9/11 Ten Years Later

NYC - September 21, 2001

Like many people, I have a story about where I was ten years ago today. There’s nothing very different about mine and the details of my morning don’t really matter, but I do have something to say.

Ten days after September 11, 2001 I took my daughter to New York. I’d planned the trip for months hoping to make some special memories while celebrating her fourteenth birthday.

Within days of the destruction, we debated whether to carry on with our plans or cancel and stay home. Air travel became scarier in those days right after 9/11 and flying into New York so soon after was a challenge for me.

Every corner seemed to have an impromptu memorial or a flyer for a loved one who didn’t come home and the familiar landscape I’d visited many times before looked unrecognizable in places. It was a city cloaked in sorrow.

I haven’t written about my memories of that time on my blog before. I’ve blogged my way past three 9/11 dates with nary a shared story. I just couldn’t do it.

Every year as the anniversary approached I would go through my photos trying to decide which to use and what I might want to say, but most of my images seemed too personal to share so I didn’t.

Ten years later my story still doesn’t matter, but I do wish I knew more about the owner of the car above. I took the photo early during our trip and out of all my images this one affects me the most.

To say I find it haunting sounds melodramatic, but I can’t forget it and often think about why it was still there ten days after 9/11. I can’t imagine too many answers that have a happy ending, not after what we all saw, not after that terrible day.

Day Nine – My Friends Can Call Me E

Elizabeth Harper - Times Square - December 31, 1994


December 31,1994, it’s New Year’s Eve and I am in Times Square waiting for midnight to arrive so Mayor Giuliani can drop the big crystal ball on the city that never sleeps. In 1994 no one ever called me E. I was always very adamant when asked, ” My name is Elizabeth and no, I don’t shorten it thank you very much! ” Well, I was actually more polite than that, but underneath I always thought if I wanted people to call me something else, I would have told them in my introduction.

For reasons unknown to me, some people would feel obliged to come up with nicknames for me as if Elizabeth was too much of a mouthful and I was usually okay with that as long it was not a generally recognized nickname for Elizabeth such as Liz, Beth, or Betty. I have always liked my name, but have been willing at times to accept a nickname that was more of a term of endearment and specific to me.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve mellowed a good bit in some parts of my life and what I’m willing to answer to is one of those areas. I am not quite sure when I began to feel as if E was an acceptable nickname, but my friend Patrice has called me E  for as long as I as I can remember and at some point in the eight years that I’ve known her, it’s become okay with me for my other friends to call me E as well.

Of course if you’d prefer to call me Elizabeth, I’ll always be happy with that. John doesn’t have a nickname for me and I love hearing him say my name with his darling English accent so I’m pleased that he prefers Elizabeth.

In the photograph above I am perched at the junction of two barricades that actually say, ” Police Line Do Not Cross.” When I look at this picture from 1994, it makes me think of several things, one being how easily I seem to be balanced on the barricade (I’m not sure I could pull that off now) and two, the message underneath me. I tend to read it as, there’s a line with E (me) that one does not cross … which translates in my mind to boundaries.

I can be a bit rigid with some of those boundaries and a barricade of sorts can easily come up if someone pushes too hard or crosses a line with me. For years my name was one of those areas. I was polite but firm in my corrections and pretty much insisted people address me by my proper name.

As 50 approaches, I have to admit that I may be beginning to mellow because Gary (the man who owns our village pub) keeps calling me Lizzie and I am really not bovvered by it at all. I choose to see it as a term of endearment and acceptance into my new community.

Let me add here, while I prefer Elizabeth to anything else it does make me smile when my friends call me E.

If you are late to the party and have no idea what Day Nine means … you can catch up by going here for a quick read.

PS. I just found this photograph from the same night and had to add it to show you a bit more of the city getting ready for the ball to drop. My mouth is hanging open … we’ll say in amazement, but who knows really. Sorry it’s a bit blurry, but it was a pretty big party night.

One Word – My Word

I took this photograph at the ice rink at Rockefeller Center in New York so many years ago I can barely remember when. I always go there to watch the skaters when I visit Manhattan and once I even took time to skate myself. While I may not remember what year this was taken, I do remember the man in the center of the photograph. If you look, you can see him with his arms up, extended and open in the type of grand gesture one would usually associate with a competitive ice skater. What you can’t see in this picture is that he appeared to be in his seventies, with slowed movement, and frankly not much more than enough skill to stay on his feet.

While his posture and grand movements initially drew my eye it was the look on his face that made me unable to look away. To say he glowed would barely be adequate to describe the undiluted joy that he seemed to be experiencing. I was captivated in such a way that I have never forgotten the impression he made on me that day. His willingness to be himself with no apparent self-consciousness, moving as if he were completely alone all the while surrounded by an audience of spectators, caused me to make a vow right then. With no one listening but me, I said to myself, ” I want to be like that when I grow old.”  Now, years later I think, why wait ?

I’ve been looking at this photo a good bit since scanning the original into my computer a few months ago. For years it had a special place on my refrigerator door, but now here in Cornwall, we have a much smaller refrigerator and it’s covered with cabinetry so there’s no place for it there.

Lately, I found myself wanting to write about my experience at the ice rink that day but I’ve been putting it off waiting for the time to be right. I knew this morning was finally that time when I read Meg Casey’s post for today. If you haven’t been by Meg’s place yet you need to go. She is one off those people who quietly and repeatedly makes a difference. While reading her ” One Word “ post this morning I realized just what I wanted to say about my man above.

With so many of the bloggers I read choosing one word to act as a guide or theme for the year, I thought a great deal about what word I might find useful. I kept being drawn back to this photograph and thinking about it with regard to my word choice. At first I thought perhaps embrace might be a good word for this year, but it felt restrictive somehow…more about holding on to something instead of how I really think this picture makes me feel.

After reading Meg’s post this morning, I came back to ” my skater ” photograph and decided that my word for 2010 would be:

ENCOURAGE

1. to inspire with courage, spirit, or confidence.

2. to stimulate by assistance, approval, etc.

3. to promote, advance, or foster.

My unknown skater has been a silent inspiration to me since the day I took his photograph. His freedom to express himself without fear of ridicule is an example that I find inspiring and with that inspiration comes a measure of courage and spirit, as well the confidence to live boldly and do it now!  Plainly put…I am encouraged by his actions.

In 2010, I will be writing from time to time about people like Meg Casey who is encouraging to others just by sharing her own journey. If you have chosen a word for this year, please link in the comment section so others may find it.  You never know who may find encouragement in something you say or do. I’d be willing to bet my skater never knew …