by Alberta Parish
The day the Twin Towers collapsed, snatching souls from the world through a single act of hatred, marked the beginning of the end of my innocence in the safety I had always known to be real. Nameless faces jumping to their deaths from the highest levels of buildings created a collective sadness not felt since Dr. King’s assassination in 1968. On September 11, 2001, America mourned for its victims and panicked in the face of utter chaos. In the wake of fiery devastation, utter frustration filled every crevice of my being piercing even to the inward parts, touching my spirit form as it beheld the burning of decades’ old structures.
The phone rang. I reluctantly answered and heard a nervous voice say, “Turn on the news. Two planes crashed into the World Trade Center in New York.” Not believing what I just heard, I asked, “What?”
“They hit the World Trade Center,” the voice quietly repeated.
With the remote control, I turned on the television and there it was in living color, the smoke of burning buildings assaulting my visual senses and leaving me to wonder, “The world is coming to an end.” The world did not come to an end, but America’s borders were no longer secure from terrorists, especially those using planes as weapons. The safety of my auntie, who lived in Queens, was an afterthought as I was too numb to pick up the phone and call her. Instinctively, I knew she was nowhere near Manhattan, or the chaos that took America by surprise. Seeing the tallest buildings perhaps in all of America fall like many ancient civilizations had seized my emotions, and tears formed when I had no intention of shedding a single drop.
The events of the past cannot be relived, but yet the aftermath of 9/11 continues to leave a trail of dead bodies through U.S. drone strikes and drive entire refugee populations into Europe. The world I grew up in was tame compared to the one I live in now. I remember America during the disco and pop eras of the 1970s and ‘80s when it was truly the land of liberty as I gloated in the carefree days of my youth in the city of palm trees and white sand beaches. The greatest days I saw were my mother and me sitting at a Miami Dolphins game on the hottest days of the year, eating cheeseburgers and fries at Walgreens Cafe, and visiting an old Jewish woman that employed my mother for a day of relaxation by the pool at her condominium building where old rich white folk often lived after retirement. I considered those days in Miami the good ol’ days. Auntie with her kids would come and jet us off for a fun day at the beach where I pretended that I wanted to swim even though I was frightened of what I may encounter in the great deep like a killer shark. My cousin tried to teach me. He grabbed my arm, pulling me further out as I screamed in terror with onlookers staring and laughing. Peering at me in embarrassment, I perceived that he wished he had never even bothered. That was the last day my cousin made any attempts to teach me how to swim.
The days of my youth had been light years away from my tiny bedroom in Atlanta on the day that I saw the ideals that America once stood for crumble with the Twin Towers. On that day, I too lost loved ones not of my own blood and mourned them like I would my own flesh. Not in a million years did I think this would ever happen. Multiple people jumping from windows! Firefighters going into buildings and never coming out! The human psyche can only take so many traumas before it cracks. Thank God my mind remained intact. But so many people weren’t so blessed to maintain their sanity.
Whenever I think of 9/11, my senses always envision the flying people from the upper story levels that catapulted to their deaths rather than burn alive. How does one process that image? Every hair on my head seemed to stand resolute to the horrors beheld through a rectangular box with moving pixels. The innocence felt in the past freedoms I enjoyed prior to the flying people from the Twin Towers was stolen in the flames and brimstone that ascended above the Manhattan skyline. America was tested that day, and now must face the threat of ISIS.