|Smoke billows from where the Twin Towers once stood. |
Photo was taken at 8 am the day after 9/11/01 from my
high rise apartment in Greenwich Village.
Photo: Maria Adcock
New York City forever changed after 9/11, driven not only by its altered landscape, but also by its resilient citizens. In an otherwise poker faced metropolis, people started greeting one another. With offices closed, residents roamed the streets and created makeshift memorials at public parks. Taxicabs meandered down the roads, their chorus of honking horns stunned into silenced.
I photographed scenes of 9/11 from the city that I called my own after recently moving from the Midwest. I recorded the events not to sensationalize the tragedy, but to show my future children how the world shuddered that sunny September morning.
|With most public transportation at a standstill, residents traveled by foot or bike |
and protected themselves with face masks. I took this photo on 9/12/01
outside of my apartment on Bleecker Street in Greenwich Village.
Photo: Maria Adcock
In 2001 I lived in Greenwich Village, two miles north of the World Trade Center. I enjoyed fabulous unobstructed views of downtown from my 36th floor apartment. In the morning, the twin towers greeted me hello through my living room window, in the evening, their twinkling lights welcomed me home.
Immediately after the attacks my company sent their employees home. The city shut down the subway system, so along with thousands of stunned New Yorkers I walked miles to my apartment. Tired from walking in heels, I stared at the public buses jammed with people trying to rush back home to their loved ones.
The streets filled with an exodus of dazed refugees. People clutched cell phones to their ears hoping the next call would connect. An eerie quiet blanketed the city pierced only by the occasional siren. People stared with long faces as fire engines and police squads rushed by.
At my apartment dump trucks and barriers lined Houston Street. Police blocked residents clamoring to return home. They lived on the south side of the street, the off limit area due to its proximity to Ground Zero. Living on the north side I was allowed into my apartment.
From my living room window I stared at the unbelievable sight unfolding before me. Long arms of choking gray smoke grasped at the sky like a drowning swimmer.
When night descended police issued a 10 pm curfew. The winds changed, blowing thick dark smoke north toward the rest of the city. With my eyes glued to the television, I noticed dust on my glasses.
I cleaned the lenses and returned to the news, but within minutes they were dirty again. Curious, I felt them. A silky dust covered my fingertips. I jumped up and opened the apartment door. The acrid smell of scorched metal and concrete overwhelmed me.
Shutting the door I hustled to the linen closet, grabbed blankets and towels, and covered the vents. Soon the apartment became hot and stuffy. Heavy smoke enveloped the neighborhood. With the strict police curfew and lack of transportation, I could not leave.
I retreated to my bedroom and climbed into bed. I covered my face with a handkerchief to minimize breathing the fine dust and wondered, “How did this happen to my city?”
|New York City residents expressed their grief through art and words on |
paper taped to the ground in Union Square Park. Photo taken on 9/12/01.
Photo: Maria Adcock
After a sleepless night, I packed a small bag and headed further north to stay at a friend’s apartment. Fallout from fear ensued. A turbaned middle aged man drove the cab I had hopped into. Each window prominently displayed stickers of American flags. The driver caught me staring at the decals and proclaimed, “I am an American citizen!” We passed an Afghanistan restaurant, its “Afghan Food” sign hastily covered. Further up the road, nervous Middle Eastern shopkeepers stared at the sidewalk behind the safety of closed doors.
I saw how tragedy strengthened humanity. People stood along the West Side Highway cheering support to emergency workers as they drove by. In record numbers residents flocked to donate blood. Children sold cookies and lemonade to raise funds. Friends and families told one another how much they loved each other.
Thousands of people tragically lost their lives on 9/11, each leaving a legacy. My story cannot compare, but it is the one I will recount to my children and grandchildren. I will tell them how Americans gathered strength that day and put truth into the words, “The United States of America.”
Note: I originally wrote this essay two years ago, but never published it in Bicultural Mama because this website did not exist back then. For the 10th anniversary of 9/11, I am posting this in remembrance and reflection of that tragic day.