One of the first things people ask you when you tell them you’re from New York is: “Where were you on September 11th?” On that morning, I was in Mr. Marcotullio’s class – World History, I believe – when the principal stuck her head in and muttered something. I heard “airplane” and “crash” and assumed that someone’s business-y parent had been on a red-eye from Chicago and the plane had gone down. The weekend before I had been working at the U.S. Open in Queens dressed all in white and juggling on top of a rolling globe painted to look like a tennis ball. My hair was cut short and I’d just entered tenth grade.
When they dismissed us before lunch, we realized it was something more than a single death, and rushed to our respective houses where the news was on broadcasting. We were all helpless, obviously, and I maintain that unless you were there, unless you had debris fall in your path and were part of the tragic pandemonium, you (and thus I) were just as foreign to the situation as people in Mexico or France. This is what I say when they ask me.
Obviously, though, it’s not quite the same. Living in a town that ends in “on-Hudson” means that the skyline from our waterfront was a direct view to downtown Manhattan: the GWB stretching from the Palisades to the invisible Washington Heights with all the enormous buildings poking upward, 2-dimensional, in the background. The Twin Towers, previously center stage, were reduced to smoke that lingered for weeks, endlessly smouldering, tarnishing everything. Years after, when I worked on that waterfront, it was impossible to look towards the city into the summer sunsets without remembering that morning.
It’s been ten years since planes crashed into the Twin Towers September 11th. And as someone who didn’t know anyone physically involved in the attacks, I don’t know that I can say that being from New York means I was affected any more than anyone else. But we’re constantly affected by the aftermath: The airport security, the pointless regulations, the mall-ification of what used to be the most cutting-edge, avant garde city in the world, the prevalence of border-line psychotic patriotism that mocks everyone for whom the United states was a place where you could retain your original culture while creating a new one. There is nothing American about shrieking “GOD BLESS AMERICA” over and over next to posters with pro-life pictures or X’s over Osama Bin Laden’s face, nor about strengthening border control, deporting halves of families.
What I’m thinking today ten years after September 11th, 2001 is: How did ten years go by so quickly? I remember one time in the Metro North between 125th and GCT something electric exploded in the tunnel. I remember being on a flight from Barcelona to New York and having a dream that the plane was crashing into the water, accepting that I was going to have to jump into the waves, and waking up with a mild heart attack. I remember sitting up at ten in the morning one spring day a night of hardcore stupidity, checking my pulse and googling “OD.” Every time I get in a car in Mexico I’m certain it’ll crash. Having a tragedy like that happen on streets that you know and love makes you realize that death is imminent, that time flies whether we’re having fun or not.
My generation is a rootless one, a confused and border-line fucked up one. We’ve got no jobs and no security. We grew up with a president who robbed an election, common in most countries.
But is it all bad? I’m rootless so I travel. I’ve never voted and I don’t care to. I’m scared of dying so I live. With a fervor. Because the next ten years will go by just as quickly, laced with political uprisings, narcoterrorism, and natural disasters. I could go at any second. So I drink coffee. I say what I wanna say. I wear sparkly pants. I love.