September 11, 2014
Even as sensitive a person as I am, I’m always a little surprised that I still cry when this morning comes around; that for not having lost any loved ones and having merely been a witness, on this day every year, the memories still sit at the forefront of my mind. I suppose though, when the wound is so severe, the scars never really do go away. Thankfully, despite never forgetting, we do go on, tending to our busy lives—our current projects, and the tasks of the present.
One of my ‘current projects’ is training for this year’s New York City marathon. And one of my to-do’s for the day, was a long run. I’ve been lucky, with this summer’s unusually pleasant temperatures, to have logged most of my miles outside, but of course, I’ve had to rely on the treadmill here and there too. The treadmill has it’s plusses—the soft surface, no wind to battle—but for nine miles, it’s just boring. So it was my plan, leaving home this morning, assuming there would be no rain, that my long run would actually be a run home from work. Well, unlike the perfect blue sky we awoke to 13 years ago, the one this September 11th morning was overcast and gloomy. And all afternoon, the threat of a storm seemed to linger above us. But at 6:30, to my surprise and delight, the mighty sun had made its way out from behind the dense canopy of clouds. So I would get my fresh air.
But I couldn’t just bolt like that. See, these long runs, I’ve learned, require preparation. And the preparation requires focus, because if even only one thing is forgotten, I could be in for misery at some point along the way– say, for example, last month’s matching half-dollar size blisters, or the other day when I locked my keys inside my apartment and had to wait, sweaty and exhausted after a two-hour run, for my super to come and save me. So first, it’s a lengthy bandaging and wrapping of both of my feet; then, it’s securing my hair back with a strategic placement of bobby pins so to avoid annoying mid-run fly-aways. And then I have to gather my little pack of essentials—my headphones (must have music), ID (in case of emergency), handkerchief (because I always have the sniffles), energy chews (fuel for the journey), and of course keys. So, I went through the routine, did a double-check that I’d covered everything, and then I was off.
Outside, my mind quickly began to wander, assessing my latest aches and pains, mapping my route and water stops and where I’d be when darkness would fall. And in all of my thinking, ironically, I’d sort of forgotten the day, or that it wasn’t just any day, but 9/11. But then at around Gansevoort Street, the running path on the Hudson River Promenade juts a little further westward and the view of downtown Manhattan opens up. So out of nowhere, suddenly right in front of me, I see the Freedom Tower. And the sky, instead of its earlier, sad grey, was now the most beautiful backdrop, in swirls of pink and white and blue, like cotton candy. Almost instinctively, my arm went up in a fist, like a “woop woop” cheer. And then, worried someone might have seen it and misinterpreted it, I brought it down as quickly as it had shot up. Of course, I wasn’t cheering for the day, but that we’re still here, rebuilt, standing strong.
I continued on my way as the sun set. And as I curved around the southern-most tip of the island to begin heading northward, I was stopped again, this time to see the tower aglow against the night sky, and to its right, the illuminations of the former towers, reaching upward. I know it sounds sappy, but it took my breath away.
And then from the bridge, looing back at Manhattan…
As I write this, again I think it’s strange, that after my morning in tears, as the day went on, I’d almost forgotten it was September 11th. I will never associate the word happy with this date, but on my run, I was glad to have been reminded of it again, seeing the Freedom Tower before me, and glad that instead of feeling sad, I felt propelled to move forward, with my head lifted, proud and strong.