The morning of 9/11 was commonplace: racing around, getting ready for the commute to school, hopping the bus to grab the 7:20 ferry. Yet it was an election day, one of those early September days that sparkled with sunlight and deep blue skies. Fall was yet to come with its glories, yet this day was ironic perfection.
Photo of stained glass window of St. Florian, patron saint of firefighters, in window of St. Francis of Assisi Church, West 31st St, across the street from Ladder 24 and Engine 1, the firehouse which Father Mychal Judge called home. In the front of the window is a twisted beam from the World Trade Center, a memorial to Father Judge and to all the firefighters who died on that day six years ago. Photo credit: Patricia Jameson-Sammartano
On the boat, our group of friends talked about the election, but the major topic of the day was the bombings in Northern Ireland. Four-year old Catholic schoolgirls were being bombed by Protestant extremists, and the violence was sanctioned by the Reverend(sic) Ian Paisley. Our task for the 25-minute ride was to choose which of the circles of Dante’s Inferno to which that worthy should be consigned. We couldn’t agree; the ninth circle seemed to be for the Hitlers of the world, and a friend seemed to think this was too severe.
The boat pulled in and as we raced to our respective subways, the friend with whom I was debating handed me his New York Times, saying, “You can read it; I’ve read all I need.” He strode off to his office at Morgan Stanley in the World Trade Center.
Fifty minutes later, I walked into the English Department office at my school on the Upper West Side and casually tossed a light jacket over a chair. I reached for the telephone to call my mother-in-law, who would pick up my 9-year old daughter at her school later that day. “Mom, I’m going to be late this afternoon, and I don’t want you to worry. I just have to go vote in the primary.”
Her voice sounded shaky as she said, “They’ve bombed the World Trade Center.” I could hear New York 1 blaring in the background, with a lot of excitement carrying on, but I was about to be late getting to my 3rd period English class, so I had no time to discuss the news. I ran upstairs to Room 312, and said to myself that I’d better not say much because I didn’t know all the facts. I did tell my students, most of whom lived in Harlem, Washington Heights, or the Bronx, that they were lucky they lived uptown. That I only remembered when students did reflective essays later on in the term.
Culture Editor, WGT