lost someone but also for the families who never got the person back even after they walked out of midtown.  I wish to remember those that were lost.  The stories are countless.  I see faces of people whose names I will never remember.  All of those shown in those first few weeks.  All those lost.  The chaplains, the firefighters, the moms, the dads, the sons and daughters.

They will be forever remembered as long as we choose not to forget.  It is painful and it is difficult but we must do it.  And we must remember that solidarity that we felt on September 12th.  I pray that we get that back without having to experience something like that again.

Mami has a glass house. In it you can see glass, mortar, a menu.  All from the towers.  Little things that were picked up in a daze but that later felt like such treasures.  How could I still read a menu when so many people jumped from the very floors where the restaurant was at?  It was her silent tribute to those lost on that day.  This morning, I almost panicked when I couldn't find it in its usual spot.  I think my dad moved it to a safer spot.  I took it out and looked at it, touched it, remembered.  When the frog princess is old enough we will talk about that day.  I will sit her in my lap where she feels safe and I will tell her about the day when I didn't know if safety would ever touch my life again.  I will pull out the books that were printed in remembrance of those lost so she can put faces to the story.  And I will point to her uncle and hope that he will be able to share his account of that day.  So that she can pass it on and others could hold the memory of the day we felt our most vulnerable and the time we felt our most together.