12 Years Later, I’m still Fortunate.

world-trade-center-2013

I’ve always been short with words on this day. I feel that my words never do justice to the events of 12 years ago. When I got up this morning, I was quickly reminded of what day it was. While I’m no longer somber about this day, I always make sure I have some time to reflect on my own life.

On this day, I try not to dwell on the many wars that have taken place since or the many Arab lives that have been taken so that we, as a country, can feel better about our losses. Instead I reflect on the fact the fact that I am very fortunate to have the life that I have. I’ve mentioned that had I been any later to work on that day, who knows what would have happened. My step mother worked in that area and it just so happened she was not there that day. Two of my friends worked there as well and they both got out. Very fortune.

Yet, I did know one person, a fire fighter, who died while trying to save people. Steve Mercado was a guy that I looked up to as a kid. Someone who always took the lead in situations that no one really wanted to. His memory will always be honored and immortalized by his family and by the stickball league in the Bronx he helped maintain.

So what does all this mean to me? What is my takeaway from all of this? The one thing that I’ve noticed, and it may sound funny, silly, or maybe just unexpected, is that I can say I love you to my friends and family so much easier now than I could before 9/11. Those words have more of an impact and more of a meaning to me. This was something I never really said, especially to my male friends and relatives. Perhaps it was some form of homophobic barrier that I was not aware of but I can also say it to woman friends too without being uncomfortable or giving the wrong impression.

The point is that I realized on that day how quickly anyone of us can be snuffed out. Sure, I can talk all day about our youth being killed on the streets of Chicago, or the victims of police brutality, or teenagers with hoodies who had someone “stand their ground” but our worlds were changed forever 12 years ago. Whatever naivety we had is gone because we know what its like to be on the other end of an attack and as much as I want call bullshit on every last war we had since (as well as the one in Syria we are about to have), on this day all I can think about is how fortunate I am to even be writing this.

I have few close friends, many acquaintances, tons of former students, twitter followers, and family. Twelve years ago, when I finally left work, and stepped out on to Wall Street, I knew my life had changed and it was then that I realized I haven’t done enough in my life. Now, I’m still working on doing something and I’m just glad that I know as many people as I do. I’m very fortunate to have the friends that I have and very lucky to share my thoughts with the rest of you.

The Day I Learned How to Cry

The world changed ten years ago. It was a shift in the American paradigm that we are all still getting adjusted to. I can barely remember life prior to September 11, 2001. I do know that nothing has ever been the same. Everything that was our way of life changed when those towers came down. I learned the value of life at the same time as I learned what the value of a symbol is. The World Trade Center was that symbol of New York City that has forever been altered and because of that, I learned how to cry.

In many ways, I have considered the New York City skyline ruined. I feel that the World Trade Center was a vital organ like an arm that was severed. NYC is an amputee of such cruel intentions. I cannot tell you how it felt to know people who worked in that building and the relief to learn they got out. The company that I worked for lost entire floors of clientele. In the end so many people died and I can say that I knew one of them.

I wont talk about being on Wall Street that day because I have told that story. I feel that I can recite that story because I have said it so many times. What I have not written about is how from that day on the ability to cry has become all too easy for me. I spent most of the day being strong and trying to survive while not trying to really take in the enormity of the day. Seeing the shock on everyone’s faces as I walked from the financial district to Grand Central station. Taking the 6 train back to the Bronx in the quietest subway car I have every been on. Then getting to my small basement apartment in the Soundview section of the Bronx where I can still see the huge pillar of smoke to remind me of what happened.

Finally getting home to watch the television to see what happened. Watching it over and over and over again because seeing images from small screens in Manhattan did not help me realize. Something was building up inside of me that finally broke when I spoke to family and friends who told they loved me and thought they would never see me again because of all the chaos. I cried. I cried like I have never cried before. I still get tears in my eyes when I think about it.

All my life, I have fought the notion that a man should not cry. But how can a man hold in emotions so strong when thousands of people have perished so close by? I learned to cry that day because I recognized the value in every thing around me. Life is so precious. I could have lost so many that day. I know of others that have lost brothers, sisters, husbands, sons, daughters, wives, and friends. I sat staring at that television for hours because I did not want to forget. I wanted to take that lesson that I learned on that day that the I could no longer live my life the same way.

I came to Syracuse 10 years ago to escape the pain that was 9/11. I could not live with the ruined skyline in the background. I had to try to start a new life with a new career. While, I feel I have been successful, I think about how the world has changed. How I have changed. I have have become sensitive to everything around me. I cannot look at fire fighters and the police the same way. I am sensitive to loud noises. I just about cry when I think about losing a loved one. It just doesn’t take much anymore.

My students sometimes call me mean when they have no idea that how sensitive I truly am. I am mean because I see potential they are not achieving because they don’t understand that we have a chance to live in a better world. 10 years later and I know I want to go back home because even though that symbol is gone, the people who survived have become the symbols of hope needed to fill the void left by the World Trade Center and the people who once occupied that building.

8 Years Ago

Today I am reminded of how far I have come since that day. I can remember a life before 9/11. The world seemed safe and we all seemed secure in our lives. But moment that changed my life was when I finally walked out of the Trump Tower and saw nothing but ash every where, covering the cars and all over the streets. I felt like I was in one of those post WW 3 movies.

8 years ago I wrote a blog entry. I never read it. The reason I wrote it was because I didn’t want to forget the details that were fresh in my mind. I can tell you that none of the details of that day have left my mind. I read it this morning and it was difficult for me because it is quite choppy. I wrote in a different mind state and I left out many things. My entry was pretty short so here it is:

I work on the 6th floor of 40 Wall St. so i could see the World Trade Center….but I could feel the explosions and I could certainly here them too. The radio was letting us all know what was happening. I had friends working in that area ( 4 World Trade to be exact). I tried my best to get in touch with them. When i couldn’t…I really tried not to lose my composure…I informed my girl of the plane crash and she in turn called her family as well did I….Then the second plane it the North Tower. We all start to panic…What are we going to do?

Well if u don’t know…we work across the street from the stock exchange..so I was not too keen on staying in the building. But we had a meeting and management felt it was best to stay in side the building because there was “Pandemonium” outside….Fine whatever….As soon as the meeting is over….Tower 2 comes down….I hear them say it on the radio as I hear and feel it…..then this THICK BLACK CLOUD covers the windows….We all freak out and head for the stairs….When we get to the lobby and it is like a nuclear winter outside, I will never forget it!

There is this restaurant that is connected to the lobby of the building that was giving out water and towels to cover our faces. I knew we could not go outside, there was too much soot flying around…So we wait and Tower 1 comes down and once again….day becomes night! They takes us to the basement and just sit there for about a half hour…then they evacuate the building. (By the way, when I say “we” I am talking about me and my woman) We head toward the South Street Seaport and saw the empty space that was the World Trade Center. When we at the seaport we saw the footage of the terrible events.

From then until now all I am thinking…”All those People…”

Of the many things that I left out, one was that a family friend died that day. Steve Mercardo, who I looked up to, was a firefighter whose company was one of the first to arrive at the scene. He never made it out the building. While I am not sure which building he was in, I am quite sure he saved countless amount of lives. Years later, I went on a cruise with his brother and parents and every time I looked at them, I could see him in their eyes.

Another thing that stands out to me is that Josie was with me when all this happened. Clearly we were just dating at the time, but I will never forget the fear in her eyes when we saw the black smoke cover the windows after Tower 2 went down. I remember telling myself that I am not dying today…not in this building and not like this. When we got to the lobby, they would not let anyone out so, as I mention, above, we were shuffled to the basement. Probably the only thing that was even remotely amusing was the fact that in the basement was the safe, yes…where Trump keeps the money. I often wondered if the building we were to fall would they be digging for us or the money.

I also did not chronicle what happened after we made it to the South Street Seaport. At that point we had no clue how we would get back to the Bronx. There were boats taking mass amounts of people to Ellis Island and New Jersey, but no one was going north. So that meant we had to walk all the way to Grand Central Station. If I am correct, that is over 50 blocks in order to catch the 6 train back home. Between seeing the F16s flying up and down Manhattan or the armed members of the military doing patrols around the United Nations, it made for a very emotional day.

While I could go on and on, the one thing I that just does it for me was at the end of the night, calling people to see if they were ok and alive. I got an IM from my cousin (now brother) Rick. He was in California at the time and he said, “man, I thought I would never see you again”. I just cried so much.

To this day, I still have trouble going down there. I still have issues with looking at the NYC skyline, it is just ruined to me.

9/11

{Originally Posted on Blogger}

9-11-2001…That day has haunted me. I was on Wall St when it happened. It has taken me this long to write anything. I was going to put in a story that day about a cow lady that I saw on the train when the first plane hit the south tower. I can tell you that I did not see anything.

I worked on the 6th floor of 40 Wall St. so I could see the World Trade Center….but I could feel the explosions and I could certainly hear them too. The radio was letting us all know what was happening. I had friends working in that area ( 4 World Trade to be exact). I tried my best to get in touch with them. When I couldn’t…I really tried not to lose my composure…I informed my girl of the plane crash and she, in turn, called her family as well did I… Then the second plane hit the North Tower. We all start to panic…What are we going to do?

Well if you don’t know…we work across the street from the stock exchange..so I was not too keen on staying in the building. But we had a meeting and management felt it was best to stay inside the building because there was “Pandemonium” outside… Fine whatever… As soon as the meeting is over… Tower 2 comes down… I hear them say it on the radio as I hear and feel it…..then this THICK BLACK CLOUD covers the windows… We all freak out and head for the stairs… When we get to the lobby and it is like a nuclear winter outside, I will never forget it!

There is this restaurant that is connected to the lobby of the building that was giving out water and towels to cover our faces. I knew we could not go outside, there was too much soot flying around… So we wait and Tower 1 comes down and once again….day becomes night! They take us to the basement and just sit there for about a half hour…then they evacuate the building. (By the way, when I say “we” I am talking about me and my woman) We head toward the South Street Seaport and saw the empty space that was the World Trade Center. When we at the seaport we saw the footage of the terrible events.

From then until now all I am thinking…”All those people…”