Four times, one morning every year

Four times one morning every year I go downstairs to the sidewalk and stand in silence with the men and women of the fire station across the street from our apartment.

8:46. 9:03. 9:59 and 10:28. This year they also stood for Flight 93 at 10:03 and may also have commemorated the Pentagon at 9:39, but I didn’t know to check. This is the right thing to do, it wasn’t just New York City.

Across the street, the younger firefighters might have been kids in 2001. Ten years is a long time. Our oldest daughter was born six months after the towers fell. Children who were her age on that day are now soldiers, police and firemen. I’ve seen how tragedies and catastrophes on the other side of the world have affected my own kids. I can’t began to imagine how difficult it was for children to deal with an atrocity down the street.

I did not know what I was going to feel today. But as I stood there, my thoughts kept coming back to the selflessness on display. The stories of heroism and sacrifice on September 11th must have inspired the direction of their lives.

So, perhaps strangely, this year instead of a pervasive feeling of loss and sadness, I find myself filled with a sense of hope and pride in humanity. We remember the act of hatred, destruction and mass murder, but what we commemorate and honor is the spirit of what makes mankind so spectacular.

Ten years: 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010.


This year the forgetting is almost palpable. More and more, the people living here moved to a city without towers. For the past month, at least, recriminations about the idiotic Ground Zero mosque have overshadowed the events of September 11th and crowded out the memory of the people who lost their lives.

On the sidewalk outside the firehouse, Flight 11 at 8:46 and Flight 175 at 9:03 are remembered with moments of silence. The fall of the South Tower at 9:59 and then the North Tower at 10:28 are marked with silence and bagpipes.

Bagpipes. The perfect sound of sadness and longing.

102 minutes. So much time has passed.

Previous 9/11s: 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009.


The night of September 10th I went for a run, instead of my usual route, I ran downtown to Ground Zero. Amid the street closings, barricades and police, an overnight fire crew was walking slowly up Church Street with a large wreath. My eyes filled with tears and I could do nothing except kept going.

The fire station across 14th Street from our apartment, Engine 5, gathers on the sidewalk in front of the station for four moments of silence each year. I would imagine most stations do the same.

8:46am is always the hardest. That’s when everything floods back. Each of the following moments gets a little easier, but this is when the memories of images and smells and feelings are nearly overwhelming.

9:03am was the moment we knew Flight 11 was no accident, but that distinction and those 17 minutes of residual innocence have been lost to time.

At 9:59 the South Tower fell and one of the city’s mountains vanished, we knew things would never, ever be like they were.

By 10:28, many of the emotions have washed out, grief and awe give way to genuine feelings of thanks and respect.

Previous 9/11s: 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008.

Seven years on

I’m surprised at how emotional I was this morning. My older daughter was born 6 months and 8 days after September 11th. Today she and her younger sister are both in school. I think this is the first year I’ve been alone for the entire morning.

Walking my younger daughter to preschool this morning, we stopped as the firemen of Engine 5 pulled the truck out of the station a little and stood silently to commemorate Flight 11 at 8:45. I tried to explain to her why we were waiting for them — with them — but I had no voice. Those men and women dwarf me, every day they’re a reminder of what true heroism looks like. I feel lucky that my window looks out on their station.

There was a bagpiper at the station, as the firefighters stood in remembrance of the South Tower falling at 10:05 am, the bagpiper played Amazing Grace. At 10:28 am he started with Amazing Grace and switched into America The Beautiful.

Previous 9/11s: 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006. I don’t know why I didn’t post anything last year.