Being a New Yorker on 9/11

Episode Transcript

Hello, everybody. And welcome back to another episode of if I'm honest with Julia Landauer. A few weeks ago, we recognized the 22nd anniversary of the terrorist attacks on 9/11. And these attacks took place on the World Trade Center in New York City, in Pennsylvania, and in Arlington, Virginia on the Pentagon. And for those of you who don't know, I'm from New York City, and I was in third grade when these attacks took place. And I wanted to take this week's episode to talk a little bit about it, because everyone remembers where they were on the morning of 9/11 If you were in the United States in the morning, and it's such a unifying event, and it's something that most of us in this country feel emotional about. And especially since I feel like our country is kind of divided right now, I wanted to take the time to share something that has been so unifying. And on top of that, you know, 9/11 was really the first big historical event that I remember living through, like it blew my mind in high school in junior year when I took my US History test. At the end of the year, the regents exam in New York State that on the History test, they talked about 9/11. And they had a question about 9/11. And here I was, you know, 17 years old, thinking, Oh, my goodness, I lived through history, this is really bizarre. So it's a monumental event. I think it's quite a unifying event, as I mentioned. And so that's what today's episode is going to be about, I'm going to try to keep it as positive as I can, although that is challenging given the nature of the event. But the point is to really tell my story and to to discuss some of the after effects that I've noticed. And I wanted to note that if you or someone you know, lost a loved one in this attack that I'm really sorry, and my heart goes out to you and I am sending you love. And my last note is that I didn't outline this episode, as thoroughly, I wanted it to be more of a stream of consciousness episode a little more from the heart. And if it feels a little different than normal episodes, that's why but I still hope that it's valuable for you. And I hope that it helps everyone be a little introspective. On the morning of 9/11, I was in third grade on the Upper West Side, so a few miles north of the World Trade Center. And I remember that a student in my class had gone down to the nurse's office. And when he came back, he announced to the class that some of the adults who were in the lobby of our school, were talking about how two planes had hit the World Trade Center. And my nine year old brain just immediately assumed it was an accident that what a tragedy, it was that this plane had an issue and was flying low and hit the towers. And I hadn't seen any imagery at this point. And I didn't know you know what the effect would be in the surrounding area. And I knew that we had kids in my school who lived down there and all of that. But I remember just thinking was a big mistake. And throughout the day, students started getting picked up slowly, they started trickling out of the classes. My mom worked on uptown. And so she was not near it. But she was in New York, my dad's always worked in New Jersey. And so he was out there, we didn't get picked up until the end of the day. But we were immediately, you know, sent home, school was canceled for the next few days. And because they closed the bridges and tunnels into and out of the city, my dad couldn't get back into the city. So we were separated, but everyone was safe. And my mom wouldn't let my siblings watch any of the news. But she did Let me watch some of it. And I just remember thinking that it just the city that I had grown up in that just seems so indestructible was vulnerable to this attack. And it was really a lot to comprehend. I think my mom did a good job of, you know, monitoring what I could see and what I couldn't see. But it was really tough. And it was really tough having to explain to my brother who's six years younger than me what was happening, why he couldn't go to daycare and all that stuff. And it was really challenging. And I don't remember how long we were out of school, it was at least a few days. And then we started going back. And you couldn't go down to the area, obviously. But I remember one being really relieved that there were no students in our school system who lost parents down there. And knowing that that was really lucky, given how many people had died. And I just remember that so much of our schooling and our class discussions were around figuring out our feelings and what that was like, and starting to discuss, you know, these these evil forces in the world. And I don't remember a lot of the specifics, but it was definitely a moment of growth in that time. And I do remember in the weeks afterwards, months afterwards, a few things were really noticeably different. First, I remember the first time driving from New Jersey into New York City and seeing the skyline without the World Trade Center towers was really devastating. They were significantly taller than a lot of the other surrounding buildings in lower Manhattan. And so it almost felt like the tallness of those towers balanced out other parts of the skyline and had been, you know, there my whole life. So it was really weird to see these big, big towers that we're such a dominant presence, not there anymore. That's it felt really weird. I also remember that on the Fourth of July, that year, when they had fireworks, it was really scary, the people in my building didn't know or they fireworks, is it another attack, you know, once something like that happens to you or to your city or to whatever, you realize that it can happen again. And so that was a really interesting and tough thing to have to deal with. But also, it kind of felt like the city overall was kind of coming together, and collectively trying to rebuild and heal and come to terms with this attack. And there was something really comforting about that, that in a city of you know, roughly 10 million people that are all so different, that we were able to unite in at least on a on an emotional level to to try to, you know, come back after this event. And I'll be honest, it's really tough on social media to hear some of the voicemails that were left of the people on the plane, and those are public. And I think that I have to skip through them, because it's, it's so agonizing to hear the pain in their voices and coming to terms with this. So it's it's kind of a tough day, even though you know, I didn't personally know anyone who was killed in the attacks, it's still it's quite hard, because just on a basic human level, it's awful, and so, so terribly devastating that this happened. So as a New Yorker, I feel like this comes, this becomes part of your identity. Some people care about it more than others. Some people don't, a lot of people have opinions. But it is it was a really big, you know, growing up awakening moment for me and one that we talked about in school, I talked about people, it was always interesting being at the racetrack and explaining my experiences to people who had been in other parts of the country. But part of that was so eye opening that it really was a very impactful time for so many people and really brought us together as a country, which I think is a beautiful little silver lining that came from it. Now, if we fast forward about 10 years, I remember when I was at Stanford, actually, that one of the classes I had to take for my major, which my major was science, technology and society. But one of the classes was this capstone class that was around texts, and the medium on which a message is conveyed impacts the reader or the listener, the viewers interpretation. Sidenote, this was a class that I actually took right before I went on survivor. So I did this class in five weeks instead of 10. So it was a very dense, deep dive into this project. And one of our projects was to transcribe something that was audio form and put it into writing. And my year, they decided that the texts that we had to transform were, it was a news broadcast from the morning of 9/11. Now, I kind of had mixed feelings about it, because I knew it'd be a little tough. But it was really fascinating and sad and a little scary to kind of for the first time, listen to how these anchors were conveying the news and trying to be responsible in what they were delivering to viewers but also trying to learn themselves and to be as objective and hide their disbelief and to watch all that and to transcribe it into writing just a little over 10 years after the fact was quite a mindfuck, if I'm honest, like it was really bizarre to have felt like I gained more knowledge on how the world works and to feel like I understand more about motives and war and all of this stuff, to then go back and watch that and I just couldn't help but feel so bad for everyone who had to report on it real time because it was such a scary, monumental event. So that was an interesting class. So I'm I don't remember exactly the purpose of that class other than to show the difference in how you view something. And if it's transcribed into a different medium. So it was an interesting kind of text base class. But it was really the first time in my adult life that I had really thought about 9/11 from a more mature perspective, and it was tough. The last thing I want to talk about relating to 9/11. And I know this was a quick, personal experience, sharing it with you. The last thing I want to talk about is the 9/11 Memorial and Museum, it took me until 2022, to get there, but it's down at ground zero down by One World Trade Center. And it is such an incredibly well done memorial to the victims, to their families, to the city to the country, I highly encourage you, if you're in New York City, making the time to get down there to go visit it. It is very emotional, I cried a lot while I went there. Now, I do cry at a lot of things. I'm an emotional person, but it was a really moving experience. I don't want to give away the exhibit, because I think it is really impactful to go visit it and to have those initial impressions and experience it for yourself if you're going to it. But a few more abstract things that I took away were one, seeing the up close nature of the architecture and the construction element and just how powerful this attack was, was eye opening. I also continue to be struck by how diverse and varied the victims were everyone from high level executives to cleaning staff to assistants to delivery people. I mean, it really didn't discriminate. And I think that's a hard thing to think in the greater context of the world. And we hear about attacks and bombings on other public areas. And even if they're not as extensive as over 3000 people being victims, it's still you realize just how many lives are destroyed, and how many families are so deeply and terribly impacted. And it's very humbling. The other thing with the memorial that I think is done extremely well is that they do a beautiful job of celebrating all of the victims that they know about with personal substantial recognition. And they bring in the families and you really get a sense of some of their stories. And I think it's a generous way to pay respect and pay tribute to them in a way that will go on forever and is immortalized in this in this memorial. And the whole experience of walking through the exhibits and going through the museum, especially right by the Ground Zero fountains what at what used to be the base of the buildings and right near the Freedom Tower, it's really well done. And again, I highly encourage you to make the time to go see it if you're in New York, and then you can kind of end the trip by going to the top of the Freedom Tower and getting a glimpse of the city. So it's it's an experience, I appreciate the effort that goes into the memorial. Again, it's it's interesting every year, especially as someone who grew up there, but then wasn't directly impacted by it in the same way that so many people were. It's it's a really mixed emotions day. And one that always results in me being a little introspective. And I don't find that it gets less emotional. But as the years go by, and one quick sidenote, actually, it's tangentially related. One of my favorite books is Forever by Pete Hamill. And I view it as a love story to New York in the sense that it's set from the point of view of a character who lives forever and arrives in New York at the beginning of New York's history. And it goes until the present day. And apparently, Pete Hamill wrote the book and he finished his draft right before 9/11. And then 9/11 happened and he felt that he had to include that huge historical moment for New York in the story that it was incomplete. Now knowing that this historical event took place, and I read forever at the end of high school, it was between my junior and senior year of high school and it was the first time I had read historical fiction with respect to the World Trade Center, and it was really comforting to me to feel that Pete Hamill experienced some of the communal and emotional bonding that went on in the city in a similar way to the way I had. So if you enjoy reading and you like historical fiction, and you like New York, and you like a little bit of fantasy involved, I really recommend Forever by Pete Hamill. In closing, I hope that everyone hugs their loved ones a little extra tightly. Remember that we have a lot more in common than we do differences. And having grace for others and love for others and sharing your love for others never gets old and is always a great idea. And again, a special moment of remembrance for everyone who we lost in the 9/11 attacks. And that is our show, guys. Thank you so much for letting me be honest with you and for just sharing my experience on this on this day. And I'm recording this on 9/11/2023 And I hope that helps you know you on your own introspective journey. And again, thank you for letting me be honest with you, and I look forward to seeing you next week.