I was almost sixteen in the spring of 2001 though looking back onn it almost seems impossible that I was only two years short of being a legal adult. I guess tragedy has a way of making us feel younger than we actually are. In March my choir class spent three days in New York City. I saw Beauty and the Beast on Broadway, stood in Central Park in the middle of Strawberry Field (the John Lennon memorial which is still covered in flowers left by visitors years after his death) and looked down on tiny ant cars from the observation deck of the Empire State Building. During the trip we took a ferry to see the Statue of Liberty and my aunt took a picture of the skyline. Fast forward to September. Like everyone else in school that day I spent most of the day in a state of numb shock. I worried about the man who worked at the Metropolitan Opera House, who had gone out of his way so that I didn’t have to listen to the orchestra play from the hallway just because the elevator didn’t reach the viewing area set up for visitors. Instead of listening from the hallway I sat behind a small group of musicians playing the echo effects from a mostly hidden balcony.
I hoped that the lady who worked in the theater where our play was staged, the one who had to change my tickets to floor seats five minutes before the show didn’t have family or friends in those buildings today. I even said a prayer for the city guide who had strongly suggested I stay on the bus when we visited Central Park so I didn’t slow everyone else down.
It didn’t occur to me until after school that day that I was now set apart forever. In years to come my children and friends’ children and the children of all the generations after me would know of the World Trade Center only through pictures and text written in books and memories of people older than them. Suddenly the picture that was taken by a Kodak disposable camera from the deck of that ferry became important to history and took me, a clueless teenage tourist from the South with it. Nothing has ever been the same since