Of course, I remember so much about that day.
At the time, I was driving to work. I was listening to an oldies rock station, and when they didn’t even wait until the end of the song to break in with a news bulletin, I knew it was something big. A plane crashed into the World Trade Center. “Oh my, God,” I thought. Little did I know…
At that time, I worked in the Communications Department of the Greater Miami Jewish Federation. As I entered the building, a guard screamed that a second plane hit the towers. At that moment, I knew: this was a terrorist attack. I raced to my office, In the early hours of 9/11, there were rumors that there were anti-Israel and anti-Semitic elements to the attack. News stations started calling our office for comments. My job became monitoring the national news coverage. For pretty much the whole day. I sat in my boss’s office and watched television.
That meant that I saw replays of the planes going into the towers–over and over and over again. That meant that I watched the towers fall, and I asked one of my colleagues, “Is this really happening? Am I going crazy?”
I got up from my chair only to keep my boss informed on updates. Another plane went into the Pentagon. Yet another went down in a field not far from Pittsburgh. That was truly surreal. I could see why terrorists would be interested in attacking New York and Washington. But a Podunk patch of land in Western Pennsylvania? I’m from that area. What could possibly be worth attacking there?
Well before that day, I had been diagnosed with chronic depression. While I was still on meds, I had stopped going to therapy. 9/11 put me back into therapy. Even if it was my job, I’m sure it was not good for me watch those planes going into the towers as many times as I did. I started having nightmares, and wanting to isolate.
I’m glad I got therapy. I know it helped. In a way, I feel weird putting these remembrances down, because there sure were a lot of people who went through a whole lot more than I did. I did not know any of the thousands who died that horrible day.
But I also remember that the Federation was one of the first organizations to organize an interfaith solidarity commemoration. We did that on the Sunday after that horrible Tuesday, and I remember thinking that I was, at least, a small part of a solution to all this madness. As it does this year, 9/11 fell very close to Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, in 2001. I remember that the synagogue services were even more filled than normal, and that just about everyone cried.
Though I am not a “by-the-book” Jew by any means, I do believe in the power of prayer. I saw it with my own eyes in the days that followed 9/11. Now, I live in Boston, and I saw this again after the Boston Marathon bombings. One of my best friends, who is pretty agnostic, wanted to go to a church service, and wanted me to come with him. “I just need to be around people, and to be reassured in some way,” he said. I knew what he meant, and I gladly went with him.
I don’t think 9/11 will ever really make sense to me, and I guess that’s a good thing. But I try to think more about the better parts of humanity than I do the darker parts. In my warped sense of humor, I sometimes joke that, with depression, I have my own darkness to deal with. I don’t need any help from the outside world.
To this day, I cannot watch those planes go into the towers again. I cannot watch those towers fall again. All I can do is remember, and send thoughts and prayers who lost so much more on that day than I did.