20 Years After 9/11, I’m Giving Up My Survivor’s Guilt
My dad escaped the horrors of the World Trade Center attacks. Yet for both of us, the trauma remains.
I had big plans for September 11, 2001.
I left my childhood home in Queens that morning dressed in flared jeans with patches below the knee. As I hopped on the F train at 179th Street and Hillside Avenue, Krystal Harris’ song “Supergirl!” from The Princess Diaries played on repeat in my Discman. I was just a teen, a sophomore at NYU headed to class and counting down the hours until that evening, when I’d meet with my friends to see O-Town perform live.
That day didn’t go as planned.
Instead of dancing and singing at the top of my lungs with my girls later that evening, I found myself holding my breath on an empty silent train ride from campus.
Up until that point, my dad had worked at the World Trade Center for my entire life. So I had already experienced breaking news reports about terrorist attacks at the Twin Towers interrupting cartoon broadcasts. After the infamous 1993 bombing, he called home to say he was safe as I watched the aftermath on TV. An elementary school kid at the time, I didn’t fully grasp the magnitude. After all, my dad was a superhero to me. And in my young mind, I couldn’t fathom either of my parents ever dying.
The events of 9/11 changed that for me. I spent hours on that nightmarish Tuesday wondering what life would be like without my dad as I watched clouds of black smoke billowing in the sky from the rail-thin safety of NYU’s Weinstein Building. I saw people covered in dust, running in the opposite direction of the destruction while solemn-faced firefighters drove toward it, sirens blaring. I watched an older woman strike a photographer with her purse — she’d demanded that he stop taking photos of her misery. It was all so overwhelming.
It’s triggering to see photos of the towers burning while scrolling Instagram. Or to watch Twitter clips of humans falling from the sky alongside office supplies. My dad witnessed these moments firsthand, and his fear is…