The WTC from the Observation Deck of the Empire State Building-2000
The top photo was taken late in the summer of 2000, not long before our eldest was drafted into the IDF, when we visited the US for the first time together as a family since returning home to Israel in 1990. The kids weren’t exactly thrilled to be in New York. They were ready to go home after 2 intense and enjoyable weeks of DisneyWorld and visiting with family in Minnesota. None-the-less, we took the ferry and toured the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, walked through Central Park and along Broadway to Times Square, checked out the viewing decks of the Empire State Building and the WTC, visited Pier 54, saw the UN, the Guggenheim, ate dinner in Chinatown; in other words, we did all the usual touristy things. And then we went home and the memories of our trip to the US quickly faded into the background of our daily routines.
Almost exactly one year after our return flight home from JFK, at about four in the afternoon, my husband called to tell me to turn on the TV, that there’d been some sort of aviation accident in New York City. The first images I saw on TV were of smoke billowing out the side of one of the World Trade Center towers, accompanied by hesitating and uncertain commentary how such an accident could have happened. This went on for a while and then another plane flew into the 2nd tower. My disbelief slowly turned into anger and then disgust at what I was seeing.
Stories of loss and survival, heroism and sorrow were told in the days after the hijackings on 9/11. Many of us realized for the first time how vulnerable an open society like the US was and how easy it was for someone to intentionally turn that openness against us. The anger and frustration many felt were expressed in bigoted, ugly acts against newly stamped Americans who had themselves escaped from extremist or oppressive regimes. As the granddaughter of Russian immigrants, those acts, while few, made me feel ashamed to be an American.
Now, nine years later, recalling that day brings up emotions just as strong and an additional one, regret. Regret that it took such horrific acts to shake the US out of its stupor; regret that not everything that followed was carried out with the same pureness of purpose that the deaths of more than 3,000 people mandated; regret for the continued bigotry and hatred.
Five or ten years from now one can only wonder where the aftereffects of 9/11 will have taken the US and the world in their wake. If we forget the ideals that made the US a beacon for so many of our forebears, then I fear it will be a dark path. I would hope instead, like the sentiment expressed in the flag above, that we would choose to stand strong together.