For a few more minutes, it is still 9.11.2011. Since I woke up this morning, I’ve been aware that I know what day it is. I know why this day matters, and, like so many others, I listened to President Obama, former President Bush and Mayor Bloomberg reflect on the weight of this day at this morning’s memorial service in New York City. I listened as the names of the victims of the 9.11 attacks were read aloud by loved ones who mourned them. As they paused for the first moment of silence at 8:46am, I wept. Really wept. Maybe you did too.
Like every American of over a certain age, I remember 9.11.2001 in quite vivid detail. Like you, I have my own story to tell of that day. I was on my way to teach dance at a small studio on the Upper East Side in Manhattan. I arrived at the studio and saw just what I expected–lots of eager little girls dressed in their pink leotards and tights ready for their first day of creative movement. But, I also saw something I didn’t expect. The mothers were all huddled around the small television in the lobby in stunned quiet. The first plane had just struck. I didn’t watch. They barely noticed as I took their little girls downstairs into the dance studio. When the second plane it, I was running and jumping with a room full of smiling, giggling little dancers.
I have lots of other memories from that day. The sky was so blue. I sat on some rocks in Central Park with my now husband, Ben, watching bomber jets circle overhead Manhattan. In the middle of the park, it was incredibly peaceful, too peaceful. That much quiet seems unnatural in a place like New York City. I remember a lot about that day, but it is the morning after that still unnerves me.
I couldn’t go to work. We weren’t allowed back into the Citicorp building yet. I couldn’t go to class. All the places I took class–Cunningham, Limon, Dancespace, Peridance–were all below 14th Street which was blocked off. You couldn’t get past Union Square. Like most, my life in New York was usually loud, exhausting, a bit on the chaotic side. Like today, I woke up on 9.12.11 still not understanding what had happened but knowing that it had happened and that it mattered. I felt restless. I should have been pushing my way onto a subway train, eating my bagel as I walked to class at the Cunningham studio and then racing uptown to get to my admin job at the Martha Graham Center. I couldn’t just sit at home.
Ben and I decided to go down to the Flatiron Building where he worked at the time. And, this is what I remember most about 9.12 The streets were practically deserted. We walked right down the middle of Fifth Avenue with hardly a person or a taxi in sight. It was the middle of the afternoon on a Wednesday. It was a bit hazy and smokey, but otherwise in the valley of the streets, between the buildings, it was just quiet. And, I think that’s why the moment of silence this morning brought that flood of tears. That’s what I remember. Walking slowly down the middle of Fifth Avenue, not saying a word. There was nothing to say and, I just kept thinking, “So, what do we do now?”