Dip 'N Dots.
That's what I really think about, if you want to know.
It's funny how memory obscures the past. How some things fade away like shadows into time and others brighten and pop for no apparent reason at all, wedging themselves solidly in your mind.
But, as I search the recesses of my mind, a few things begin to dust themselves off and I can remember details. The kind of details that seem strangely unimportant now. The poster for The Scarlet Pimpernel on the side of a wall. The TKTS booth on the lower floors. The numbers on the elevator reaching up up up. The Windows on the World restaurant (what a thrilling concept for a 12 year old).
Creeping to the edges of the windows to look out so high up - what did I see? But the memory is gone now, nothing there at all. And finally, taking to the very top, standing on the World Trade Center Tower with my family, looking out to see the rest of New York City. I remember thinking how wide open the top was and how inaccessible the edges were. It was safe up there.
If I had known it would be my first and last time on the World Trade Center, maybe I would have held in my mind's eye what it felt like to be up there a little better, or gone to the edge and looked down. Maybe I would have stood outside and looked straight up to see just how big they really were. Maybe I wouldn't have cared quite so much about the first Dip N' Dots of my life and more on the finite nature of the moment. But I was 12 and I didn't know and couldn't have known. They say hindsight is 20/20 and, I suppose, it's true.
What I find is that the bigger lessons of having visited the World Trade Center Towers didn't come that day. No, the lesson that sticks with me, that permeates my every thought about this tragic, terrible day came later and it is this: it could have been me. It could have been you. It could have been any one of us.
There are so many tragic things to come from the terrorist attacks on 9/11. Such a crazy, insane 10 years ensued, that it is hard to pinpoint exactly where even to begin. Without a doubt, it is the most defining moment of our time. What the idyllic, idealism of 90s brought, 9/11 and the ensuing decade ended. The wars, the extremity of our politics, the religious extremism at home and abroad, the mounting debt, the Great Recession - it would all be easy to focus on. But for me, what I want to focus on is the people. That's all it's about anyway, isn't it?
In protest to terrorism, to the extreme anti-woman sentiments of Al Qaeda, and in honor of my love and our support of the city, my mom and I went to New York in the spring of 2002 to celebrate my 16th birthday. What we saw then was a city in mourning. Ground Zero was a gaping hole where the towers once stood. The blocks surrounding it were plastered with flyers with faces of the missing; the ones who would never come home. Until that moment, it was hard to grasp the loss, hard to grasp the depth of the wound suffered. So many of us sat and watched from thousands of miles away in horror as the towers fell and the death toll came in. But here in front of my eyes, were the people that counted the toll. Everyday people going to work. Firefighters trying to save. Mothers, fathers, daughters, sons. All lost for no reason but the instill fear.
But like any strong lady, New York and her residents soldiered on. Today, the city thrives, the people have endured and New York continues to be one of the greatest cities on earth. I don't think New Yorkers, frankly, would have it any other way.
History is our greatest teacher. How do we learn from tragedy? How do we grow? I offer to you, in opposition to extremism everywhere and in honor of those killed on this day, ten years ago, a message of love. Because, in my view of things, it is the opposite of terrorism. Through the eyes of love, we stand for ourselves and we stand for others. We move to the middle. We listen better. We compromise. We image the world a better place. And what we imagine, we can then believe and what we believe, we can then accomplish. So today, I chose to focus on love, in its greatest, most encompassing sense. Doubtless, we will mourn. And so we should. Because it could have been me and it could have been you, too. And if today were the anniversary of my final day, I would want my legacy to be one of the enduring power of love.