This post originally appeared on the Bargain Hunter blog, which I wrote at the LA Daily News.
A lot has changed in the past 12 years for me personally, but when it comes to finding bargains on September 11, I still feel the same way. I cannot do my job. More than ten years have passed; should I move on? I see many have; I am not asking anyone to mark this day as I do. But I choose to observe September 11 as a personal holiday. A few years ago I told you why and here’s that story again.
Forgive me for not posting any bargains today, the eighth anniversary of the September 11 attacks. Trying to save $3 on a sandwich or find a shoe sale seems silly and out of place today. Instead, I’m going to try to give blood, something I wasn’t able to do that day in New York.
So many people tried to donate on September 11 — we expected waves of injured people to flood the hospitals — that the blood bank was full. They turned us away.
Walking to and from the hospital everyone we passed was talking about the twin towers, you could see it on their faces and hear snips of the awful truth in their conversations.
I was stunned, like so many other people. Was it really possible those two massive buildings that stood almost twice as tall as any other building on Manhattan could collapse? But they did. I saw it from my kitchen window.
We lived on the third floor of a brick building adjacent to the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway. One of the things we loved about the apartment was its three large windows that looked onto lower Manhattan.
We had a picture perfect view. On days when the air was crisp and the sun bright under a brilliant sky — almost impossible to imagine in hazy LA — I ate my breakfast cereal in front of the window, just staring at the buildings. My own New York postcard.
September 11, 2001 was one of those gorgeous fall days. I had just started grad school at Rutgers in New Jersey and had planned to go into campus that morning. But as it turned out the CDs I needed to listen to had arrived the day before in the mail. Otherwise I would have taken the subway into Manhattan, transferring to the NJ PATH train at the World Trade Center. With the CDs at home, I slept in.
The sound of sirens finally woke me up. I got out of bed at about 9 a.m. and I remember thinking there were more sirens than usual that morning. You get used to a lot of noise living in New York City. Then I saw a trail of smoke from the first tower. I went back into the bedroom and woke up Hubby, who was then my boyfriend.
“There’s something going on,” I told him, nudging him awake.
I turned on the TV and one of the people being interviewed on the BBC was declaring this was an act of war. That seemed drastic. Maybe this was just an accident?
When the second plane hit my gut told me it wasn’t. From my window I saw the terrible gash the second plane created on the side of the building. There was a lot of smoke. You could see flames.
We tried to guess how many people might work in the two buildings. Tens of thousands, we decided.
Then the buildings collapsed. Dark, smokey clouds billowed.
I bristle when people ask me what it was like to watch. What do you think it’s like seeing thousands of people die in a few minutes? It is terrible.
But there was one part that was beautiful. After the towers collapsed — but before the wind blew a blanket of smoke and debris over Brooklyn — the brilliant sky glittered.
A sparkling arc reached like a hand over the bay from Manhattan to Brooklyn. It was incredible and I watched it for a few minutes before closing the windows so the dark air would not foul our apartment. Later I found out it was reams of freed office paper catching the sunlight.
The air cleared and we went to the hospital. We wanted to give blood, to do our part, but we couldn’t. Today I am going to try again.
Join me in giving blood today. You can find a donation center through the Red Cross.
Julie Hills says
Thanks for this reminder, Julia. I’m going to schedule a donation appointment now!