That Tuesday Morning
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I woke up early today and was watching some of the "Living History Event" on NBC, a replay of the NBC "Today" broadcast of the morning of September 11, 2001.
Just prior to that, I saw three of the young children whose father's death that fateful morning meant they would grow up without a daddy.
All of 7 or 8 years old, I was hugely impressed by their courage and fond remembrance of someone who left them so young and such a huge void in their lives, and yet who were willing to stand up in front of God and everybody and tell the world seven years later how much he had meant to them even in the short time they were conscious of his being.
It moved me to tears in a world that not much does anymore.
The only place I've ever lived than Texas is in and around New York City.
I've lived there on two separate occasions, and if you've never lived there, I can only tell you it's a place that gets in your blood, your DNA, your very being.
It's like a grit, particularly for a non-native New Yorker who had first moved there at 18 from a small town in north Texas to go to college.
It's the kind of place you can still smell, years after you leave. It's the kind of place whose sounds are instantly recognizeable, that as soon as you hear them, you say "That's New York City."
The cabs honking their horns. The rumbling of the subway. The sirens. The wind blowing down Times Square in mid-winter.
I was nearly two thousand miles away, here in Austin, when I first got the news that September morning.
It was beyond shocking. I first heard about it from my mom, who I had called after hearing an early but unuseful radio report.
She and my sister were crying. I knew whatever it was had to be very bad, even though I didn't yet have any visual reference.
The tower had fallen, she said.
"What do you mean?" I asked. "The top of the tower?" I wondered, having no comprehension that the whole thing could have come falling down.
"No," she said, "the World Trade Center!"
My immediate thought turned to all my friends and colleagues who lived and worked in that area.
I fled back to my new Austin home and to my broadband Internet connection to start trying and account for all of my friends in NY via AOL Instant Messenger -- the only way I could get through, save for a couple of phone calls.
I had been in NYC only two days before, on September 9th. I remember walking down the far west terminal of the airport, and like September 11th, observing what a gorgeous day it was with that endless deep blue sky.
The Twin Towers glistened off in the distance, and I remember remarking to myself that I'd never seen them from that perspective, from Laguardia -- only from Newark or JFK.
That was the last time I would see them.
On September 11th, as I made phone calls and instant message queries, trying to track everyone down in a near panic, I remembered that I had had my picture taken atop the World Trade Center only a year and a half before, during my last ever visit to the top of the Towers.
I dug it up from my computer's hard drive.
It had been taken by a good friend just around the turn of the millennium. It was a ridiculously cold day in February 2000, but I had gotten my first digital camera and wanted to take some pictures from the top of the Tower.
Even with its poor quality, it seems like you can see forever behind me, along with the North Tower just over my shoulder.
I cherish that picture.
And not just because it was of the WTC.
No, because it reminds me of the opportunities and demands and joys and travails and lessons I learned, and all the great friendships that I forged during my time living in that great city.
Because it reminds me how the great people of the city, often complete strangers, came together and helped one another under the most horrible of circumstances.
That's the New York I choose to remember.
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