| September 12, 2016 |
The subtleties of my New York accent are barely noticed here in Olympia, Washington, but they surface every so often. People are starting to pick on on the W’s I add to my words when I talk (pronounced: tawk), which is really pretty awesome (pronounced: awwh-sum). When I ask for a cup of caw-fee in the mornin’, you can fuhgeddabout the suga, but I’ll likely have a Long Island (pronounced: Lawn Guy Land) bagel on the side. I’m used to Italians who speak with their hands, accentuate their words, and don’t tone down the volume for anyone. Oh, and I also (almost always) refuse to eat pizza outside of New York. Especially if the “pizza place” doesn’t sell pizza by the slice (preposterous).
But… Being from New York isn’t just an accent, or a slice of pizza. It’s a lot more. When I think back to 15 years ago, I think of the friends I had in school whose parents never came home on September 11, 2001. I think about my uncle who should have been in the World Trade Center that morning, or my uncle who saw the smoke from blocks away in his office building. I think of the men and women who lost, and the men and women who rose up as heroes when our nation needed it most.
I’m more than thankful I grew up on Long Island (yes, ON). My family and I were a mere 45-minute train ride from New York City on the Long Island Railroad (LIRR) where I’d hear “This is the train to Penn Station…”
Don’t forget, “As you leave the train, please watch the gap between the train and the platform…”
The NYC subways are the gateway to access all pockets of the Big Apple, where we’d be forewarned to “Stand clear of the closing doors, please” at each stop. I get a burst of nostalgia and familiarity when I hear the ding for announcements on public transit. I can close my eyes and smell the soft pretzels on the streets, and visualize the first view of skyscrapers as I ascend to the street from the underground transportation. I can see the Empire State Building reaching toward the sky, with its nightly colors reflecting relevant occasions and organizations.
And then I think of NYC’s iconic skyline.
And how something is missing.
The World Trade Center.
The Twin Towers.
The pillars of American economic strength and devotion to our future wiped from from our skyline in one day.
The subtleties of the city are what make my heart ache when I think of the pain many endured. Rather than feelings of nostalgia, NYC’s smells, sounds, and sights may carry a different meaning, a deeply-rooted feeling. A painful feeling. A heart-wrenching feeling we wish we could forget. But we cannot forget.
Hearing the ding on the subway could transport one to the thought of the husband, father, brother, or coworker who sat on the subway that morning, got off at Cortlandt Street on the 1 train, and planned to attend a business conference. Or maybe the pause to watch the gap flashes a hero firefighter, police officer, or volunteer back to the sea of flames, the individuals they saved… and those they couldn’t. The smell of a soft, street pretzel may instead be muffled by the memorial scent of smoke and debris that plagued the street 15 years ago.
At 8:46am and 9:03am on September 11, 2001, our lives as Americans were forever changed. Yet, we stand tall and strong. We continue to build on this strength. We have selfless heroes walking our streets, giving their lives and hearts to our protection. We continue to face terrorism and fear. We stand for freedom and human rights, striving to protect our people.
Of the people, by the people, for the people…
We can argue and dispute the truths and falsities surrounding this day, but we cannot deny the emotional relevance it has to our country and its people. We need not contemplate the conspiracy theories, as we cannot discount the struggle many have endured after the tragedy of 9/11.
Using our nation’s freedom as a foundation, the One World Observatory now stands tall as a symbol of our perseverance. For this, I am thankful. I am thankful for our ability to rise above the fall of the pillars that once stood. I am thankful for the hope of our future. I am thankful to be American and for all those who serve our country, near and far.
“In memory of those who survived September 11, 2001” (below), Thank You.
To Our Future
We live inspired by those who sacrificed their safety, who rose above their call of duty, who put their lives on the line to save us.
We live in hope that love will reign, and we can relinquish the fear engrained in our hearts from the hate and destruction we have seen.
New York lives, and so does our pride.
May God (whomever that may be for you) Bless America.