On the 12th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on the United States, nationwide memorial services honored the nearly 3,000 lives lost.
As bells tolled solemnly, New York City marked the 12th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks with the ritual of reading of victims' names; the 2,983 people who died at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and near Shanksville, Pa. as well as the names of the 1993 trade center bombing victims. Moments of silence and serene music that have become tradition followed. Bells tolled to mark the second plane hitting the second tower, and the airliner that crashed into the Pentagon as well.
Near the memorial plaza, police barricades were blocking access to the site, even as life around the World Trade Center looked like any other morning, with workers rushing to their jobs and construction cranes looming over the area.
It was a sorrowful day in New York; a day of remembrance.
The day New York was attacked.
As a native New Yorker and having worked and lived in Manhattan most of my life, this attack was very personal to me. I lost many friends, colleagues and a few distant relatives. My job was located only a few short blocks away from The World Trade Center.
I did not go to work that day and chose to work from home. The building I was working in imploded.
Colleagues sent me photos of the billowing pink smoke and wreckage where my workplace used to be. To this day I cannot give a plausible explanation why I made this choice. Was it intuition? Fate? I wasn’t the only one. Since that day I have heard eerily similar stories.
Small choices, saved lives: Near misses of 9/11
Every day, people make thousands of small, insignificant decisions -- what to eat, when to take a break, which route to take to work.
But for a handful of people on September 11, 2001, those seemingly inconsequential decisions -- stepping out for a smoke, window shopping on the commute, stopping to enjoy a beautiful morning, taking a different subway route, even waking up late because of the previous night's TV show-- made the difference between living and dying.
Or was it just blind luck?
Rob Herzog doesn't believe divine intervention or some cosmic influence kept him safe at the World Trade Center that day."I was lucky," the New Yorker said.
By 8:45 a.m., Herzog would normally be at his office on the 96th floor of the World Trade Center's North Tower, where he worked for an insurance brokerage company.
That Tuesday, on his way to work, he stopped at a post office near his Upper West Side apartment. Then he had a series of mishaps that caused him to take the wrong train.
He was running late.
By the time he arrived at the World Trade Center, a Boeing 767 had crashed into his office building. "I missed it by 5 minutes," Herzog said.
His company lost 658 employees in the attack. Herzog knew several of them well; a woman who sat next to him, another who sat behind him and a co-worker who had invited him over to her house for dinner.
"I had tremendous survivor's guilt," Herzog said. "All I could think of when I woke up was I should be dead, especially when I went to 15 different memorial services."
Immediately after 9/11, he observed a gentler, kinder New York.
He changed too. He quit his corporate job to launch ZogSports in 2002. He married the woman of his dreams and treasures his life as never before.
Revisiting 911, 12 years later.
Recently my husband and I went back to revisit the site of the attack; the 911 Memorial site.
We did not know each other then but we both worked in Manhattan and had many sad stories between us.
We visited the North & South Pools and gently placed a white rose on the name of a family friend.
We listened to the soft sounds of the Reflection Pool, designed to drown out all ambient noise such as traffic, construction and fire trucks so that visitors can reflect on the past.
Crowds of people from around the world milled around the memorial site. Some were making rubbings of names, some putting flowers by the names of victims and some touching the Survivor tree with reverence.
The Survivor tree is so named because it not only withstood the 911 attack but also Hurricane Sandy. A tree rooted in survival, remembering all who perished here, 12 years ago. Reaching its limbs to the New York sky as if to say “We will never forget.”
We too touched the Survivor tree and we said a prayer for all those who lost their lives that fateful day. We are all survivors.