It’s very hard to believe, and understand how, the events of September 11, 2001 took place 11 years ago.
I was 29. I was single. I had no kids. I had a crappy apartment; a five-floor walkup in New York City. I was engaged to be married. I was a different person; certainly more naive and innocent—even without being particularly naive or innocent.
On the morning on Sept. 11, I was in a car with there other Sports Illustrated staffers, driving to Jack McCallum’s golf outing in New Jersey. We were driving through the city, not listening to the radio, when we saw people lining the streets. At some point, we drove past the Trade Center, looked up and saw a big hole. We turned the radio on, and heard a plane had crashed into the side. We all assumed the same thing: Probably a prop plane. Maybe three or four dead.
As we headed toward the Lincoln Tunnel, I saw a plane in the distance flying toward the Twin Towers. I thought very little of it …
The next few hours and days and weeks were the lowest of my life. I’m not just saying that. To be a New Yorker in September, 2001 was to live a nonstop funeral. It was so incredibly painful. The girlfriend (now wife) had an apartment on 15th and Third, not all that far from Ground Zero. We could smell the burning rubble at all hours. Still, if I close my eyes real tight, I can sense the toxic odor. We all wanted to help but, there wasn’t all that much to do. We volunteered hanging up signs and serving food to the rescue workers. Mostly, we just sorta wallowed. Helpless. Hurting. Lost.
Nearby, at the park in Union Square, a vigil came alive. There were musicians and speakers and signs and chalk etchings. I was there all the time; the wife almost never. We had different reactions to the pain. I needed to experience and feel and confront. She needed to keep more of a distance.
Anyhow, I put together an album with pictures and flyers and the like, which one day I’ll give to my kids. It’s nothing particularly deep, but it’s how I was thinking …
9/25/01 New York City
It’s been exactly two weeks since the World Trade Center was attacked. Nobody seems to have yet recovered. We live on 15th and 3rd, and until recently our air smelled of a combination of metal, fire, ash and death. Almost all of the pictures in this album were taken in Union Square Park (two blocks away), where vigils of flowers and music and posters and candles have bloomed ever since terrible Sept. 11. The saddest things are all the fliers—mostly young 20-somethings who had no reason to suspect their lives were about to end. Their faces, usually smiling, often with a baby or wife or husband, are haunting images. They are the people we’ve left behind. Our lives go on, but theirs do not. I don’t believe there’s a reason or a purpose. The only thing I can take from it all is—Enjoy life. Every day, try and remember how fortunate you are to be taking in oxygen; how any coming day can be your last. Live with passion—eat the richest of foods. Travel. See things you’ve never seen and talk to everyone.
The World Trade Center attacks hit close to home in so many ways. The Newark-San Francisco flight that crashed was one I’ve flown. A husband of one of Leah’s bridesmaids died in the WTC, as did a cousin of one of my co-workers. Every day, Catherine accurately said, was like visiting the Holocaust Museum. Pure sadness.
If you’re reading this and it’s 2005 or 2020 or 2050 or whenever, look at the faces on the leaflets and think of the lives they’ll never live. Then go out and live yours to the fullest.