It’s a question we’re all probably asking and responding to today. Every year, the date prompts discussion, reflection and sharing. But it does especially so today—10 years later. Ten whole years have passed. Beyond the remembered emotions and exchange of stories, this year we’re also reflecting on 10 years of life—what we’ve done, where we’ve been, who has come and gone, and also how the world around us has changed.
Even though I moved to New York in June of 2011, I was actually in Paris on 9/11. My then boyfriend and I had spent an entire day out and about, wandering around the city, eating, and taking in the sights. When we returned to the hotel that night, there were signs in the lobby and elevator with phone numbers for the American Embassy for guests from New York and Washington to call. We pondered what it meant—maybe there had been a big East Coast storm or something. We had been out all day and hadn’t heard a peep.
Then we got to our room, opened the door, and the TV was on. Strange. A bit eerie. We were starting to feel uncomfortable. What was going on?
We sat at the foot of the bed with the remote control, looking at images we couldn’t quite figure out: had there been some sort of strange dust or ash storm? A riot? What was going on? We flipped through the channels: more strange images, everything ragged and covered in soot; we passed through the hotel’s porn channels—I’ll never forget how jarring and incongruous those images were with the rest of them. It took a few minutes for us to start piecing together the story and grasp what was going on. An attack. No more World Trade Center. New York in turmoil. It was surreal; not yet sad or scary.
That came the next day. We called our families. Like other tourists and expats, we sought an Internet café to email friends back home. We needed to connect with our friends who worked downtown to make sure they were okay (thankfully, they were). We now understood the scope of the situation. And yet we were in this beautiful city called Paris.
The rest of our visit, now at an apartment on Boulevard Raspail, followed a pattern. We’d buy the Guardian and other British newspapers and spend every morning at Le Dome, pouring over them, drinking coffee, and digesting the unfathomable story as it unfolded. There was tenderness and camaraderie amongst everyone, shock and disbelief. Every day was the same but different.
I was supposed to fly on to Jerusalem for my brother’s wedding on the 21st. I decided to return to New York instead—I couldn’t bring myself to go further away from home than I already was, but I’ll never get over missing that wedding.
Ten years later, here I am in Paris again. It feels right somehow, Paris being in my heart and blood as much as New York.
I wish the world was a better place now than it was 10 years ago. While I don’t think it is, I’m still hopeful. There is peace and beauty and so much kindness and greatness to be had, felt and shared. Someday we’ll get there.