You know, I realized that it might seem callous that I, as a former New Yorker, did not comment on 9/11. I did think about it sporadically throughout the day, and every so often I would glance up at the clock to see if the moment the first plane struck the World Trade Center had passed yet. For me, that was 8:46 PM on the evening of Sept. 11, as I was sitting at my desk and shuffling flash cards. I just didn’t know what to write because I did not know what to say that had already been said, much more eloquently, by people more directly affected by 9/11 than I was.
For two years, I worked at Dow Jones’ offices in the World Financial Center, directly behind Ground Zero. Every weekday I’d pass the site on my way to and from the subway. On the fifth anniversary of the attacks, I turned on the television to watch the memorial ceremonies as I got ready for work. They were reciting the names of the dead. When I left my apartment, they had reached surnames starting with E’s. By the time I emerged from the Fulton Street subway stop an hour later, they had only just begun the N’s. Occasionally I’d look out of our floor’s windows, which looked right into the southeast corner of the site. On the days after bone fragments had been discovered, the medical examiner’s van would be parked there, alongside a white tent. Construction on new skyscrapers next to the pit slowly blocked our view of the Woolworth Building. In the mornings, other workers and I had to fight our way through crowds of tourists snapping family photos, occasionally smiley ones, in front of Ground Zero. I understood their need to memorialize their visit but it never failed to irritate or mystify me. On windy afternoons, grit and dirt from the construction site was whipped into our eyes and mouths. One day, my friend confided that she sometimes wondered what was in the dust; I was relieved because I had thought the same thing, but was worried that the thought was too morbid. A few weeks before I left, a pipe from the top of the ruined Deutsche Bank building fell through a skylight into the firehouse below. I was angry, because the firefighters there had certainly suffered enough. A few days after I left the city, two firefighters from a different battalion were killed fighting a blaze that had erupted in the same building.
As for my feelings–I feel the same way I did in the days after it happened six years ago. I feel somewhat indulgent for mourning, when my sadness and regret is nothing compared to the grief suffered by the people who were directly affected. And I will miss being able to watch over Lower Manhattan as it slowly, laboriously, mends itself.