T here are ghosts haunting the streets of NYC this weekend and although I have tried to avoid reliving the sadness, loss, and anger of Sept 11th there are some aspects of those emotions that are the origins of my current happiness.

In 2001 I graduated from NYU with a Masters in Journalism. I was renting a room in a three bedroom apartment in Prospect Park, Brooklyn with some friends. On Sept 10th I was leaving Kentucky for NYC but decided to go to Pittsburgh instead to attend the funeral of a friend’s mom. I was getting ready for the funeral the morning the planes hit our hearts.

At the time I was still with Daren, an English-Israeli, who had taken me to Israel and warned me that America was not immune to terrorists. He was always going on about how safe Americans perceived their country to be and that perception was dangerous. The state of Israel and the Palestinians were a subject of much debate between us. It always ended with him conceding that I really had no basis for believing him since I never knew what it was like to live in terror.

Daren had the television on that morning and when the first plane hit the World Trade Center he yelled upstairs of our house in the South Side of Pittsburgh. At first I dismissed his report as a small plane accident. I came down stairs in time to see the second plane hit at the same time it hit me that this deliberate. I knew people working in the buildings, but I told myself it was fine the damage would be under control.

When the first building fell I was dressed in black with a red scarf and shoes, ready to attend a funeral. As it happened I screamed with the live TV reporter. Somehow I got in the car and drove to the funeral, listening to the radio as the second one fell. I was in a drunken teary stupor. When I arrived my girlfriend saw me in tears and had no idea why. She was focused on her mother laying in the coffin. I grabbed another friend and told her what happened. I immediately got a call from a girlfriend in Kentucky that there was a plane over Pittsburgh. We left the funeral home for a restaurant, when we go there no one stayed. The rumor that the place was over or crash in Pittsburgh was enough to send everyone after their loved ones. Pittsburgh was closing all the bridges and that was a big deal.

Sarah and I went back to my house which was on the same side of the three rivers. We watched the horror unfold on TV and something changed in me at the same time. I was living on the edge in NY, in an apartment where I had to keep the lights on at night to scare away the roaches. I was with a man that I suspected was committing fraud among other unmentionable discrepancies. It was my mid-twenties and I had made a hobby of collecting lovers for lack of love in my relationship with Daren. I didn’t like myself either. What good had I done anyone. I wrote music reviews and I am not sure I did that well.

I drove back to New York a couple of days later. I drove with the top down on my convertible BMW from Daren smelling the soot in the air as I approached Manhattan. I was the only one on the road; it was eerie like out of a horror movie. It was night when I arrived. From Jersey downtown NY looked like hell really was a place on earth. The search lights shown and smoldering smoke curled endlessly in the sky.

There was a bone-shaking stillness in the air as I drove through Manhattan. There were places that looked like it had snowed with fake snow. There was fear and morning in the air for sure, but there was also something else, something that reminded me of Jerusalem. I had been there with Daren when I was the only non-Israeli passport holder to come off the place from NYC. There seemed to be monthly if not weekly terrorist attacks.

In the holy city there was a wicked and haunting feeling everywhere. Ghosts definitely roamed the stones and sands. It was the same when I went to Ground Zero. I did not help besides giving out food to highway security workers who had stopped me to search my trunk. I wore my Stetson and boots as a show of American support. It made the cops smile.

I stood not a block away from the wreckage of the World Trade Center looking at the beams that resembled crosses. Coincidentally, many of my fellow reporters showed up at the same spot. We acknowledged each other but were speechless; everyone was silent, standing there as if attending a funeral. NY is normally a loud and bustling place, but not then. Then it was so quiet except for the sound of the workers and searches.

In DUMBO where I use to live before the roach room rental there was a bar called the Bar Between the Bridges. Here all the welders and workers from the bridges use to hang out after work, and then there was me. I spent the next few days interviewing them and recording their stories from Ground Zero. Welders from all over America had come to dismantle the wreckage so there were a lot of people to talk to. Normally, this bunch of people reveled in telling stories, but not this time. It was like they had come back from war. Many of them described bodies and debris that hit a chord inside them that had taken the eagerness out of their rants.

There were people that my friends knew had perished or were unreachable at the time. Fortunately, the people I knew in the towers had escaped or had not made it to work yet.

I came back to Pittsburgh after that and never listened to the tapes again. I still haven’t. After so much pain I had to block it out, however, something broke down inside me that day and the world turned beneath my feet. I wanted my family; I wanted a family of my own in a safe place where we weren’t targets for death. It was a humbling feeling and I wanted humble things, not the dreams NY breeds, but the ones that seem so far above my capabilities. The life my friends had in Kentucky, married with kids, a car, a boat, a yard.

Obtaining this dream did not come easy. It took me two more years to leave Daren and I am still fighting the fraud accounts because unbeknown to me he had involved my name. I drank a lot talking to the stars. I daydreamed about having a loving husband and being faithful to him, simple things.

Looking back I felt I wasn’t fit to be a mom, I couldn’t sacrifice enough of myself for them. I had no idea how to be a wife and a mom. I didn’t feel strong enough to be the kind of woman I had seen so many of my friends become.
My first step was to make the decision to only date men I would marry. Getting knocked up was not a part of my plan, but I have always been lousy with life-planning.

I find it curious that I am back in NY, ten years later covering Fashion Week while I am pregnant with my THIRD baby. A lot really has changed. I don’t have a yard yet, but I do have an amazing husband who loves me and calls me “mermaid” because he use to find me sleeping in the bathtub after I drank too much wine.

Tears have been coming very easy lately because I am reminded in odd moments of the people who perished and the terror that filled our lives, especially the people of New York who ran for their lives. It could be my pregnant hormones, but I feel a  bond with all the people who cried that day.

It changed everyone’s life and for me it gave birth to a need for a simpler love; becoming mommy healed my soul and helped me make sense of the world.


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