Five years ago today, Angie and I got up early on a quiet Tuesday morning to go vote in the mayoral primary before work. From our place on 6th and 2nd we walked downtown to the polling center at the local elementary school on Essex. On our way home we stopped by Bulgin Waffles for breakfast. Someone popped into the shop and said that a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center. All of us couldn't believe it and the guy at the counter turned up the radio to catch the news...
The rest of the day is a blur accented by vivid memories that pop out from the haze. Walking out towards Stuyvesant to pick up Jack, the high school kid I was mentoring. Staring in disbelief as we watched everything happen on our tv. Ang and me just holding each other and trying to take in the magnitude of what was happening. Going down the street to buy a pizza for Jack, his friends and parents who couldn't make it back to Queens. Seeing people covered in ash and dust struggle their way up the avenues...
But in the end we were really lucky. No one we were close to was lost that day. And so what has come to overwhelm the memories of that day are the memories of that week: Strangers helping each other. Firefighters and construction workers from all over the country coming to help look for survivors. Ang and me at the Javits Center. Helping friends look for word about co-workers at the Armory. The strange silence of Broadway. The bomb scare in our office building. Hearing from friends they couldn't take it and were leaving the city. A vigil at Union Square. A unwavering belief that America would bounce back and still be that somewhat flawed beacon to the rest of the world...
Ang and I moved about two months later.
I'd been offered a great new opportunity at the company I was working for and they needed me at HQ in Santa Clara. Part of me feels like I never got to really mourn with the rest of New York. Never got to get over it the way that I imagine others who were there to share that process with others did.
And so going back now, as we have several times, NYC still is a place that isn't quite healed for me. Sure the city bounced back, and it's still got a vibrancy and energy that even Shanghai doesn't always match. But there is and maybe always will be a place in my heart that is filled with sadness for the city that I moved to when I was 21, the city were I squandered my youth, that, like me, lost a foolhardy innocence that day in September.
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