Monday, September 12, 2011

The Morning After …Ten Years Later

It’s September 12, 2011. Yesterday’s 9/11 memorials are still on my mind as I ride the 8:15 Staten Island ferry, which is standing room only this morning. I wonder if this is due to the heightened security in the terminals.

I decide to stand outside on the rear deck and enjoy the warm and unusually sunny morning. Since Hurricane Irene, it seems that we’ve had rain almost every day.

I spot a coast guard escort in the wake of the ferry. The sight triggers memories of ten years past. I’m back on the boat, only this time it’s September 14, 2001. Ten years earlier I felt the need to see what was left of the trade towers for myself.

I don’t know what possessed me; maybe it was the fact that my husband’s plane was midair as the attacks occurred and his airplane was diverted to Canada. All of those passengers arriving from Korea, along with my husband, had to find their own way back to New York, from Vancouver. It took him one week to get back home, and I could not sit and wait any longer; I had to do something.

I left my kids with my mother and rode the ferry. I walked to where the Towers had stood and stared in disbelief. It was a war zone. I couldn’t believe that these two towers, where I had worked in the late eighties and early nineties for cargo steamship lines, were the piles of rubble I was staring at now.

That ferry also had a coast guard escort that day, but that sky was dark with ashes. I shake the memory from my mind. After all, yesterday’s 9/11 memorials had a common thread of “it’s time to move forward.”

Granted, it’s hard to move ahead when the threat of terror is looming like a vulture over its prey. But what 9/11/2001 taught me is that I should be prepared.

Ten years ago my kids were in school. I was at work at the College of Staten Island, listening to the radio—in disbelief—as the events unfolded. I remember not knowing what to do. Some people stayed at work. I rushed to my kids’ school a twenty-minute drive away and picked them up. Fortunately we were able to keep up with the news on television.

What I realize today, after Hurricane Irene, is that you must have electricity to watch the news. When Irene swept through Staten Island on August 27, our power went down. The only way we could hear the news during Irene would have been to sit in the car with the motor running.

Luckily my husband found his battery-operated short wave radio so we were able to follow 1010 WINS. The radio and a few candles were the extent of our preparedness. (I now know the Red Cross advises against lighting candles during a power outage due to the extreme risk of fire.)

Since September is National Emergency Preparedness Month, I’ve decided to rethink my strategy. I’m going to “Get a kit, make a plan, and be informed.” After surfing I’ve got decisions to make—like which kit to buy for my family and my friends. I know they’ll make great Christmas gifts.

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