When I knew that I was going to be in New York City for a conference in August, the first thing on my mind was to go to the 9/11 memorial. One of my dear friends invited me because she was planning to go with a group the first day there. It was the perfect plan. Except that it wasn’t. First, the group was filled and didn’t have enough room for one more. (I was heartbroken but realized it was what it was and there is nothing I could do about it.) Second, you know what they say about the best laid plans. First, I missed my flight so that delayed me. When I finally reached the city it took me nearly 3 hours to reach the hotel from the airport. So, even if I had been included in the group, I’d have missed it traveling anyway. Things happen for a reason. I knew it would weigh heavy on my heart to be there but I thought it was exactly what I wanted to do.
Now, if you were with me during most of my trip to NYC, you know it was super emotional. You see, I’ve had a mini-crush on the city from afar. I have never been there but my heart was all “NYC ERMAHGERD!” But when I was actually there? It took mere seconds for me to fall in love with the city. Things that people who live there probably don’t even give a second thought had me so smitten and emotional. It became so commonplace, my friends didn’t even give it a second thought to look over and see tears in my eyes or rolling down my cheek over something that moved me about the city. Something I dreamed of seeing or doing and was actually seeing and doing!
All of that to say, with my emotions so up front and center, maybe the 9/11 Memorial wasn’t the place for me. This year. But there was something that I was supposed to see and experience in relation.
I went to an event with one of my closest friends, Liz, one evening in SoHo. And of course, I was enamored with just about everything in the area. (Shout out, City Winery!) As she and I were walking around the area, I noticed a firefighter standing outside a firehouse. I peeked in and noticed a memorial wall. (cue tears) I asked if I could take a picture if it wouldn’t be too disrespectful. He smiled and told me it would be fine and not at all disrespectful. As soon as I set up the shot I started to cry. No, cry doesn’t really cover it. I began to sob. I took in every face. I looked at every name. It was a “small scale” vision of such a massively huge tragedy. And maybe that was what I needed to see more than the huge memorial. I needed to see one company. To see the impact that day had on them. To see their friends and brothers they lost. Their names. Their faces. Eleven men. My heart broke. I did my best to capture the shot, but my hands were shaking. As we were leaving I tried to thank the firefighter but I could barely whisper “Thank you” through my sobs. With a teary look at me, he just nodded. Liz hugged me, took my hand, and we walked away.
I have always felt the weight of 9/11 each year in my own way. I couldn’t truly imagine it. I still can’t. Unless you were there and felt it, heard it, smelled it, survived it or lost someone that day, I don’t think you can really grasp the enormity of the day. But walking the streets and falling in love with NYC and the people there, brought it a little bit closer to my heart. Standing in a firehouse that lost 11 of their finest brought it closer to my heart.
Though I truly thought I wanted and needed to see the 9/11 memorial, I realized my heart–my very soul– needed to see what that day meant in a more intimate way. One day I hope to go see the site where the twin towers stood and hope I can do it with someone who will understand my flow of tears. But this year, I am so very thankful I was with Liz who held my hand and never once questioned my emotional reaction or tried to stop it. She just knows my heart and always has.
I’ll never forget the day that beautiful and completely amazing city came under attack. And now I will never forget that one time I stopped by a firehouse with someone I love to take a picture, thank a fireman, and sob over the loss of lives that horrible day brought.
These are the heroes pictured who were lost on that horrific day.
Engine 24/ Ladder 5/ Battalion 2
227 Ave of Americas (6th Ave)