Twelve Years after 9-11, Memories Linger

By Luyuan Zhang,

New York City, September 12, 2013, — “It was almost unbelievable. We had a view, but because we were too far, there was no sound.” Christina Aguilar, a New Yorker who has been working in Manhattan since 1989, said, “So it was almost that you could not believe what you were looking at, because it was sunny. The weather was nice.”
Flowers were laid for a NYC firefighter who died 12 years ago. (Photo by Luyuan Zhang)

Also sunny and warm, yesterday was the 12th anniversary of the tragic attacks that took place on September 11, 2001. The memory is still unforgettable for many people living in New York.

It was a beautiful Tuesday when Ms. Aguilar went to work at her apparel company located at 5th Avenue at 18th St. As usual, she was at her desk at 8:30 in the morning.

Around 9:00 AM, a call from a co-worker about a plane crash at the World Trade Center (WTC) surprised everyone, including Ms. Aguilar.

“When we go upstairs, nobody could concentrate to get work done, because people would turn on the radio, go to the Internet, and try to make calls to relatives…” she recalled.

Although she was not directly affected by the September 11 attacks, Ms. Aguilar said she couldn’t be like many people who moved on their life as if nothing happened. Because she saw the crash happening and now she sees the site every day.

What were you doing when the tragedy happened? It’s been 12 years, but many New Yorkers, like Ms. Aguilar, can still easily recall in detail. Although some learned about the event on TV, rather than witnessing it, their memories are as fresh as if happened yesterday.

On Tuesday September 11, 2001, four passenger airliners were hijacked by 19 al-Qaeda terrorists to launch suicide attacks upon New York City and the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area. Two flights respectively crashed into the North and South towers, centerpieces of the WTC. One crashed into the Pentagon while the other crashed into a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

The coordinated attacks led to partial or complete collapse of both towers, the Pentagon and other buildings in the WTC complex. They also caused major damages of surrounding structures as well. Nearly 3,000 people died in the attacks, including all 227 civilians and 19 hijackers aboard the 4 planes.

Also, many first responders lost their life. Chris’s friend, a policeman, was among one of them.

Living in New York for 16 years, Chris, who didn’t want to reveal his full name, told the reporter that he was at home with his parents when September 11 attacks happened.

“My first reaction was, what sort of idiot, flying to the WTC without seeing it,” Chris said, when he saw the scenario on TV. But soon after he realized that it was not an accident.

His parents were actually planning to go to the WTC that morning, Chris recalled.

Similarly to Chris, Robert Smith also lost a friend who used to work in WTC. Grew up in New York, Mr. Smith was sleeping in his North Carolina home when the attacks were taking place.

He felt the most courageous story was the people on the fourth flight trying to overcome the hijackers and prevent bigger casualty, because in either way it would be their doom.

“It is a sad issue. I guess it was like a wake-up call,” he explained, adding “But at the same time, you could use this turn to turn the unfortunate around to the fortunate by being positive.”

It showed the fortitude of America. Because in a long time, U.S. was never pulled together like that in such as conflict, he said. “I was in North Carolina. I wasn’t here,” Mr. Smith put his right hand over his heart, “But my heart was here.”

When the attacks happened, Henry, who didn’t tell the reporter his Chinese name, was in middle school in China. He has been in U.S. for 4 years, and it is his first year working in New York.

Concerning the tragic event, he didn’t think it has great influence on China’s society, but did remember many people rushing to hotels to watch Phoenix Television, a Hong Kong-based television broadcaster. Because China Central Television (CCTV), a state television broadcaster in mainland China, didn’t show the whole picture of the event, according to Henry.

“I believe people in America will not forget it, forever,” he said many of his collages talk about the event and memorize it in their own ways.

In the warm dusk, Ms. Aguilar was sitting on a bench, kind of relaxed. “I should be thankful that I’m here, and just try to not be afraid…to go out.”

The National September 11 Memorial and Museum is the principal memorial and museum of the U.S. to memorize the attacks on September 11, 2001. The 9/11 Memorial has opened to the public since September 12, 2011. And the 9/11 museum, still under construction, is said to open in next spring.