I want to start by saying that this is the first time, in 12 years, that I’ve been able to tell this story publicly with out completely losing my shit. Sure, there was spring break 2002 when I verbally abused a bunch of rednecks from Michigan about 9/11 because they were making racist comments and clearly had no idea what they were talking about…but I don’t know if you’d necessarily call my patriotic. I mean, while in Europe, when asked “Are you American?” I responded with “I’m from New York.” But after September 11, 2001 every New Yorker who suffered through September 11th has a special place in their heart for everything that IS the United States of America. I’ll never forget that day. Ever. It was a Tuesday, which meant that I didn’t have class until 11:15am. My best friend from high school, Dawn, called my freshman dorm room phone around 9am. I answered, pissed off for her waking me up, and she said “yo, we got bombed.” I repled with “seriously dude, you know I’m not a morning person…what the fuck?” After a little back and forth, she convinced me that, yes, in fact this was REAL. I immediately hung up with her, right before my roommate came back, after her 9am class was canceled due to the attack and safety was an issue for us. I called my other high school best friend, Jane, who went to NYU and lived downtown. I got through with her, which was miraculous, and she told me that she was OK…as sirens blared in the background and she just kept repeating “this is crazy…this is seriously CRAZY. I don’t know what to do.”
It was only then that it occurred to me that my father, who I was in a stupid argument with, worked in Grand Central Station. I then called his office, but the lines were consistently busy. My roommate had a phone card that she offered up to me, in hopes that it would work since it wasn’t a local area code. ALL of the phones were down, including my cell phone, because so many calls were coming into our area. I then called his girlfriend at the time, who told me they evacuated Grand Central after the first Tower was hit and he was in White Plains, safe and sound….at least for the time being. I burst into tears. My “fight” with my dad was over something SO stupid that I honestly don’t even remember what it was about. We hadn’t spoken in a week and I couldn’t help but think about the “what if’s”…it was cold in my brain.
My R.A. stopped by to check in (there were dozens of alumni that perished in the tragedy) and it was then that I decided to go up to the 14th floor of our building and look at the Towers. Long Island is super flat and the 14th floor always provided a gorgeous view of the New York City skyline. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to get that image out of my head…two gigantic New York City monuments…smoking…on fire…falling apart.
I think I was naive to think it was an accident. That was 18-year-old Jamie. Innocent. For the first time in my 18 years, I was scared for my safety…something that girls in other countries feel when they’re only children. My safety was in jeopardy. My country was under attack. It was at this point, 18 years later, that I finally understood what it MEANS to be an American.
Being from New York, most of us are only first or second generation. And having such a strong Jewish and Italian/Irish background, I’ve always felt a bigger connection to that than anything else…but it was on September 11, 2001 that I was officially an American citizen. It was from that point on that I began to understand what it meant to be “the land of the free and home of the brave” because, as a history buff, I already knew the facts. The Revolutionary War soldiers that gave their lives for us to simply BE “The United States of America” need to be recognized, and honored. September 11th isn’t just about the terrorists who attacked New York…it’s about the FDNY and NYPD officers who died that day. It’s about the minute men who went door-to-door to let soliders know that the British were coming. It’s about anyone who lost a loved one on September 11th. It’s about my friend Kerri’s father, who worked in one of the Towers, but just didn’t feel like going to work that day and called in sick.
Today is a day to remember everyone who gave their life for OUR FREEDOM. Never forget that.