*please read before continuing
: we never forget where we were on 9/11/01. It was such a traumatic and terrifying moment in the lives of everyone in America – you will never forget where you were. Me, the writer. . . I was just a kid in my third-grade classroom. Our teacher had the news turned on, and all our eyes stared and watched in horror, trying to wrap our eight/nine-year-old little heads around what the hell was happening. Jude wasn’t born yet, but I wanted to incorporate her learning about 9/11 through the eyes of someone who was there. I don’t usually give trigger warnings, but because this was something that affected us all on such a devastating scale, I just want to give a heads up that this is a memorial to all of those who lost their lives / helped during the 9/11 attacks. Reader discretion is advised.
: If this is a post you do not agree with, please keep your thoughts to yourself and move on. I really do not want to hurt anyone in posting this. I just want to share a remembrance for those who lost their life that day. Do not give me your political views in comments - this is not about politics. It's meant to be special. Do not disrespect this. Please.
I hope I did this topic justice, and to ANYONE who was affected by this tragic event or knew anyone who has or who serves our country so that we can be safe, thank you for your service.
It was a beautiful, peaceful, and serene morning in New York City. It wasn’t hot any longer – the summer was turning into fall with each day that went by. The air wasn’t cold - -the temperature was just right.
The birds were chirping.
The sounds of the city were muffled in the background.
The sun was shining down from the heavens above.
But here at the fountains. . . where the Twin Towers once stood . . .it seemed like – in this moment, with how perfect everything was – the world stood still, and everything was right in the world.
Jude stared down at the fountain.
She hadn’t been alive during the attacks on 9/11, but every year around this time, people started talking – sharing their stories. Where they were, what they were doing. She’d heard a few stories over the years from those who had been there, and some from those who had lost people.
It wasn’t uncommon for those who lived in New York City to have family who were injured or died.
Many never recovered from that day – whether that was mentally, physically, emotionally, spiritually… or all of the above.
The sound of the fountains flowing down into the ground where the towers once stood left Jude with the feeling of peace but also sadness.
It was such a beautiful yet sobering memorial.
She looked up, and high in the sky now towering over where the fountains lay was an even bigger skyrise – it was a building meant to withstand just about anything.
It was America’s way of saying, ‘you may have knocked us down, but we will not be defeated
The building and its height and its power gave Jude chills.
She knew America had its problems, but the sight of that building standing tall – despite all that happened that day – it gave her hope for a better future for the country.
It never mattered who you were – where you came from or what you looked like or what you believed.
All that mattered is that you were here. . . free
You lived in America.
This was a place to be proud to live, and she knew that not everyone felt that way.
She knew that oppression here in America was very real.
She knew there were people in pain and people on the streets not heard and not listened to, and it made her sad that a place that was meant to be filled with freedom and fresh starts, still had its faults. . . but as she stared at that building – as she looked high in the sky - chills filled her entire being because – in this very moment – in this very place – where she was shown what was lost and what came from what happened - she was left with hope
– hope for better.
Hope for her
people (of all races and backgrounds, becuase that's what America was: a melting pot).
Hope for everyone to come together and love each other.
Was that too much to ask of this world?
Jude looked from the skyrise back to the memorial park.
Her eyes scanned the people there – there were some reading the names, others were looking up at the new building, there was a long line forming at the memorial museum, but what caught her eye out of everyone there was what appeared to be a homeless man sitting on one of the few park benches.
Jude tilted her head and studied the man for a moment. His eyes were glistening with tears as he appeared to be staring at one of the many names listed on the fountains edge.
She let out a sigh.
She was told never to approach strangers, but there was something about this man that drew her to him.
Jude had to know his story.
She just had to know.
Slowly… and with a hint of trepidation in her step, Jude made her way over to the park bench.
“Excuse me, sir?”
The man looked up at her with those tear-filled eyes. He looked worn and tired and . . .those eyes that filled with tears had no hope left in them.
A cough escaped his lungs (a cough Jude would later learn as she grew older was a symptom from his diagnosis of mesothelioma. People during 9/11 exposed to the dust started to develop asbestos-related conditions such as lung cancer and mesothelioma. . .but Jude didn’t know that. . . but that's what the man had and that's why he was coughing so bad)
His cough was awful. He took a moment to hack up what sounded like his entire lung.
Jude stood there.
She didn’t leave or give him any sort of dirty look.
She just stared at him and waited.
She wanted to ask him ‘why he was here?’ and ‘who he was visiting?’ and ‘what his 9/11 story was’ but she never had to ask. It was if he already knew her questions, and he was ready with the answer.
He tapped the open area of the bench next to him.
Jude took a seat.
She looked into those tear-filled eyes.
“It was a beautiful day that day – very much like today. The weather was perfect. The sun was shining. It truly was as if nothing could go wrong.”
“… but something did.” Jude didn’t even realize she spoke those words out loud.
“I was a firefighter in Boston at the time.” The man paused as tears filled his eyes and his lip began to quiver. “I was in New York City visiting my family. My brother worked here as a police officer. He was stationed near the towers and was part of the many first responders to answer the call.” The man paused again. His eyes moved from Jude to the name he’d been staring at moments before. Full tears were forming in his eyes now. “He went in, and I know my brother. He helped. He did what he could to get anyone out. He was the best man anyone could’ve ever known.” Another pause and a clear of his throat. Jude had a feeling he was trying not to cry in front of her. “I wasn’t too far from the towers at the time. I didn’t listen to the news about getting out of the city. I was a first responder back home, and I wasn’t going to just walk away. I helped get as many people off the streets as and after the final tower fell, but there wasn’t much we could do until after the dust began to clear.” Another cough escaped his lungs. “Boston Fire deployed several of us here anyway, so I stayed behind and helped clean up the rubble and look for bodies and people and ---” The man shook his head. He looked up toward the sky where the towers once resided, and where the Freedom tower now stood high over the city. Jude could see in his eyes – it was as if he was reliving that day, what he saw, all over again. “I never went back home. I’ve not seen my wife and kids since.”
A tear fell from Jude’s eye at this point.
“I couldn’t go home. I just. . .you don’t recover from something like that, you know?”
Jude blinked. She didn’t know what to say. She didn’t know because she wasn’t there, but she could see in his eyes that he meant everything he said.
Jude tilted her head.
“For listening.” He breathed in a breath and let it out. His eyes returned to the towers. “No one ever asks me my story. They look at me and think ‘homeless
' but they don’t know my story. . . they don’t know why I ended up this way.” Another cough escaped the man’s lungs. It took him a moment to recover, but he did finally speak up again. “You be a good kid, you hear? Be apart of the solution to all this hate in the world, okay?”
Jude nodded and very softly responded. “Okay.”
She stood to her feet and waved goodbye to the man. He waved back. His attention turned back toward the name on the memorial that Jude now knew was his brother.
She may have left the man sitting there, but she would never forget
him, because he would forever hold a place in her heart, and she would do her best to keep her promise to be a good person and love everyone in hopes of helping something like the attacks on the world trade center from ever happening again.