Twelve years ago, I was a college student living just 8 blocks from what would be known as Ground Zero. I remember the morning of September 11th like it was yesterday... the clear, sunny, blue skies were so pretty that morning. I had a 9:30 am Psychology class, which meant I had to leave my dorm by 9 am to make it to class on time. When Flight 11 hit the North Tower, I was probably brushing my teeth or putting my shoes on, preparing for an ordinary school day. I remember getting into the elevator of my dorm building, totally unaware of what had begun to transpire, when the building manager informed me that a plane has just crashed into the World Trade Center. I was stunned, but assumed it was simply a terrible freak accident. Although plane crashes are incredibly uncommon, that was honestly the only possibility that even crossed through my mind. I was so very oblivious.
I exited my dorm building, and began walking up Fulton Street toward the World Trade Center to the subway, when I saw Flight 175 crash. Still oblivious to the cause being terrorism, I naively figured the smoke from the first crash caused the pilot of the second plane to crash. While office papers were flying through the air, I decided to hail a cab instead of taking the subway because I thought it would be quicker. I forget now exactly how much money I had on me, but it wasn't enough to get to campus, so I walked the rest of the way to class after the cab fare reached my limit. Needless to say, I was late to my 9:30 am class, but when I arrived the class was carrying on as usual. I took my seat and opened my books, and that's when the South Tower collapsed. We heard a loud boom, which from the classroom sounded perhaps like a construction accident or explosion, so a bunch of us ran out to the street to see what happened. That's when we saw the huge plume of smoke and although it was nearly impossible to comprehend or believe, we all were suddenly aware of what had transpired.
The professor immediately dismissed the class and we left the building. But where to go? Going back to my dorm was obviously out of the question. Luckily, I had a good friend in class that invited me back to her dorm room on Washington Square Park. By 10:30, the second tower had collapsed and people were seriously panicking. I wanted to call my mom, to let her know I was okay and for advice on what to do, but the cell phone service was completely useless and the land lines were not much better -- they were so jammed up that although the lines were up and running it was impossible to get through to anyone. I tried and tried again to reach my mom's office for what seemed like hours. I finally got through to tell her I was okay, but that public transportation was down so there was no way for me to get out of the city and back home for the time being. Luckily, my Psych friend's boyfriend had an apartment uptown with room enough for both of us to stay until I could get out of the city and home.
My dorm building was evacuated for a full week, and I was relocated to an alternate dorm room near Union Square. When the downtown area finally re-opened, I was too afraid to go back for my stuff let alone move back. I left all my belongings, abandoned, in my dorm room for almost a full month until I received a notice from campus housing that someone else would be moving into my room if I no longer wanted it. A friend volunteered to go with me to collect my belongings, so I finally sucked it up and went back down. It was eerie being back down there, and I packed my things up and high-tailed it back uptown as quickly as possible. I didn't even think twice about trading in the private bedroom I had with my own bathroom in a 2 bedroom unit I shared in a modern luxury high-rise doorman building across from South Street Seaport. I felt much more comfortable moving to an older dorm building near Union Square; though I had to share a bedroom there with 1 other girl and a bathroom with 3 other girls it was a no brainer. I just couldn't go back downtown.
Many people experienced and suffered from that horrific attack in far worse ways than I. Evacuation, displacement and temporary lack of communication pales in comparison to the horror of losing a life or a loved one. I cannot even imagine how those people collected what remained of their life and tried to move on. Twelve years later, the sight of the World Trade Center still stirs these memories inside of me. Occasionally, the sound of a passing siren will jolt me back to the fear I felt on that sunny day in 2001. The smell of the air as the towers burned, the look of horror and panic on people's faces, the falling debris, the people I saw walking the streets with injuries and covered with debris dust as I walked from Water Street to East 41st Street are visions I will never truly forget. I honestly have no idea how the real victims' spouses and children or the first responders who witnessed the destruction up close get past those painful memories and keep moving forward. Yet, they do. As the World Trade Center has been rebuilt little by little over the past 12 years, they have tried to rebuild their families' lives. Each one of them is far stronger and braver then I could ever hope to be.
September 11th is a day to remember, serve and honor. In order to show our undying appreciation for all those brave men, women and children, to pay tribute to the fallen and to help care for their surviving families, Shep and I have made donations to the following organizations, which have been formed in honor and memory of those lost on September 11th, 2001. We dream of a world without hate or terrorism, but until those dreams come true, we'll do what we can to support organizations who share a similar vision and provide hope to future generations.
May the lives remembered, the deeds recognized, and the spirit reawakened be eternal beacons, which reaffirm respect for life, strengthen our resolve to preserve freedom, and inspire an end to hatred, ignorance and intolerance.
Tuesday’s Children has made a long-term commitment to meet the needs of every individual impacted by the events of September 11, 2001. We provide support at each and every stage of life through innovative, needs-based programs and mental health support. Our international initiative, Project Common Bond unites young people from around the globe to share their common experience of losing a loved one in a terrorist act, to heal together, and to learn important leadership and peace-building skills. Tuesday's Children's strength is building community which has a profound and positive impact on collective healing.
The purpose of the Fund is to provide education assistance for postsecondary study to financially needy dependents of those people killed or permanently disabled as a result of the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, and during the rescue activities relating to those attacks.