I will not be going into work on September 11th.
I did not work in the Towers, or anywhere in the World Trade Center complex. I do not work for the FDNY or NYPD, and neither does anyone in my family. Neither my wife nor I directly knew anyone who died on September 11th last year.
All in all, my wife and I were very lucky last year. So why am I taking off work on the first anniversary of the terrorist attack? Because even though none of the above scenarios apply to me, I was nonetheless closely affected by the events of that day, and still am.
You see my office is about a mile or so north of the WTC site. I watched it all unfold from the relative safety of my office—the
explosions, the fire, the debris, and eventually the collapse of the South Tower. That’s when they evacuated our building. To make a long story short, seven hours and several miles later I finally made it home to my wife in Brooklyn.
A year has now passed. The nightmares evenutally stopped several months ago. I no longer find myself constantly looking up at planes flying overhead. I am doing better. But am I the same person I was a year ago? No, and I never will be. Every morning as I look out the window in my office all I can see is a hole in our skyline. Something is missing.
The sad thing is, as the year has passed it has gotten more difficult to remember exactly at what point in the sky the towers reached. Sure, we have millions of pictures and video images to remind us what they looked like, but as I stare out my window right now, I can’t “see” them as clearly as I used to. It’s a lot like when a close relative passes away. You hang onto their memories as long as you can, but no matter how hard you try, their image, their face will eventually fade. You have the family photos at home, but it just isn’t the same.
That sense of something missing from our lives is sometimes more painful in the long run than the loss itself. This is probably why the first anniversary of someone’s death is such a big deal. It gives us a chance to deal with that pain one last time as well as to commemorate and even celebrate the person’s life, while their image and memory is still fresh in our minds, but without the grief and turmoil of their immediate passing. It gives us a final chance to say good-bye.
This ultimately is why I will not be at work on Wednesday, September 11. Yes, I have moved on, and for the most part my life has resumed some semblance of what it was before the attack. However I want, or rather need to say good-bye one last time.