Fourteen years ago today – September 11th, 2001 – is the day that, for my generation at least, the world completely changed. At that time, I lived in Montclair, New Jersey and worked at Nickelodeon’s animation studio in Times Square. I believe that anyone who was living or working in New York City on that day can’t help but have been touched and changed by it. I know I was.
It’s been fourteen years, but every anniversary it all comes back to me as if it happened yesterday. I don’t fight those memories. I allow myself to remember. I think it’s important that we remember.
- I remember that I was in the World Trade Center on September 10, 2001. The studio where we shot our live action sequences was downtown and it was easier for me to take the PATH train in, rather than my usual bus to Port Authority.
- I remember that night we wrapped the shoot and all went to dinner at Chelsea Pier. It was raining and I had a hard time finding a taxi.
- I remember that the morning of September 11th was absolutely gorgeous and I was in a really good mood. I even remember what I was wearing – I had dressed up a bit because I had theatre plans for that evening.
- I remember thinking it was just the usual bottleneck traffic as we approached the Lincoln Tunnel.
- I remember looking over and seeing a huge, gaping, smoking hole in one of the Twin Towers.
- I remember the second plane.
- I remember everyone on the bus not knowing what to do. The Lincoln Tunnel was actually still open and vehicles were still heading into the city. The bus driver put it to a vote and we all voted to turn around.
- I remember not knowing if another plane was going to crash into the city.
- I remember returning to Manhattan a few days later, once again on the bus. This time our view was a huge pile of still-smoking rubble.
- I remember all the fliers posted everywhere with pictures of the missing.
- I remember walking by the local firehouse and even the building seemed to bleed grief and loss.
- I remember how absolutely sad everyone seemed.
- I remember loving New York more than ever.
9/11 was something everyone in NYC found a way to get through. I was, of course, lucky in that no one I knew personally was killed. But it still changed me. Whether you were an office worker, a waiter in Windows On The World, or a fireman – those killed on 9/11 did nothing but go to work that day.
It could have been any of us.
I’ve never lived what one would call a conventional life, but one of my take-aways from that horrible day is that none of us knows how much time we have on this planet. Sure, we all hope that we will pass peacefully in our sleep at the age of 95 but, the truth is, life is random and precarious and we have no way of knowing what our fate will be.
And so I have tried to never take the safe route, never choose to NOT do something because I am unsure or afraid or because I feel like I don’t have time. 9/11 gave me the guts to go after what I want in this life. It gave me the guts to pursue being a writer. It gave me the guts to move my entire life across the ocean. Essentially, it have me the guts to follow my dreams and attempt to make them a reality.
But it isn’t just about the big moments. 9/11 also taught me to find the joy in the everyday and the mundane. In my morning cup of coffee, in the text from my niece, in a really good book.
All those people did fourteen years ago was go to work. They didn’t get to follow their dreams or continue to find their joy. Even though I didn’t know any of them personally, they have all changed me. They have taught me to be thankful for the small things and to go for the big things.