I only saw them up close on Sundays. We would drive by on our way to the tunnel and my sister and I would crane our necks to see the tops of them. It was always a contest: whose eyes could get there fastest, who could resist the urge to fall asleep amid the peaceful “vrooms” of engines on the highway and miss the short period during which they were visible. I would hold my eyes open to keep myself from dozing off because I knew that even if I lost, the mere sight of them would fill me with happiness. They made me understand how small I was and how miniscule my problems were compared to their enormity.
I loved that brief period in the two-hour ride. Traffic as we got close made it even better, our anticipation levels getting higher and higher as the car inched forward. I loved watching the two things that could see everything, the eyes that were constantly watching over New York City.
I remember my first day of kindergarten. Even though it never really happened. I remember my sitter turning on the news and frantically trying to call my parents. I watched as they got destroyed… as our city became blind. We walked to pick up her son from school. I remember feeling my breath shorten and my chest tighten. I remember her yelling at me to pull my shirt over my mouth as we walked through a sheet of smoke and soot. A construction worker noticed me struggling and handed me his mask. I remember being able to breath underneath the white synthetic material concealing my mouth.
I didn’t comprehend what had happened. I wanted to talk to my parents and my sister. I wanted to understand the videos I had seen on television, the smoke that I was breathing in, that was stinging eyes.
My sister saw them fall. I guess that makes her the ultimate winner of our competition. She was at the park with her gym class, and they all thought it was a mirage until they smelled the smoke and saw the ashes and debris fly through the air across the river. It was the realest thing any of them had ever seen.
My parents ran across the bridge, along with the rest of Manhattan. The bridge swayed with all the heavy footsteps speeding from one end to the next. No one knew what would be found on the other side; be it streets covered in soot, scared family members, or even ones lost among the blazing towers.
My neighbor found a note. It was a “To-Do” list that floated down from the sky and landed outside his door. The edges were burnt and it was barely legible. I remember watching, squeezing my mother’s arm, as he broke down and fell to his knees. I felt like I was seeing something that I shouldn’t have been allowed to see, like I had crossed a neighborly boundary. I wanted to look away but my eyes were glued to the man crying over a small piece of paper. His eyes were blind with tears, as the city’s were blind with ash.
Age 15, Grade 10
Saint Ann’s School