9/12/01. The stench of burning jet fuel, plastic, paper, and human beings wafted over the NYC. Every rear car window and front door sported an American flag poster, as did fences around schools, churches, security grates on storefronts.
Everyone waited patiently in security checkpoint lines at the bridges and tunnels. No bosses said a word if you were late for work. No horns, no reckless driving-there wasn’t anyplace that seemed important enough to hurry to anymore.
The sounds of commercial jets had been replaced by F-16’s flying over the City at regular intervals. The wail of sirens sent people into fits of tears, and there was always someone, often a stranger, there to comfort them, help them.
Candles started appearing at dusk. In windows, on front porches. In my Queens neighborhood, people were spontaneously drawn, carrying anything they could find with a light source, to an impromptu march down the main drag, led by exhausted police officers and firefighters. We lined the sidewalks, waving flags, burning our fingers, holding hands, singing God Bless America.
I didn’t think to record it. I was too busy comforting a bereft friend and my kids, barely restraining my own emotions after the horror of the previous day.
A whole block of parking meters was adorned with votives, flames dancing in the warm breeze. While the fires raged downtown and frantic rescue efforts were underway, candle wax dripped over glass and metal onto the concrete sidewalks while viewfinders flashed “time expired.”
The feeling of comfort those flickering points of light in the darkness inspired in me, and no doubt many others. My most fervent wish is that the twenty year anniversary of the attacks will rekindle the peace and tolerance that the United States is so in need of after endless natural and manmade disasters and seemingly endless strife.
Before the old-fashioned parking meters disappeared, to be replaced by muni-meter boxes that issue tickets for your car window, I immortalized a few as a reminder.
9/11/2021: Twenty years later, the big empty pit at Ground Zero has been replaced by reflecting pools which channel tinkling water down 50 feet to where the foundations of Towers One and Two once stood.
I sobbed while listening the names being read. My heart still races when I hear a siren in the night, a low flying jet screams over my house, or a helicopter hovers with beacons flashing, looking for someone or something.
I will never forget that routine morning at work in a hospital, donating blood and waiting for the casualties that never came. The images were the most horrible I ever experienced, making me wonder how people in Israel, Gaza, and other war-ravaged nations survive.
I will never forget the unimaginable loss, The Twin Towers of the World Trade Center and the lowly parking meter, forever linked in my memory.