Ten years, that’s what it’s been. Ten years since we moved out of my beloved New York City to a more family-friendly North Jersey town, ten years since my sister got married, ten years since I learned how to drive, ten years since my daughter started kindergarten, ten years since terrorists flew planes into the World Trade Center one sunny September morning. Ten years since my husband left this message on our answering machine when I was out walking our three-year-old to his new pre-K; “I’m standing at the window in my office building, watching the World Trade Center burn.”
Last week, in the waning days of summer vacation, I took my children to see Ground Zero. We walked through the graveyard behind St. Paul’s and gazed up at the Freedom Tower, a wall of mirrored glass and skeletal beams set against a celestial blue sky. The light was dazzling, blinding almost, at least it seemed that way to me, maybe because the ground we stood upon was once eternally shaded by two tall buildings.
Solemnly, the kids hovered around a photograph of the graveyard taken on 9/11, when it was blanketed in ash and paper. And then it was time to go. There were school clothes to buy, backpacks to fill.
As we strolled back to the car, I thought of the documentary footage they show on TV every year. The massive cloud of ash and smoke like a live, vengeful thing, roiling through the narrow streets, obliterating everything in sight, blotting out the light.
On Sunday night, the tenth anniversary, we will watch the documentaries with the kids, as we do every year. Only this time, it won’t be an event from a foreign country, or from a time long ago. This time, it will be a place they recognize, a park they sat in, a diner they visited, a street they walked, a familiar hole in the sky.