By Jade

It was my second day of work.  I was trying to find my footing at a new job on the 24th floor of a Madison Avenue highrise, when out of nowhere everything started to shake.  My CEO came out of his office and insisted everyone evacuate, but also insisted that no one take the elevator.  So there we went, down 24 flights of stairs.  No one wanted to say it.  But everyone was thinking it.  This was New York City, after all.

Safely on the ground, we made enough phone calls and Google News searches to figure out that we’d just experienced the aftershock of a 5.8 earthquake; epicenter, Virginia.  A Southern California native, and thus no stranger to earthquakes, that should have been my first inclination when things started to shake.  But again, this was New York City–not California. 

One morning. Four planes. Two towers. Two hours. Three thousand lives.  Two numbers, burned into infamy.

Nine.  Eleven.

Ten years pass.  What we’re left with is something of a dusty halo, a fraught valence.  We are a “post-9/11” world, grappling with what that’s supposed to mean and how we’re supposed to feel.  We remember, have promised never to forget, how we felt that day.  And if memory failed, even for a moment, Osama bin Laden’s recent assassination sent waves of sensation over us, made sure we never could.

One of the unintended but inevitable consequences of a moment like the September 11th attacks is the deluge of story generation.  No matter where you were when the planes hit and the news hit, you’ve produced a narrative around the experience, one you’ve repeated in times of sober reflection.  A month after the attacks.  Six months.  Six years.  Today.

I watched the towers fall from the tiny TV on our kitchen counter, in the house where all my other important memories to date had been formed.  I was two weeks into high school, and we were on a condensed Tuesday schedule, with classes starting around 10am Pacific.

I stumbled from bed to the kitchen, with still sleep-set eyes, to find my mom sitting at the kitchen table.  Dazed.

“Jade, I think something really bad just happened.”

At school, the student government classroom that had been abuzz with talk of pep rallies and school dances only a day before became a locus for our tears.  None of us really knew what had happened, or what might happen in the future.  We just knew we were vulnerable.  And people were dying.  Our people.  On our soil.  In a city as American as apple pie and jazz.

If you had said to me that morning, “Jade, in ten years, you’re going to call that city home…you’re going to spend the weekend going for cocktails and shopping on 5th Avenue for your company’s star-studded product launch party,” I would have commended you for the vividness of your imagination and the depth of your faith in me, but I also would have thought you slightly delusional.  I didn’t know then that I’d feel more a part of the New York City community than the one where I was born and raised.

But here I am.  Spending 9/11 getting a pedicure and running errands as if it were any other Sunday.  And in a way, and with abundant respect to everyone who was directly or indirectly affected by the events of that day or its bellicose aftermath, I feel like treating this as any other Sunday is the best message we can send.

It’s a given that we’ll never forget.  And it’s a given that the memory will continue to inform our instincts and reactions to shaky situations.  But if we’re to have genuinely gained anything from the grave deeds of a decade past, it should be an awareness.  An awareness that we are vulnerable, but also that we are strong.  An awareness that the things that give us pause are also the things that propel us forward.  An awareness that even though everyday life looks vastly different for each of us decade-over-decade, the point is that we are living life in the context of our new normal every single day.

Ten years.  Three thousand miles.  One life.  One day at a time.  Always remember.  Remember to live.

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