WTC Poster 2000

My first trip to New York City was in early 2000. Among other tourist sites, I wanted to visit the top of the World Trade Center “twin towers” but couldn’t get reservations for the Windows on the World restaurant that evening. Walking along the Hudson River waterfront with my sister, who would later work adjacent in the World Financial Center, we decided to leave that for the “next trip” and grabbed a poster instead.

I never saw the towers standing again.

On the morning of the attack, 5:46am in California, my roommate was getting ready for work when the house landline rang (these were still quite commonplace). He came and woke me up and said “I’m sorry dude, it’s your mom and she’s crying. I think it might be your grandma.” Groggy, I grabbed the phone and tried to understand what was wrong.

“¡Nos atacáron! Y no puedo encontrarla!”

They’ve attacked us, and we can’t find her. That morning, my sister was starting a new job at Merrill Lynch and had to report to HR at 9am in WTC1. I didn’t know it at the time, but just as she got out of a taxi she looked up and saw the first plane strike the building. Like many others, I would have probably stood around taking in the calamity and searching for answers. This was before the age of the smartphone, otherwise many would have aimed their devices skyward to document the fireball, hoping for a few minutes of fame on Twitter. Luckily, she had the instincts to get back into the cab and instruct the driver to flee the situation immediately:

“Just drive North!”

Phone lines were jammed and Verizon’s switching station in WTC was about to be crushed under the weight of 110 floors. We could not find her and we feared the worst. I turned on the television and saw the second plane hit WTC2. I was crying along with my mom, certain that our nation was forever changed.

A giddy optimism and innocence
about the dawn of the
new century, immediately violated.

My mom hung up and repeatedly tried the phone lines. I kept sobbing. My roommate came in to console me. It’s a cliché anecdote that has been told so many times, it almost seems fake. But genuinely, my roommate sat next to me on the bed and tried to distract me from my sadness and said,

“What movie is this? I haven’t seen it.”

It’s the news! They attacked! This is really happening right now!” He couldn’t believe it. Nobody could believe it. We watched as WTC2 collapsed. My sister was able to call outbound several hours later. She was uninjured physically, but scarred emotionally. To this day, she has panic attacks when she boards cross-country flights.

When we say “Never Forget” today, some may use it as a topical catchphrase akin to #tbt. But for some, never forgetting is a daily curse. My sister still lives and works footsteps away from the WTC memorial site, her office window mercifully aimed at the Statue of Liberty instead of the dark fountains, that must look ominous from 50 floors above.

Usually a sound sleeper, today I woke up early and my bleary eyes revealed 5:47am. 13 years and one minute after the first attack.

I walk past this poster in my hallway every day. It does not give me sadness as it does for some, because I was fortunate enough to not lose anyone that I directly knew. But it gives me a longing to return to the innocence of the post-Y2k, pre-9/11 era.

Never Forget, indeed.

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