9/11 – My Experience


Today marks 17 years since 9/11. To many it is just a terrible tragedy in history, to me it is much more.

That day will forever be etched in my memory, my dads memory and my entire families, who were back in Ireland waiting on the call to make sure I was OK……make sure I was alive.

Me and Poppa Heff were in New York for a two week holiday, visiting a friend, who lived in Queens.

We were just two days into our holiday when the Twin Towers were struck by two planes and 2,996 people lost their lives.

I was in Central Park.

For many it is just something they saw on the TV, heard on the radio or read about online and had no real connection to, but for me it holds a special place in my heart.

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Visiting the Statue of Liberty the day before 9/11, aged 11. You can see the Twin Towers in the distance, clouds covering the tops of the towers.

My sister and cousin were pulled from school as the rest of my family all rallied around my mother who was eagerly waiting from a phone call from me to know that I was alive.

The Irish Embassy had been in touch and urged her to contact them once I made contact as they needed to know the Irish death toll. 

She waited 6 1/2 hours, the time it took my Dad and me to navigate our way through a tragedy and terrorist stricken New York.

We had the smallest map of the city on the back of a ‘borrowed’ library book of New York to guide us. Everything had shut down, so our only option was to walk.

Thankfully I was safe in Central Park that day, but the memory of what happened, seeing the smoke as we crossed the bridge, the hoards of people fleeing Manhattan, the missing people posters strewn all over the streets and lampposts, attending the candle light vigils for the injured and deceased will live with me forever.

 

“No Day Shall Erase You From The Memory of Time” – Virgil 

In March this year I went back to New York for the first time in 17 years as the 2017 Louth Rose, my first visit was 911 Memorial Museum at Ground Zero.

The tour was arrange by the 2017 New York Rose Sinéad Kirnan and I will be forever grateful to her for organising it as it gave me the opportunity to pay my respects to those lost and once again reconnect and mourn with the people of New York and America

It was a harrowing experience seeing the salvaged debris, reading people’s heroic stories and reliving that day again.

I found it extremely difficult to make it through the museum without completely breaking down, as I’m sure anyone would. It was hauntingly quiet throughout, until you came to the section where TV reports and phone calls from victims to loved ones were echoing throughout the exhibition.

This was the most challenge part of the experience for me. I held my breath, feeling like I couldn’t exhale for fear of completely erupting into tears and sobs throughout this part.

I heard those phone calls on repeat, I watched those News reports in real time and again on repeat for two weeks.

When I came home from America following 9/11, I refused to watch anymore reports on it, I couldn’t see people jump from buildings anymore.

It is only recently I have begun to look at stuff from that day but have yet to watch any documentaries or films about it.

Leaving the 9/11 Memorial Museum after an intense emotional tour, I stood overlooking the memorial waterfall for what felt like an hour. Just trying to process the experience, even Kevin left with a heavy heart, we were both in shock I think.

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It took a while to shake that feeling that day, but I am so happy that I had the opportunity to visit the museum and that it was the first thing I did when I landed in New York for the first time in 17 years.

I will always feel very close to the people of New York every year on September 11th.

We will forever be linked by 9/11. 

AJ xX

Twitter: Aweirdheff
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