Then: On the morning of September 11, 2001 I was in my college dorm room getting ready for the day with the radio on when an interruption in the music came on to announce that a plane had flown into the North Tower. I immediately turned on the TV and saw with my own eyes the chaos that was ensuing. My room mate came back from the showers to find me crying on the couch. I walked to class as The South Tower was crumbling, campus was in complete silence. I arrived at my creative writing class and 10 minutes in the professor sent us all home and told us to surround ourselves with people. My roommate, floor mates and I spent the rest of the day glued to the tv and trying to call family but cell towers were down. That night the entire campus came together in the Quad for a candlelight vigil. I remember looking up at the sky and not seeing a single airplane and feeling melancholy.
June 2002 I left for my first visit to Manhattan, and my first visit to ground zero. The eerie silence, interrupted every so often with sounds of bulldozers still sifting through rubble, the coldness in that particular spot in the city on a very warm day, the flowers and photos hanging on the chain link fence, and the weeping family members. I was overcome with a feeling that New York was somewhere I needed to spend a chapter of my life.
June 2003 I left my small town in Wisconsin for a summer in Manhattan for my internship working with kids from Manhattan that had lost someone on that horrific day. That summer turned into the most life changing summer of my life, and changed my perspective on the things that really matter in life.
Recent: Since 2003, I have been back and forth to Manhattan several times, it's a city that just calls to my soul. But it was last summer's visit that affected me. I had gone to the 9/11 memorial and thought I would find it sad but it was instead the most peaceful, eerily quiet and tranquil place I have ever been in the city. I went to search for the names of the relatives of the kids I had worked with. I went to the space and found the name I was searching for, it was a very humid calm July afternoon. I put my hand a top the name and was immediately sprayed with droplets of fountain water, my eyes teared up and goosebumps ensued. It was as if he was letting me know that he was there, that he appreciated and was thanking me for coming out to visit his final resting place. That moment is something that not only stuck with me the rest of the trip, but I get goosebumps thinking of it now, I was filled with a sense of peace and understanding that this life we all live is too short and every moment should be appreciated and never taken for granted.
Regardless of where you call home today, Chicago, New York the West coast I hope that you find the time to take a quiet moment and reflect, because it is in the darkness that we shine brightest.