No, I was not there. But I feel like I was…. Not in the Towers, but off to the side,
watching it all unfold in front of my horror-stricken eyes.
September 11th 2001. I remember every moment of that day – how it felt, what I saw – and the days afterwards, as I sat glued to the TV round the clock and watched. I was actually stranded in Florida – one of my least favorite places in the world – and what started out as a quick 2 day visit, turned into a week-long wait until air traffic started up again and I could get out of there.
I had been living in Israel since 1979 – working in the Hospitality Industry. I had a great job that I loved. But in September of 2000, the so-called “second Intifada” began – unleashing a series of terrorist attacks in Israel that caused the booming tourist industry to crash and burn! Cancellations were pouring in like a tidal wave… and within weeks our predicted “best year ever” turned into a catastrophe. It was happening in the company I worked for – and it was happening throughout the country. The industry was falling apart – every day the news would bring some new atrocity – and nobody knew when It was going to end.
Hotel owners and management companies knew that they would have to make serious cuts in order to try to contain their losses – and so the downsizing began. After nearly 20 years of working for the same company, I lost my job….I had a life decision to make – should I try to find a job in another industry in Israel? Or should I go back to the US and try my luck there?
My brother and his wife had relocated to Las Vegas in 2000 – and my sister-in-law was always telling me that I should come there too. Tourism was booming in Las Vegas, and there were plenty of jobs to be had! I left Israel in August of 2001 and flew to Las Vegas. I actually had a job lined up before I made the move – so I was feeling pretty good. I was going to put things back together and start on a new chapter of my life.
I was supposed to begin at my new job on October 1st, so before that, I was tasked (by my siblings) with going to Florida and moving my father to Las Vegas. He was not doing well on his own after my Mom had passed away, and he had finally agreed to move closer to my brother - which is how I managed to get stuck in Florida on September 11th .
I flew into W Palm Beach on the evening of 9/10. When I woke up in the morning of 9/11 with that horrible sinus headache that Florida always gives me, there was no coffee in the house – so I drove over to Dunkin’ Donuts. As usual, I had the radio on, so when an announcer broke in with reports that a plane had hit one of the World Trade Towers, I heard it unfold live. And then I heard the “breaking news” that a second plane had hit….. I remember running back into my Dad’s house, turning on the TV and yelling at him to come see…… and from that moment – for about 5 days – it felt like I did not take my eyes off that TV set….. I couldn’t….. I had to see and hear everything!
I grew up in New York – I consider New York to be my hometown, even though I have not lived there for many years. I remember frantically trying to get hold of friends and relatives who lived or worked in the City – especially my cousin Barry, whose wife worked in one of the Towers. As it turned out, she had gone to a business meeting elsewhere that day – and so she was safe. It’s amazing to realize that just 10 years ago, a lot of people did not have cell phones – and many did not even have email. I remember how difficult it was to get through to people, because the phone circuits were over loaded.
Having lived in Israel, and having experienced terrorist attacks first-hand, it still shocks me to my core to even try to comprehend the depth of hatred that would allow a person to blow up a building and kill as many people as possible. Whether it be by flying a plane into a tower – or by strapping a belt packed with explosives around your waist…… how can a human being become that filled with hatred? I’ve looked into eyes filled with that hatred….. and it is like looking into the depths of Hell.
I grew up in the days of the Flower Children – I was raised on “Make Love, Not War”…. I still can’t reconcile any of it, no matter how hard I try.
I personally cannot believe that terror triumphs – I will never believe it. If we live our lives in fear, then the terrorists win. If we stop doing the things that we do – then they have won.
When I lived in Jerusalem and Terrorists were blowing up city busses every day – I refused to stop riding the bus. Many people were afraid to go to the Farmer’s Markets, or even to the Downtown area – because those areas had been targets. I kept on going…. Even though I could see the effects of the terror…. Windows blown out, burned-out shells of busses…. All of that. And after 9-11, I refused to stop flying – actually, within a month of that day, I flew coast-to-coast 5 times!
I found myself homeless and jobless in Las Vegas – because my new job disintegrated after the terror attacks. People were suddenly afraid to travel. I didn’t give in then, and I won’t give up now – still trying to find the perfect path in life. To do otherwise would be to let the Terrorists win.
So, on this 10th Anniversary of the most horrific day in US history – I think that we have to pay tribute to those who gave their lives…. The innocent, the heroes…. We must keep them in our hearts always. But we also have to renew our vow to keep on living our lives without compromising who we are. Because if we don’t do that, then the Terrorists have won.