The twin towers that were World Trade Center 1 and 2 are wrapped in many memories for millions, even billions around the world. Although their final moments were soul-shakingly tragic, earlier memories are happier. Here are some of mine.
I remember driving my U-Haul filled with my scant belongings from Philadelphia to New York on June 4, 1994, as I prepared to embark on a new life with a job and an apartment (really an illegal second bedroom jerrymandered from a living room) in Manhattan. My heart actually lept at the sight of those towers as I drove up I-95 — my first glimpse of Manhattan on the day it became my home.
On June 17, 1994, as much of America watched a low speed white Bronco chase on television, I visited the observation deck in Tower 2 with a young man I had just met that evening at an office party. We had gone on an impromptu date at an Italian bistro in the East Village and then onto the World Trade Center. That man is now my husband and father of my two children.
On the morning of September 11, 2001, I drove from Maplewood to Red Bank for my job as director of Red Bank RiverCenter, the downtown improvement district for that resurgent town's "hip" commercial center. I wore a maternity shirt that matched the color of the clear blue sky. I was nearly 4-1/2 months pregnant with my first child.
In the midst of a meeting planning for the Holiday Express concert that is a mainstay of December celebrations in Red Bank, a member of the committee who had left early came back to tell me about the initial attack. Like so many others, I thought it was a random accident at first.
Hours later, I reached my brother who was working in Lower Manhattan via cellphone. I held my cell up against my landline so that my brother could assure my mother, who was vacationing in Cape May, that he was alright. My husband — who thankfully did not work in Manhattan at that time — called me and pleaded with me to head home to Maplewood. He worried that the highways would close and I would be stuck in Red Bank, 40 miles from my OBGYN.
As I drove up the Garden State Parkway at 1 p.m. it was eerily empty and quiet. Just me in my Jetta and some emergency vehicles with sirens silenced, lights unblinking. Instead of the sight of the two towers that were my beacons nightly on my drive home from work, a giant plume of smoke rose from Lower Manhattan and trailed across the blue sky over the bay and out to sea.
In the days and weeks that followed, I tried to work with my business community membership on how to deal with and respond to the tragic event. I recall that little Red Bank lost three residents and neighboring Middletown many, many more.
The day after September 11, Jack Readie of Readie's Fine Foods immediately started shipping food from Red Bank over to lower Manhattan, riding the ferry to deliver goods personally. After a couple of days, I remember Jack saying that it was futile: the food sat rotting as there was not yet the organization to distribute it to workers. Lower Manhattan was in chaos for the first hundred hours after the attack. Meanwhile, Red Bank seemed to hold its breath for a time waiting for those who had not come home yet to somehow magically reappear. The phone did not ring in the office for the remainder of the week.
My memories of the towers and that day are so much smaller, so much more removed, and devoid of personal tragedy — unlike so many others, but they are mine.
What are yours?
If you wish, you can share them here in the comments, by contacting me at email@example.com or on a Facebook page, created by Patch, where New Jersey residents can come together in remembrance. There, you can post your thoughts, memories and photos on the wall – and build a lasting tribute that tells the world that we remember 9/11.