When the first airplane hit the Twin Towers, I was thirteen years old. It was still early in Seattle, and I was getting ready for school. I heard about it on The End, the local angsty rocker radio station. It was still new, the events were still unfolding, and information was patchy. They said New York had been bombed.
I have family in New York, and in bordering parts of New Jersey. Several aunts, and my Abuelita, at the time. So when I heard New York was being bombed, they were the first people I feared for. When the records were corrected, when I learned airplanes had crashed into one targeted area, far from my family, I was relieved. That was the first emotion I felt in response to 9/11. Others would come, but relief and gratitude were my first.
A lot of people lost loves ones during these attacks. Every Muslim-American lost rights and dignities that day for which they still struggle. I don’t know exactly what happened that day. Was it a terrorist attack? Did the government do it? Or if the Bush administration didn’t actually plan the attacks, did they allow the terrorists in? We know for certain that they ignored intel that could have helped prevent or ameliorate the devastation caused. In the end, whatever happened, a lot of families were left irreparably broken, and our country lost the easy hubris upon which we’d built our empire.
Those stories belong to other people. I didn’t lose anyone to the 9/11 attacks. My city wasn’t directly affected; my skyline wasn’t shattered. I was too young to fully feel the impact on the nation, at least at first. The stories of loss and pain and heartbreak are not mine to tell, but while I was researching my recent article on dosing during disasters, Joycelyn Woods, executive director for National Alliance for Medication Assisted Recovery and long time New Yorker, told me a different kind of 9/11 story, which I’d like to share with you today.