Ten years ago today, terrorists flew four planes into the towers of the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and the Pennsylvania woods a short time before I walked into my poetry writing class at the University of North Carolina. Afterward, I walked across an eerily calm quad, up the steps of the School of Journalism building and into a sea of students crowded around an enormous TV screen in the lobby. I watched with the others as the planes’ fiery connection with the Twin Towers played over and over again. I remained after our professor canceled class and all of the other students dissipated. I walked outside and sat, alone, on the stately building’s silent front steps under the deepest, most perfect blue sky I had ever seen. And, just weeks into my sophomore year of college, I realized that my life – indeed, the lives of all Americans – would never quite be the same – ever again.
I’ve often thought about the people who lost their lives on that fateful day – and all of the people they left behind. My husband is a native of Queens, NY and the product of families that immigrated from Ireland and Italy in search of better opportunities in the Land of the Free. Thankfully, all of my husband’s relatives and friends still in the city were spared; his mother’s twin brother, an accountant for the NYPD who was closest to the tragedy that day, felt the ground shake under his desk at One Police Plaza but made it out without a scratch.
I’ve often thought about how very normal that morning must have felt for the majority of the people who lost their lives in the attacks. How likely none of them imagined the goodbye kiss they gave their spouse, or bear hug they gave their kids, or perfect bagel and cream cheese from the corner deli that they ate on the run, would be their last.
I remember how normal the morning of Taylor’s diagnosis felt to everyone who loves her – every minute leading up to the life-changing news. And I struggle to recall how I spent the previous day – if I valued what I thought I had – a beautiful, smart, sweet, perfectly healthy little sister – as much as I should have.
There will never be another 9/11/01. I will never have another sibling diagnosed with Batten disease. Nonetheless, we have to cherish what we have and never, ever take the people we love for granted. No matter what, we have to live every day.