20 years and one day ago I had just finished watching Star Trek: Enterprise on the now long defunct UPN and I was planning on going to the Borders Book Store, which was located in the lower level of WTC. There was a shopping mall like area where commuters could connect to many subways and commuter rail lines beneath the World Trade Center. I was feeling a bit under the weather though and I asked my mother about whether or not I should go to lower Manhattan the following morning and she talked me into staying home, stating “There’s nothing there that is so important that you absolutely positively have to go buy it tomorrow so if you’re not feeling well then stay home.”
So I listened to her and I stayed home and then I got a phone call early in the morning from my friend Robert who told me that plane hit the World Trade Center. I thought you was joking so I turned on the television and I saw the smoke coming from the first building that was hit and it was so surreal to me that I actually thought that a pilot made a real bad navigation decision or some thing. The idea of people committing that type of an attack on some thing as prominent as the World trade Center seemed unthinkable. This was even after the original attack that many people don’t even acknowledge any more than occurred 10 years earlier we’re a bomb went off deep in the basement of the World Trade Center. I remember when that occurred because I was in Manhattan working and it totally screwed up my commute home. However had I gone early in the morning like I was going to, I might have been in the chaos that errupted after the first plane hit. I’m not gonna say that I might have been a victim because how can I possibly say that? I am just grateful that I didn’t go to Borders that day because it would have been a nightmare for me. I loved that area of Manhattan and it was my favorite area too. I used to think if I could afford to live anywhere in Manhattan I would live in Tribeca. I worked in that area at various places for many years. So I was familiar with it and they were a lot of things that were a short distance away that I loved.
Then the second plane hit the building and it looked like a special effect, but it was real. My friend hung up his phone and it was just a surreal morning as a Pearl Harbor like event occurred in New York City. Now all over Brooklyn, which is the area that I live in, there are many streets named after first responders and the like who either lost their lives during or as a result of trying to save lives during that disaster. What would seem like the untouchable city of New York suddenly became a fragile place in my mind. Now as we head toward what I hope will be a post Covid world, I find myself feeling a bit melancholy because in the 20 years since and though completely unrelated both my friend and my mother are no longer here for reasons that those of you who are my friends already know. I don’t know why things happen the way they do. I try to take some comfort in being grateful and believing in the idea of God’s plan even if God is an impersonal God. However I would be remiss if I did not state that everything changed on September 11, 2001 and nothing has ever been the same in this country since. Just like COVID-19 will have a profound effect on the history of this country and on the planet especially for those of us who lost somebody. I don’t know what the future will bring for us obviously because life is filled with surprises both good and bad and a lot in between. So all that I think we should do is be grateful to be here and to console those who need consoling and to remember what was lost. While you can’t start a new chapter of a book if you keep rereading the old one, sometimes it doesn’t hurt to reread it one more time before you move on just to refresh yourself on the story. Thank you and God bless you all.
Mark A. Rivera - South Brooklyn, NY September 11, 2021.