If you were on the southern end of Manhattan that morning and survived, that day has branded your memory with images that will only fade when you have. I expect there are thousands of New Yorkers and others who will wake up this morning and do as I did; they will go to their windows and search the sky. I have done it every September 11th since that morning and when I do, it all comes back to me.
Everyone has a story, just as everyone who heard Franklin Roosevelt deliver his “Day which will live in Infamy” address to Congress on December 8, 1941, or heard Walter Cronkite deliver the tear-filled news that JFK had been assassinated or survived the rising swell of the Tsunami as it cut its deadly path through the shallow waters of the Thai coastline on December 26, 2004, bringing wave after wave of death to those in its path, will remember and have a story about those days, stories set in the unreal afterglow that follows the recognition of inconceivable horror.
I was walking home. I had run into the streets near my apartment after receiving a call from my wife, who was standing on the thirtieth floor of a building to one side of the World Trade Center complex. She had seen a huge fire and debris and ash were already dusting her windows. Shortly after she put down the phone the second plane passed directly by her and she watched as the skin of the aircraft was peeled back like a piece of silver fruit as it entered the building and exploded. When I was almost home I came upon a group of mothers standing near a playground, they were huddled together talking. As I passed them I turned for one last look at the fires that were towering above us and as I did I saw it fall, it just fell into itself as if it were made of sand and in its place a terrible cloud arose that would soon make its way to our streets, settling on our skin, in our hair and lodging somewhere permanently in our hearts. Some of the mothers shrieked, all of them gathered up their children and ran. We were in no immediate danger but no one knew that. The shocks had come so rapidly that morning, one unbelievable pounding after another and for weeks after almost any unusual sound would cause people to jerk noticeably and look up.
I do it even now, still search the sky, particularly when they are perfect blue and clear as they were that morning, as I did this morning.