I was a sophomore in High School, on a Tuesday morning. When I got off the 2nd avenue bus, I walked up to see my teachers on strike. As my friends and I entered the school, we silently joked that they would let us out early. I didn’t dislike school, but any excuse to go back home and watch tv or masturbate, seemed like a win. None the less, the first bell rang and the student body was in their respective classes. Had it been a public school, all the teachers would’ve been on strike; but, since my high school was catholic, many of the brother and sisters didn’t participate in the strike. It would’ve been a normal Tuesday, had it not been for the events that followed.
I’m a born and raised New Yorker. I was born in Mount Sinai hospital, in Manhattan, in the summer of 1986. Geography was never my subject; so, other than the few trips to Disney world, and trips out of state to visit family; I had a horrible gauge on where things were in relation to my neighborhood. Hell- I used to think the west side meant west coast. Any-who, I was a city kid whose entire world existed within a 10-20 block radius. Occasionally I would travel down to the village with my gay friends, from the neighborhood youth choir; but I never really let the importance of certain landmarks sink in. Before the summer of 2001, I thought the Twin Towers were in Chicago, right along with the Sears tower; I know, shame on me! But, since I never had a reason to go that far downtown, I simply didn’t.
The summer of 2001, I had a summer youth job working in the building right across from the towers. My job was simple, I filed paper work and answered calls; nothing too crazy, but I did get paid for my services, so it was a win-win. I remember cashing my bi-weekly checks at the check cashing store in the area. As I was never a fan of eating lunch at my desk; sometimes I would walk to the local park and eat my lunch. I remember there was a bakery around the corner that was responsible for many of the cavities I acquired that summer. I may have only walked inside either of the actual towers, maybe once ever. Lastly, I remember telling myself, I’ll plan a day to come downtown, allow myself to be a tourist for a day, and explore the Twin Towers. I never thought that they would cease to exist; I don’t think anyone did.
I heard that a person on the street came yelling at the striking teachers that, the towers had been hit. Then, that news spread like wild-fire. The news was turned on, on all the overhead and rolling TVs. We all sat in horror as we watched the planes make impact, then we all watched as the buildings fell to the ground. Some girls cried for fear of what would happen next, while others cried for concern of loved ones that worked in the towers; I was numb. It didn’t cross my mind that day; in all reality, it took quite an amount of years for me to realize how close I came to uncertainty. School had just started; if it had started a week later, I would’ve been down there. I was lucky; all of my family worked in Spanish Harlem, far from the towers; but, since it was deemed a terrorist attack, they refused to release students early without a guardian. I couldn’t get in contact with my mother (only land lines worked). There was a long line to use the pay phones to call our parents and by the time I got to the phone I could barely hear my brother at home, on the other end. Luckily, one of the parents came to pick up her daughter and agreed to take a few of us home as well. They had suspended all MTA bus and train transportation; but she flirted with an MTA bus driver and he took us all home. When I got home, I didn’t turn on the news, I turned on my computer and went to an AOL chatroom. I started talking to some guy that lived near me; I went to see him and we hung out for a bit. Before it started getting dark, I walked back home. An hour or two later my mom got in from work, we had dinner and I went to sleep.
I didn’t cry about 9/11 until the following year. I was at my grandmother’s house and they were showing the memorial. The camera happened to pan over to a woman who clearly lost someone, and seeing her cries, struck a fire in me, and the tears that I held back that day streamed through my eyes.
I started writing this post on 9/11/19, but I couldn’t publish it; because, almost 20 years later, it finally hit me- how close I came to not being here. My nephew was only 5, my niece wasn’t even thought of, my grandmother and all of my uncles were still alive. Had the position lasted one more week, I would’ve been down there, and I might not be here today.
A lot of people were lost that morning; from those on the plane, in the building, and those on the ground. A living life is precious and it’s imperative that we tell our family and friends how much we love them, when they are here, for we don’t know when they might leave this earth and be gone forever.
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