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Less than a mile from the Towers
July 12, 2006 - New York, New York

My parents once told me that they, and every other American from their generation, will remember always exactly where they were and what they were doing at the exact moment they received the news that President Kennedy had been shot. My paramount moment in history, where all time and movement seemed to stop, was the moment the Towers fell. I will always remember that day in a heightened clarity that is absent from any other memory I have from my first twenty-one years of life, and probably any memories to come as well. Every moment is etched in to my mind, every detail of chaos and disorder. I'll never forget where I was when I first heard that two planes had crashed into the Twin Towers, a New York landmark that I had previously been rather indifferent towards. I've lived in downtown Manhattan, less than a mile from the Towers my entire life. The World Trade Center, along with most other New York City landmarks, had absolutely no personal significance to me. It was something I passed on occasion, hung out in surrounding areas, but was mostly just for hordes of tourists to ogle. That was before September 11, a day I'll not soon forget.

It was my junior year of high school and I was on my way to my third period English class when a friend stopped me in the hallway.  She revealed that she had just heard on the radio that a plane had crashed into the Trade Center with a slight giggle. At that time, that was all we knew, just that a plane and one of the Twin Towers had collided. It sounded so ridiculous that it almost seemed like a joke and I remember thinking to myself, "Wow. How does a pilot miss something that big and smash into it?" I thought it was simply a pilot's carelessness, a miscalculation or some sort of mistake. I had no idea that it was a deliberate attack and could not possibly have imagined the amount of destruction and pain that the city's populous would soon come to know. A group of teenagers bewildered and confused, my English class that day consisted of sitting in a circle and reciting Native American chants of prayer. None of us knew what was going on or what to do, so we chanted.

When I think of that day, the word that comes to mind is terror.  The Trade Center is located less than a mile from my family's downtown apartment and I remember my mom had business to attend to in that neighborhood. That day, I experience fear and panic and confusion that I had never known before. The city dissolved into mass pandemonium. The public transportation was shut down. Cell phones had no service and even land lines proved useless. I heard that parts of downtown were barricaded and worried if and when I might see my home again. Classmates were being retrieved by frantic parents to trek home to safety, where they would likely remain fixated on the news for the next two days. My parents did not show up to find me, nor did either of my two sisters. Newscasts revealed that parts of downtown were closed off entirely, and it was most likely that my home was outside the boundaries of accessible terrain. I cannot explain the fear I felt that night. I was stranded at school, with no way to get home, or even if I could manage to get downtown, I had no idea if I could even get into my building. I couldn't reach my parents, so I ended up staying at friend's house near my school. At moments like these, the presence of family is the most important thing. I had no idea where mine was or when I might see them. That afternoon, I saw people bloody and covered in rubble-those that were at the Trade Center, and managed to get away-walking down the city streets. Staring down Park Avenue, we could see the cloud of smoke and debris mushrooming into the sky. The rest of the night was spent fixated on the television, watching every news channel. Hourly, the estimated death toll rose and the likelihood of finding survivors plummeted. Frantic family members of the missing sobbed in front of television screens, begging for any information regarding their loved ones. The final count was 2,752 fatalities that resulted from the attacks on New York that day. For each of those 2,752 people, there is a family, friends, sisters, and brothers, who suffered incomparable and wholly unjust losses that day. Perhaps the hardest part for any of them was the waiting for news, and, finally knowing that they might never see their loved one again, not even for the sake of a proper burial.

A fledgling photographer at the time of the attacks, I took my camera with me to visit the numerous heart-breaking memorials being set up around the downtown area. These informal impromptu memorials were the most raw, honest expression of love and loss I've ever seen. At one, I remember seeing a single shoe belonging to a woman who was missing. Like a horribly morbid version of Cinderella, her shoe was all that remained.

New Yorkers are infamous for their cold, unfriendly nature. New York is a city where people go to be lost in a crowd, to maintain anonymity and privacy. Ask a stranger for directions or a spare cigarette and you're likely to be snubbed. It's a protective instinct in this city. It's necessary for survival. Head down, keep walking. In the days following September 11, I saw New Yorkers band together for the first time in my relatively short life. Everyone felt the pain of the attacks. As the Trade Center was such a business megalith, it seemed everyone knew someone who was there when the towers fell. Everyone wanted to help. Nightly vigils were held. I remember attending them with my mother, and I saw a side of her that was entirely new to me. I've always been an irrationally empathetic person. I feel immensely for other people. The TWA flight 800 disaster occurred when I was 10 years old. I sat glued to the television, in horror and utter heartbreak. I cried for days because, even at 10, I understood the immense and irreparable loss of the families and friends of those onboard. That, like the Trade Center, was an incident that created such needless loss and suffering, which no one deserves.

At a vigil we attended on September 13, my mom, peace candle in hand, whispered to me, "This feels like I'm back in the 60s. It feels like Vietnam."

The first photograph I ever printed still hangs on my wall. It's a black and white shot of my mother at a vigil, taken two days after the attack. She is seated, head bowed, with a sign on her back: "No More Killing."

I believe life is ultimately the culmination of moments and experiences. The day to day ebb and flow of life is important, but every so often, we experience something that blows us away and changes our whole paradigm. These monumental moments shape us. One of the most monumental experiences of my life took place on that fateful September day. Fifteen years old is quite a young age to be faced with that much destruction and human heartlessness. Although, it is far from comparable, but on that day, I got a glimpse of what the people at Nagasaki or Hiroshima experienced when they were attacked. There's a famous Kurosawa quote from his film Rhapsody in August that deals with some of the issues concerning the aftermath of the bombing of Nagasaki. This simple idea is so completely true and universal, but remains a concept people too often forget.

"War is to the end, it will destroy us all."

I will never forget September 11. How could I when I was there, experiencing it firsthand? I hope I will always remember it and remember it accurately. In the five years since the attacks, the phrase "9-11" has grown to disgust me. People have perverted the events of that day and twisted them for their own propaganda and self-interest. With the dawning of Bush's "war on terror" and racial profiling becoming the norm, the attacks seem to have given people a right to be openly racist. I think this war we are now involved in is nonsense. You can't force people to accept us and our way of life. This "war on terror" is like fighting a ghost. You can't declare war on an idea, on a feeling. More killing just can't be the answer.

I want to remember September 11, but not the way the media wants me to. I don't want to remember it as the day that started another war. I don't want to remember it the way George W. Bush talks about it. He wasn't there. He hesitated to even react, so how much could he possibly understand about that day? The people who were there, who saw the towers in flames firsthand, the people who still remember the stench of fumes that permeated the air of Lower Manhattan for months. I want to remember it the way that it really happened, the way that I experienced it, and not as the propaganda-laden, capitalistic thing that it has become for most Americans. For the life of me, I cannot understand why people decided they would take this gruesome event and decide to profit off of it. Within days there were "Remember 9-11" t-shirts, coffee mugs, paper weights, snow globes, ear warmers, whatever you could think of, they made it to peddle to tourists.

I believe that your book is the first true memorial item I have yet to see. More so than the various statues that have been erected around the nation. More so than any t-shirt or 9-11 playing cards. It is raw and pure, the way it really happened. It perfectly captures that single devastating moment. That climax. My life is a series of moments, this being one of the most revolutionary. You captured it perfectly and made it into something tangible, something I can hold in my hand, put in my pocket, go back to, and remember how it was for me.

Lauren De Luca

Previous Essay Main Page Next Essay
Name Date Location Title
0. Scott Blake September 17, 2008 Omaha, Nebraska Introduction
1. Sarah Baker March 12, 2006 Omaha, Nebraska The very first essay
2. Sean Smith May 10, 2006 Toronto, Canada Tactical application of slowness
3. Mike Fischer May 17, 2006 Racine, Wisconsin My birthday is September 11
4. Pat Riot May 23, 2006 Los Angeles, California 9-11 FLIP OUT
5. Julian Miller May 31, 2006 New York, New York Desperate grab for attention
6. Scott Grant June 5, 2006 Bristol, United Kingdom I wished I didn't own a television
7. Daniel Clark June 6, 2006 Henderson, Nevada Media Monotony
8. Damon Lawner June 10, 2006 Los Angeles, California Concise yet massive story
9. Natalie Conforti June 12, 2006 San Francisco, California American student in Italy
10. K Torpy June 13, 2006 Omaha, Nebraska Incomprehensible accessible
11. Pierre Ernest June 18, 2006 Borsbeek, Belgium I also was born on Sept. 11th
12. Timothy Schaffert June 18, 2006 Omaha, Nebraska Lesson in commerce and tragedy
13. Chris Fischer June 18, 2006 Landisville, Pennsylvania i could give a fuck less
14. Aaron Norhanian June 19, 2006 Brooklyn, New York Hold the moment in my hand
15. Anonymous June 19, 2006 Anonymous. i think that Bush planned it
16. Steve Chudomelka June 19, 2006 Omaha, Nebraska Caught in the moment again
17. Adam Arsenault June 19, 2006 Prince Edward Island, Canada Respecting each other's visions
18. Pierre-François Maquaire June 19, 2006 Paris, France I collect folioscopes
19. Kim Lyvang June 20, 2006 Ontario, Canada My life is now richer
20. Alexis Turner June 20, 2006 Portland, Oregon Listen to *me*
21. Patrick Hughes June 21, 2006 Gainesville, Florida I would not like a 9-11 flipbook
22. Philippe Dubost June 26, 2006 Chamalières, France Sensational effects of this game
23. Jean-Pierre Becker June 27, 2006 Paris, France I could smile about your question
24. Jayne Sonshine June 28, 2006 Twp. of Washington, New Jersey Hold a piece of history
25. Tabitha Straws June 28, 2006 Seattle, Washington Selfish American
26. K. Verbonus June 28, 2006 Steilacoom, Washington Everyone wants to be right
27. Jo Bryan June 28, 2006 Cambs, United Kingdom Another frantic day
28. Hayley Gardiner June 28, 2006 Northampton, United Kingdom Not just about the victims
29. David Vogt June 28, 2006 Rockford, Illinois Feelings and emotions of others
30. Nick Jugovics June 28, 2006 Paxton, Illinois Made from suffering
31. Lennaert Bosch June 28, 2006 Cuijk, The Netherlands Ten and a half year old
32. Anonymous June 29, 2006 Anonymous Trivializing those events
33. David Pitman July 1, 2006 South Wales, United Kingdom Slap in the face
34. Tracy Cowell July 1, 2006 Somerset, United Kingdom Agree with it or not
35. Candy VanOcker July 1, 2006 Springville, New York This happened to everyone
36. Fadel Haowat July 1, 2006 Chicago, Illinois What the news can do
37. Daniel Sahagian July 1, 2006 North Arlington, New Jersey Light against Hate and Ignorance
38. Sam Brobvision July 1, 2006 Nottingham, United Kingdom Little effect on my life
39. Cain Radford July 1, 2006 Broken Hill, Australia Through tragedy life goes on
40. Susan Rabka July 1, 2006 Johannesburg, South Africa I might as well have been there
41. Nicole Brodsky July 1, 2006 San Francisco, California Arbiter of the act
42. Julie Gormly July 2, 2006 Brisbane, Australia Uncomfortable sharing
43. Nicola Dingle July 2, 2006 Somerset, United Kingdom Seize the day
44. Tarryn Bow July 3, 2006 Broken Hill, Australia Far more shocking
45. Ricardo dC Russo July 3, 2006 Manaus, Brazil World is full of lost words
46. Pascal Fouché July 4, 2006 Paris, France How people can see it
47. Anthony Mack July 4, 2006 Lacey, Washington ALL humans strive for freedom
48. Teri Jenkins July 6, 2006 Ontario, Canada Deepest sympathies
49. Alexandre Noyer July 6, 2006 Annecy, France Internationnal langage
50. Yolanda Yuyu July 6, 2006 Chengdu, China It tell us to remember something
51. Craig Park July 7, 2006 Rocky Mount, North Carolina Are we better for our learning
52. Kell Black July 11, 2006 Clarksville, Tennessee Small matchbox diorama
53. Anonymous July 12, 2006 United States Sophisticated visual humor
54. Lauren De Luca July 12, 2006 New York, New York Less than a mile from the Towers
55. Nanette Allen July 12, 2006 Las Vegas, Nevada Intimate translations
56. Manfred Reichert July 21, 2006 Visselhoevede, Germany Flash animation
57. B Rousse July 22, 2006 Paris, France It deserves our irreverence
58. Charlotta Bjorkskog July 22, 2006 Kokkola, Finland Of course you gain on it
59. Stuart and Tara July 24, 2006 Brooklyn, New York Better view on the TV
60. Dave Schneider January 29, 2007 Chicago, Illinois Remind me of "real" pain
61. Dan Keane January 30, 2007 Bloomfield, New Jersey what the fuck was the 'message'?
62. Thomas Hill February 6, 2007 Oklahoma City, Oklahoma perception is reality
63. Robert Fischer March 29, 2007 Houma, Louisiana the defining moment
64. Frank J Perrotta December 5, 2007 Sharon, Pennsylvania 9-11 Flip Book Manipulations
65. Matthew Lahey January 7, 2008 Los Angeles, Califronia On A Flipbook
66. Kristin Heikel March 16, 2008 Omaha, Nebraska Reporting and Voyeurism
67. Aibyouka Kun September 29, 2008 Westmont, New Jersey The First IM Chat
68. Bobby Ryan November 4, 2008 North Cape May, New Jersey Patriotic Work of Art
69. Trevon Watson February 3, 2009 Guyton, Georgia War On Terror is Fading Away
70. Adrian Davis February 17, 2009 Fort Bragg, North Carolina Something you care about
71. Dear December 26, 2008 Portland, Oregon Second IM Chat
72. James King May 4, 2009 Glasgow, Scotland The world will never be the same
73. Beáta Istvánko October 27, 2009 Budakalász, Hungary Opinion of the audience
74. Alex Klehfoth June 1, 2009 Lexington, Kentucky Twin Tower Pinata
75. Wolfgang Skodd May 5, 2010 Dortmund, Germany Agents & Provocateurs
76. Michiko Tanaka August 2, 2010 Seattle, Washington Over and over
77. DJ Tilley January 7, 2011 Reno, Nevada Wandering around the playground
78. Benjamin Goggin January 8, 2011 Portland, Oregon Tornadoes to terrorism
79. Tom Eubank January 8, 2011 New York City, New York Top floor of 95 Christopher Street
80. Ian January 8, 2011 Oakland, California Stir things up
81. Anonymous February 24, 2011 Anonymous Inconsiderate and offensive
82. Amanda Marsico March 3, 2011 District of Columbia, USA Thank you for making me think
83. Anonymous April 18, 2011 Anchorage, Alaska This isint a joke
84. Jessica Schwartz April 27, 2011 USA Who is the work for?
85. Dr. Kevin Dann May 19, 2011 Brooklyn, New York Thanks Art Spiegelmann
86. TheBigBoss May 26, 2011 Nairobi, Kenya Le Chêne et le Roseau
87. Stephania June 27, 2011 USA More Real Than Reality
88. Anonymous July 11, 2011 Brooklyn, New York Weak and Irresponsible
89. Renee Nied August 4, 2011 Cobleskill, New York Pick Up Tomorrow
90. Elliott Burris September 2, 2011 Saint Joseph, Missouri I was only 3
91. Sheila Zachariae September 9, 2011 Omaha, Nebraska Protecting the people from themselves
92. Wendy Parker November 6, 2011 Leicester, United Kingdom Interesting Yet Horrifying
93. Aidan Hicks March 12, 2012 Aurora, Colorado Quite Young on September 11
94. Patrick McCarthy April 17, 2012 Chicago, Illinois Propaganda Attack
95. Billy October 12, 2012 Sandia Park, New Mexico Bling Review 41
96. Gabriella Cutrone June 25, 2013 Brooklyn, New York Inspired and Upset
97. BSG October 31, 2013 Portland, Oregon Images Detach From Emotions
98. Wilfredo Raguro July 28, 2016 Irving, Texas Looking Back Now
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