Eleven years ago, it was primary day in New York. I was out campaigning for City Council and had no idea about the WTC incidents until voters at Concourse Village shared the unpleasant news. I remember standing with a police officer at a polling site overlooking the Harlem River and looking south as we listened to his police radio. But the most chilling moment came as my volunteer driver, a retired police officer and I were on the phone with his friend down at One Police Plaza watching the burning towers. Suddenly, she shrieked that the first tower was collapsing. Her cry went right to my bones as tears welled up in my eyes. The retired cop drove me back to my campaign office and then headed downtown to join the other first responders.
Once we gathered our returning campaign workers, I asked my campaign treasurer, an ordained minister, to lead us in prayer. Among those that day was (now Council Member) Anabel Palma, who led a contingent of 1199 volunteers in support of my candidacy and Assemblywoman Gloria Davis. I took everyone to go home and hug their loved ones. After closing the campaign office, I drove to Democratic Party headquarters to find out what would happen next. The place was nearly empty. Those there at that hour looked dazed and listless.
It was a shocking, dislocating and sad day. But typical of my thinking, I reflected on the Irish-American cops and firefighters killed at WTC whose families may have spiritually and financially supported the IRA/Sinn Fein terrorism in Northern Ireland and Great Britain decades before. Had I lived anywhere but NYC, I’d have bought a rifle that day. Instead, I drove around to check on Muslim neighborhoods and area masjids and mosques that I found shuttered and under police guard. The NYPD guard lifted my spirits.
During those hours, I called family and friends. I learned that a cousin working as a messenger fortuitously decided against making a delivery at WTC earlier that morning. Another cousin, a civil engineer had told my mother that he was concerned about the towers structurally failing. Later that evening, I went to the first of many church services. I simply wanted to be among other New Yorkers to pray for the dead, the dying, and those who would die as a result of the terrorist attack on the nation.
That’s my memory of September 11, 2001.
PostScript: The heartsickness of that day is lifted knowing that Osama bin Laden and his top lieutenants are dead. Others who would assume his mantle are being hunted down and eliminated. The Nation that won the Civil War and defeated Nazism and fascism will win this generation-long war against jihadist terrorism. When we beat our swords back into plowshares, American prosperity will emerge as it always does.