I am from Manhattan. I was eight years old, sitting at my desk on a regular Tuesday when the planes hit, when the city shut down any way to get in our out and my Father was across the river watching it happen in real time. I didn't understand why my mom was picking me up from school so early, I thought maybe I was in trouble. It turns out I was the first student in my whole school to be picked up early because as soon as my mom heard the news she ran straight to school and told a trusted school security officer to go get me. I think a while after that they tried to 'stop' letting children pick up there kids. She told me about the World Trade Towers and I thought vaguely about the fact that I has been supposed to go in a field trip there.
I went back to school two days later.
The new monument in its' place ("9/11 Memorial & Museum", 2020) is for tourists to take pictures at, or for today's kids field trip. I don't go down near there, even when I go home for a visit. I avoid that whole section of my home island. It's a shared type of PTSD New Yorkers share that we really may never know the full effects of (Mijanovich & Weitzman, 2010.
On the surface everyone returned to as normal as 'normal' could be under the circumstances. New Yorkers have grit and determination and we just kept moving, through the debris and smog. I kept going to school but everything seemed tinged with this sense of foreboding. New York was (is) resilient, and I saw this reflected in my educators who kept showing up to their jobs, I saw resilience in my friends who lost family members but still sat with me at lunch. It's a leading by example type of attitude, it's a community trauma bonding that is hard to explain but it stuck with me my whole educational career. Horrific, unimaginable things are going to happen, and then you adjust and find a new normal. If we come together as a community things become more manageable. Although my experience is from a place of privilege, there was also a large spike in Xenophobia towards the Muslim population (Schuller, 2016)
When it almost the 10 year anniversary since 9/11 my english teacher wrote for the 'do now' question something along the lines of "Should we keep talking about this every year or should we try to move on?". I responded with "never forget". It doesn't mean we need to dwell on the past, but to me it means we must never forget our community, our NYC identities, and that when crisis strikes, we are the only ones we have to turn to.
1. 9/11 Memorial & Museum(2020). Retrieved from https://www.911memorial.org/
2. Mijanovich T, & Weitzman BC. (2010). Disaster in Context: The Effects of 9/11 on Youth
Distant from the Attacks. Community Mental Health Journal, 46(6), 601–611.
3. Schuller, S. (2016). The Effects of 9/11 on Attitudes toward Immigration and the Moderating
Role of Education. Kyklos, 69(4), 604–632.