On this day, for the past 17 years, I have avoided social media and taken the day off from work or school in order to have my own moment and block out everyone else’s. I roll my eyes at anyone who posts on social, and my stubborn and bitter reaction to this day has become part of my ritual. It’s hard for me to accept that everyone has their own experience of today, whether it was direct impact, from states away, or none at all. I think all native New Yorkers have a little bit of this fierce pride and sense of protectiveness. But, I’ve found it even harder to accept as the I relive the 10 year old girl who was late to school one morning.
As I walked down the street, my short 10 year old body wasn’t able to see above the heads of the sea of people filling up W 10th and Greenwich, the block my middle school was on. Used to crowds of people, I asked a stranger what movie they were shooting. A man in his 40s, unable to speak, pointed ahead. A view of the towers stood smack in the middle of Greenwich Street. The first plane had just hit, a close enough view to be distracted by the sight of miniature people jumping from the windows, the second plane hit. Unable to process or understand what I was seeing, a stranger was able to collect their own surroundings and realize I was alone and very much not an adult. They shuffled me out of the crowd and brought me outside my school doors. Not super sure what to do with me from there, they left. I wandered inside, and went upstairs to my 5th grade classroom, where the rest of the class sat, unaware of what was going on outside. My teacher yelled at me for being late and shushed me as I tried, poorly, to explain what had just happened. A few minutes later, the phone rang. Already not a huge fan of this 5th grade teacher, I couldn’t help but murmur “I told you so” under my breath.
For 17 years, aside from some brief, obligatory Child Psychology right after 9/11, I mainly have kept this experience to myself. It’s hard for me to accept today without feeling an extreme sense of “if you weren’t here on this day, you don’t get to talk about it” mentality. I am so fiercely protective over my own experience and my internal way of processing, that I’ve never told the majority of my friends or loved ones, and I’ve judged those that do. Today, for the first time, I broke my tradition of taking the day off or working from home, and so, I figured I would break all of my “traditions” today.
Going into the office, which happens to be one block from the memorial, was less of an intentional stance, and more because I hadn’t gone into the office in a few days and felt like a lazy employee. I immediately regretted this decision as I felt familiar flashes of anger when I realized that the E train was more crowded than usual, packed with tourists going see the memorial and shop in the gift store. It increased as I watched people take selfies in the Oculus , and watched digital Ads along the Oculus walls, promoting the gift shop and memorial visits— all reminders why I’ve chosen to actively avoid this day. But, as I pulled myself together at my desk, I had the overly-delayed realization that I shouldn’t try to avoid this day or my experience of it, but rather accept that people commemorate in different ways which aren’t for me to judge or be personally afflicted by, whether it’s a selfie or in silence. As I write this, I realize that I’m not fully 100% on board with this mindset yet, I still think taking a selfie in the Oculus to post on Instagram is punch-able, but it’s a step in the right direction, right?
It’s a simple thought but, these days, there are so many opinions flying off the handle, I’ve found it easier to ignore the noise all together since it’s pointless to let approaches and opinions that you don’t agree with get to you and overheat you. I’ve always felt like there is no purpose in contributing to the noise, and have harshly judged those who have. But, I guess, my point in writing any of this, is for those who have always chosen silence as a pride, protective, or defense mechanism, it’s okay to break it once and awhile. Although, in the same vein, this could also just be a weird indulgent need to put my thoughts down on paper, and maybe I should have simply written this all out and sent it to my therapist. I definitely debated posting this and wondering how hard I’d roll my eyes reading it as a third party. In any case, if this resonated with anyone, that’s great. At least it felt good to put into words. Let’s hope I don’t start posting about the harms of GMOs on Facebook as a follow up.
Love to all my New Yorkers on today, even the tourists.