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Memories of the Towers that Fell on a September Morning

By Martie Hevia | Blue Beach Song™

It is hard to believe that it has been twenty years since the towers fell on that September 11 morning. Every year I update this introduction to this post and re-post it every year, as my small personal way of honoring all those we lost. But this year, the twentieth anniversary, has made me pause and reflect on all that happened that morning, and all that has happened since as a result of that morning, in a deeper way.

On August 31st of this year, 11 days before the 20th anniversary, we finally pulled out our last soldier from Afghanistan, after nearly 20 years, $3 trillion dollars, and too many lives sacrificed in fighting a war we waged against those who attacked us. It may be decades or generations into the future before we really know whether those sacrifices were worth it. Did we target the truly culpable people and places? Did we invade Iraq and Afghanistan for the right reasons or for someone’s hidden agenda? Was the 9/11 Commission given all the evidence and witness testimony, or only given a carefully curated collection to lead them to a certain conclusion? I’ll leave it to future historians to get the answers to those questions.

But, for now, we mourn, we honor, and we remember so that we never forget all those who died and sacrificed on that day and in the days and years that followed, nor should we forget the lessons we learned.

I hope one of those lessons is that we are capable of coming together as one country, one people, with love and empathy for one another, regardless of color, creed, or politics.

I encourage everyone to document their memories for posterity, for your children, for history. These are my memories of the towers that fell and the day it happened, originally written on its tenth anniversary, September 11, 2011.

-Martie | Updated: September 09, 2021 | 10:05 p.m. Pacific

There are thousands of things that I could write in remembrance on the 10th anniversary of September 11, the fateful day we watched so many die… but the magnitude of that moment is too enormous and too emotional still to write about here. Instead, I will write about the towers that I watched rise as a girl and the day that I watched them fall as a woman.

In early 1971, as a young north Jersey girl, I remember the excitement upon hearing that One World Trade Center was completed and ready for business, having watched them build the World Trade Center for what seemed like an eternity, or nearly my whole life. In truth, construction began in 1966 and by December 1970 One World Trade Center was almost complete, ready for its first tenants, even though its upper floors were unfinished.

World Trade Center Opens ~ April 1973

It wasn’t until 1973, however, that both One and Two World Trade Center towers were completely finished, standing side by side like a giant number eleven. Many people thought they were the most hideous buildings ever constructed, but I was in amazement of how tall they were with 110 floors each, often imagining how small the world must look from atop their roofs, and longing to photograph it from that perch.

Although many people only think of the two tall towers when they hear mention of the World Trade Center, it, in fact, consisted of seven buildings on 16 acres, but understandably One and Two were the most visible and most well-known. I remember, at the time, one of my teachers mentioning how more than 50,000 people would be able to work in those buildings, with another 200,000 visitors at any given point in the day.

The image of 250,000 people all in that small space so impressed me as a little girl in 1971, that I remembered that number 30 years later on September 11, 2001, as I watched from California on CNN the first tower burn, then watched the second one get hit, and then sat in shock as I watched them both fall. That number of 250,000 people immediately came to mind… a quarter of a million people all dying as the towers collapsed was unfathomable.

Being from north-east New Jersey, my family and I went across the GW, the George Washington Bridge, every weekend to visit my grandparents. It was a 15-20 minute trip over the bridge, which often included attending plays and shows, visiting parks and museums, and visiting my parents’ countless friends in the City… writers, poets, artists, musicians, and the less eccentric lawyers, doctors, bankers and businessmen. We still had family and friends there… were they okay? Were any of them on those planes, or in the towers, or rushing in to save people?

It was hard to think as I struggled to get ready for work. It had started as a typical morning. I woke up at 5:00 a.m. as my television turned itself on to CNN, allowing me to listen to the news as I exercised, showered, and got ready for work every morning. I remember catching glimpses of the first video images on my bathroom mirror as I brushed my teeth, minutes after the first attack at 5:46 a.m. PT, and thinking that it must be a promotion for a movie, but it wasn’t. I stopped and turned up the sound, I had a mouthful of toothpaste I quickly spat out. I plopped down on the edge of my bed as I watched, toothbrush in hand. The Towers were hit, one-by-one, the Pentagon was hit, and then the towers collapsed. Our nation was under attack… and I had to pull myself together and get to work.

World Trade Center Attacked
September 11, 2001
As videotaped by a nearby resident from her
apartment building directly across the Towers.

Before and after the five years I chose to teach high school, I was in public relations and college administration. But on that morning I was a high school teacher. Had I had any other job on that fateful morning, I probably would not have gone in to work, but I had more than 150 high school students that would be looking to me for support and some semblance of normalcy in a crazy world. I would spend the day talking to them, listening to them, struggling to find a ‘teachable moment’ in the chaos we had witnessed, hoping that I would be enlightened with inspired answers to each and every difficult question that came my way… and praying… praying for all those who had died just moments before and praying for the rest of us who were left behind.

If there was any saving grace that day, it was in finding out, after I got home from work, that 250,000 people did not die at the World Trade Center, as I had thought that morning. There were less than 3,000 people who lost their lives that day, but it was still nearly 3,000 people who died in a matter of hours. The victims ranged in age from 2 to 85. There were eight children who died that day under the age of 12. There were 38 foreigners from 12 different countries who died along with 30 others from unknown countries. Of the Americans who died that day in New York, nearly 700 of them were from New Jersey, 343 were firefighters, and 60 were police officers, with countless more dying in the ensuing years from 9/11-related illnesses.

None of us who witnessed it on television, much less those who witnessed it in person, will ever forget that fateful morning, nor the horrific images burned into our memories, although at times we wish we could. Nor will we ever forget the brave men and women who risked or lost their lives to save others that day, from those who rushed a cockpit of hijackers to those who ran into collapsing towers or stopped on their way out of them to help others. They made us proud to be Americans and they renewed our faith in humanity.

American Flag Barn by Martie Hevia (c) All Rights Reserved

But in case you ever forget, just walk around your neighborhood and you will see flags on people’s front porches, or hanging from shop windows, or blooming on a hillside, or drive through some country road, as I did a few days ago, and you may find the American flag painted on the side of a barn.

Let’s remind each other tomorrow, on the 10th anniversary of September 11, with our own flags or in our own way, to never forget.

September 11 Resources

Martie Hevia © 2011-2021 | All Rights Reserved

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. 2013-September-11 5:46 AM

    Reblogged this on Blue Beach Song™.

  2. Martha la Criolla permalink
    2011-September-11 11:43 AM

    I appreciate your thoughts on the Anniversary of September 11. After 10 years….it still hurts.
    May God be close to and offer peace to the families who lost their loved ones.

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