A unique eyewitness recounts the experience of September 11, 2001.
|I was there on September 11, 2001. I saw it happen; I saw everything. This is my story of that terrible day.
Although I was born in France, I have lived in New York practically my entire life. I love the city of New York almost as much as I love this grand country. And while the absence of the two magnificent towers is still difficult to bear, the famous skyline remains very beautiful to me. I see it every day and every night. Even in its altered state, it is extremely comforting to me.
Tuesday, September 11, 2001 began much like any other Tuesday. Having spent so many years near the city, I am quite used to the hustle and bustle of early mornings. People go in every direction as they make their way to their destinations. The streets are full of traffic, the subways are full of people, the waterways are teeming with ships and boats. And the sky…the sky is busy, too. With so many airports in the vicinity, it is far from unusual to see many various aircraft aloft over New York City. Airplanes, helicopters, even an occasional blimp!
So it was as I stood in the bright sunshine and crisp air on that fateful day. Hardly anyone noticed the jet plane as it roared overhead, at a far lower altitude than it should have been. But I did; I was watching...I saw it all. Then came the thunderous explosion as that plane crashed into the side of the World Trade Center’s North Tower. I can still feel the echoes inside me of all those horrified and unbelieving screams. I can still smell the acrid smoke and the stench of burning jet fuel.
Almost instantly emergency sirens sounded throughout the city. Countless heroes raced to the scene, ready to do whatever was necessary to save as many lives as possible. How could they have known that the horror was only beginning?
I felt so helpless as I watched the second airplane crash into the South Tower fifteen minutes later. Another sickening explosion...more smoke...more screams. Oh, how I wished that I could do something to help! But I could not. I could only stand there and watch, motionless. I couldn’t even cry.
I watched the terror unfold before my very eyes. I wondered how many innocent people lost their lives in the split second those airplanes smashed into the buildings. How many more would die before the day was over? How many of our courageous police and firefighters selflessly gave the ultimate sacrifice, in hopes of saving the lives of their fellow citizens? I wondered. And as the buildings came crashing down later, one at a time, I tried to imagine what kind of barbarians would commit such a savage, diabolical crime against other human beings. Yes, I wondered. I stood, I watched, and I wondered.
Now, of course, we know who would do such a thing. We know, and we have begun to impose justice. Cowards may have sucker-punched America on that day, but we are fighting back. We always do.
Still, no amount of punishment can make the memories of that horrible day go away.
I remember everything, because I was there. I saw it all. I wish that I could have done more than just stand there and watch, but alas, I could not.
Rest assured, though, I am still here, standing, watching - perched on my pedestal over the harbor. I am still looking out over my beloved country, and this city that I know so well. My lamp is still lifted high into the air. I stand in defiance of those who wish us harm. Yes, I am here, poised tall and proud, an enduring symbol of liberty. I still embrace those people who love and long for freedom. And as I've done for over one hundred years now, I still welcome them to the United States of America.