DELHI, INDIA: Today I was speaking with a friend about nothing in particular when the conversation drifted towards my time in New York and recalling what it was like to live there under mayors Rudy Giuliani and Michael Bloomberg as one elected official transferred power to the other during 9/11.
It was unexpected but I found it difficult on some level speaking about 9/11, and not embarrassed to say it was emotional. I don’t often speak about that time with anyone. The frequent reports of Cyanide across the city and country, the efforts to volunteer and help out, the woman who claimed to hear voices at Ground Zero who turned out to be faking it (for what reason I do not remember), the fighter planes which circled the city on a regular basis, the papers from World Trade Centre in Prospect Park, not to mention the layer of ash which penetrated my brownstone and thinly dusted my white furniture – then the realisation we were breathing that in and what it might be comprised of. Who remembers the rumble of buildings in the middle of the night not long after? I was chatting online with a friend who lived in Greenwich Village at the time; we both asked one another if it was from Ground Zero, but later came to realise it was an earthquake.
I suppose too some realisations come a bit late. In recalling the days that followed 9/11 I spoke to my friend about how so many people rushed to the local hospital to donate blood, then as time passed it became more apparent this was in vain – there would be no survivors who would need the transfusions.
The weirdness and coincidence that many of us experienced in the 24 hours leading up to the event, not to mention the occurrences in the days following which put us all on a heightened feeling of anxiety, this is all very difficult to convey to others who were not there at the time. And if you were, it’s unlikely you want to relive it again in conversation. All of this combined at the time left us exhausted and emotionally drained. Some of us were trapped in our own city, unable to leave for safer ground as planes were grounded, cars where restricted and local was briefly shutdown. Once we got through the initial days, weeks and months which followed – and while life started to return to normal – we had all said and experienced all that we could manage from having lived through it. We did not want anymore tragedy.
I haven’t had to speak about these times in years, but speaking about it now made me connect more than before with the catchphrase Giuliani used at the time, which now if I am not wrong is memorialised in the tributes found in New York, “We will never forget.”