Today is a day of remembrance. A day of prayer and contemplation. The 18th anniversary of one of the most tragic days in our collective lives.
I used to turn on the TV, first thing in the morning, and listen to it while I got dressed and got ready to take my daughter to catch the school bus and drive myself and cousin P to work, as I used to give her a ride. But, on that particular morning, on September 11, 2001, I didn't turn on the TV, for some reason or the other. Most probably, I was running a bit late and hurrying my daughter, as we needed to catch her school bus by 6:25 a.m., and there was no time to listen to the news.
I was already at the office, working on something, when I heard some of my colleagues saying something about New York and a plane crash. I generally didn't pay much attention to all the background sounds of the office when I was working. We had an open space office with cubicles that allowed us to see and hear each other; phones were always ringing, people were always talking, either on the phone or over the cubicle walls. So, I didn't pay too much attention to what they were saying.
Then, my phone rang and it was cousin P. Her office's head offices were in New York and they had closed due to the attack and the Los Angeles office was also told to close. Cousin P called to say she was going home and was getting a ride home from one of her colleagues. I asked her what had happened and she told me it was the World Trade Center that was attacked.
World Trade Center, where one of my second cousins worked as an engineer at the Port Authority.
We continued to try to work, but, we were in a building in what is known as the Civic Center of downtown, an area where the City Hall, County, State, and Federal office buildings and courts are clustered together. I was on the 7th floor of a building with 26 floors, but, there were taller buildings all around. We didn't know if there would be any attacks on the West Coast, as well. My colleagues were telling those of us who were seated near a window to keep watch for any low flying planes!
A short while later, we got word from our director, telling us that the office was closed for the day and we were to all go home. I was on my way home when I heard that the towers had collapsed.
My mother was still alive, then, and she and M were in the garden when I got home. I turned the TV on and we sat watching it, for a few minutes. Then, I flew the flag that I normally flew only on the 4th of July and decided to go to the grocery store to stock up on water. I don't know what made me think of that, except, I remember during the Los Angeles riots in the early 90s, that there were grocery stores being burned and vandalized. Having enough water on hand seemed to be very important.
Then, I went to my daughter's school and picked her up early. She was 8 years old at the time and just started 4th grade. I told her I came to pick her up early because there had been an attack in New York and she said that there had been an announcement on the PA system about it.
I sat glued to the TV for the rest of the day. Everything seemed so unreal.
Several days later, I found out that my second cousin had been one of the lucky ones. He managed to evacuate the building. He was photographed by reporter, as he emerged, all covered with dust and debris. I just wish that everyone else was as lucky.
It's hard to believe it's been 18 years. Today is a day of remembrance and prayer.