Most people look back to where they were when they heard the unthinkable happened. It was a day that is imbedded into our minds leaving it impossible to forget. I remember looking out the window while sitting in class thinking how beautiful the day was, wishing I was outside. I was 16 years old. Our teacher entered the room with a sunken look on her face after the first plane hit. I didn’t quite understand the magnitude as to what had just occurred. Terrorism? I’ve heard about it and read about it in books. But that wasn’t part of my world. That wasn’t occurring in our back yard. They must have been mistaken. It was probably a malfunction with the engine causing a tragic accident. The following period my friend franticly ran up to me asking if my dad was working. Being that he was a fireman, she was instantly concerned for his safety. Again, that thought didn’t cross my mind. Why would he be there? My dad can’t be in any real danger. After sitting in class while everyone was in a fog, I then realized the enormity of what had just occurred. Or so I thought.
Many people have remarkable stories about being in the right place at the right time. A person on the 100th floor decided to leave the building for a smoke break moments before the planes hit. Or someone called into work sick that day. There are hundreds of stories where it just wasn’t that person’s time. My parents fall into that category. After years of wanting to go to Hawaii, they finally booked their trip. My mom surprised my dad for their anniversary and made the arrangements over the phone with a travel agent. (Yes, back then booking trips online wasn’t as accessible). They would fly to San Francisco first and then to Hawaii. The agent asked her if she wanted to book it for the 11th or 12th. My mom replied that it didn’t matter and for him to choose the date. The day after the towers hit, it sunk in that that flight 93 was the plane that crashed in Pennsylvania. It was the exact flight that they were taking the following day. Same flight number, same time, same everything. That travel agent will never know that he saved my parents life.
The morning the towers hit was a day my dad woke up earlier then normal. He had to visit the burn center in the city due to a burn he received from work. He woke up early and went right in. The planes hit after his appointment while he just arrived to his sisters house in Long Island. The other men in that burn unit left right away to go to the towers. Many became part of the missing. My aunt frantically tried to keep my dad at her house and didn’t want him to go to the buildings. But there was nothing stopping a fireman from his calling. He understood the magnitude of what happened and that he had to be there to help. He later on shared with us how eerie it was driving on the Long island Expressway without any other cars. Many of the roads were blocked off. He showed the officer his fireman badge and he let him through. I’m so thankful everyday that my dad was in the right place at the right time. Many other people were not as lucky.
I am very proud to come from a family of fireman. My dad was on the job in Harlem and my brother is currently working at the same house. I know many firemen and truly respect them for their courage, loyalty and for their bravery. There were a tremendous amount of heros that day and the months that followed. To thousands of others who lost their lives, you will never be forgotten. To the first aid responders, firemen, police officers, volunteers and civilians lending a helping hand, you have proven that the American people are resilient and come together during times of need. I’m proud to be a New Yorker. I’m proud to be the daughter of a NYC firefighter and most of all I am proud to be an American.