On September 11th, 2001, I was walking from my apartment on Cliff Street and heading to the train to get to class at NYU. Once I left my building, I saw people crowding the streets.
Someone was screaming from a balcony about a plane hitting the World Trade Center and he was so hysterical (and because I was already a jaded new yorker), I dismissed him and kept walking. When I was about a block and a half away from the WTC, I could see what was happening, but I was still in denial. They even started evacuating the towers and people were running past me and screaming, but I still did not believe it. I guess it’s probably good because if I accepted and acknowledged the reality of the situation, my raging anxiety disorder would have kicked in, making things much much worse.
I hopped the train, thinking there was just some big fire and although it sucks, I couldn’t be late for class for that.
I cannot believe how very wrong I was.
That morning, while I was busy being blatantly wrong and clueless, Steven SIller ran from Red Hook to WTC, where he was killed. According to the Tunnel to Towers website:
“Stephen Siller, beloved husband and father of five, was a firefighter from Squad 1, Park Slope Brooklyn. On 9/11, he was off-duty, and on his way to golf with his 3 older brothers.
When Stephen heard on his scanner that the World Trade Center had been hit, he turned his vehicle around and headed towards the site. When his truck was prohibited from entering the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel, typically of him, he raced on foot towards the site with his gear strapped to his back.
He was last seen alive on West and Liberty Streets where he, more than likely, went looking for his Squad, all of whom perished.”
His family organized an event in his honor, where you can retrace his steps through the Battery Tunnel and to Ground Zero. Every year, I would watch the coverage on the news and cry. I was again, too lazy to participate and help the cause.
This year, I swore that I would not sit on the television sidelines. I was going to participate and run for all those lost and the often forgotten survivors.
I signed up a few weeks ago, and although i felt confident that I could physically do the run, but I knew it would be an emotional struggle. Thankfully, I recognized the selfishness of my feelings and moved on.
The weather outside was perfect, and even though the air in the tunnel was STIFLING, I think the toughest part was coming out to see the seemingly neverending line of banners, showing each of the FDNY and emergency workers who had been killed.
I definitely lost it here for a bit. I had to walk for a minute. It really just breaks my heart. These were sons, daughters, dad, moms, brothers, sisters etc...you get the point. They were just doing their job and they made the ultimate sacrifice as part of it. They woke up that day, not knowing that they would be heroes and life for everyone else would be changed forever.