On September 11th, 2001, I had just moved into an apartment on the Upper East Side with three friends from college. That afternoon we were heading to Long Island to collect a couch from my aunt to help fill our empty living room.
I woke up a little late that morning. The first tower had already been struck & my roommates were watching the scene unfold live on TV. Grief and fear would come later - that morning I only remember disorientation. "I guess I should call my aunt and tell her we're not coming", I remarked. It was hard to comprehend what was happening. As the towers fell, the scale of the tragedy suddenly became clear.
On the evening of September 11th, we watched George W Bush speak from a packed restaurant - everyone was on the street:
"The search is underway for those who are behind these evil acts. I've directed the full resources for our intelligence and law enforcement communities to find those responsible and bring them to justice. We will make no distinction between the terrorists who committed these acts and those who harbor them."
We cheered. In those days immediately following 9/11, his approval rating shot up to 90%. We didn't process the long-term implications. We were bewildered, scared and angry.
9/11 was an overnight loss of innocence for an entire generation. Moving into the city was a common goal for post-college kids from the suburbs, like me. Suddenly the city was the epicenter of red and amber alerts, missing person notices on every phone booth, vigils in front of firehouses. These were the days before Facebook - there were rumors for weeks about so-and-so who died in the 9/11 attacks - a friend from camp, a childhood neighbor. Sometimes it was true. The loss was and still is profound and unfathomable.
I now live downtown. It's a strong and vibrant community - as strong as ever. It's easy to forget when watching my kids run around Washington Market Park, or dropping my daughter off in the school yard, that an unimaginable tragedy occurred at our doorstep 16 years ago. The Freedom Tower is visible from almost every vantage point in Tribeca.
It's my hope for next generation that even though the innocence is gone, it can be upgraded to something more real. A greater appreciation of life, each other and the broader world around us.