Written by: Nita Singh
As with many, September 11, 2001 will live in my memory forever. Even though it has been 18 years, my memory is as clear as if it happened yesterday.
My faith in God was always strong, but that experience brought me even closer to Him because I felt his love and protection. God kept me calm during the turmoil of that horrific day and guided me home safely to my family.
On the morning of September 11, 2001, the weather was great. It wasn't too hot or too cold. I decided to wear my light gray pencil skirt suit with white blouse and 3 inch black heel pumps. As I left my house, my uncle Bheem, who was visiting from Guyana, was watching the news on TV. He said goodbye to me. I had no idea that the first plane had already crashed into the World Trade Center. I headed to work, blissfully unaware of what was ahead.
The A train came quickly. Listening to my music, I wasn't really paying attention until I realized that we were not moving. Eventually, the train started moving. At the next stop, a passenger boarded the train told all that a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center. It never occurred to me that it could be an act of terrorism.
Finally, we reached Fulton Street. I exited the subway and headed toward my office, which was located at 140 Broadway. Seeing people on Broadway looking upwards, I did the same. Only then did I notice that both World Trade Center Towers were on fire. A woman on the street told me a plane accidentally crashed into the Twin Towers. Despite hearing that, I continued to walk towards my office. Always thinking positively, I thought that FDNY would simply put out the fire.
As I approached 140 Broadway, I saw my supervisor, Antonietta. She explained that our building was not letting anyone in, so she suggested getting the staff together and heading home. Just then, I heard what sounded like the loudest thunder clap ever. Antonietta yelled to me, “The building is coming down. It looks like it's going to fall on us. Run!”
I froze for a moment. Everything seemed so surreal. How could this happen? In America? The greatest country? I started to run but I didn't get far. In all the confusion, someone knocked me down. Thinking I wouldn't have enough time to get away, I crawled behind a large planter. Two women fell on top of me. People were screaming. I thought I was going to die. I started praying. I asked God to take my life quickly so I wouldn’t experience any pain. As I prayed, I began to feel an eerie calmness. I believe God was calming and comforting me. Then, I heard a massive explosion. Everything went dark.
Dust and debris flew in the air. I wondered if I was dead. I wondered if this was heaven. Then, I felt the weight of other people on me and I realized I was alive. As those two women moved, they thanked me for praying and keeping them calm. Because I couldn’t see well, another person helped me move and wash my face. I never learned her name. She was an ambassador of God.
After connecting with, and then losing sight of two work colleagues, I began to cry. I was alone and had no plan. Eventually, I started walking East. When I reached the South Street Seaport, I met some people from Guyana and Trinidad. Together, we walked towards the Brooklyn Bridge. As we crossed the bridge, the second Tower fell.
Once over the bridge, I saw a pay phone. Many people were waiting to use it. I joined the line. After one hour, I finally had a chance to call my parents. Worried and afraid, they asked me why I hadn’t called sooner.
A woman in the group – Jennifer – offered to have her boyfriend drive home everyone with whom were were walking. We had to walk further in Brooklyn so he could pick us up. I had burn marks on my feet because debris fell on them, but I kept walking, still wearing the same shoes. Eventually, Jennifer’s boyfriend, Raj, picked us all up and drove us all home.
When I got home, I cried because I was safe. I cried because many people died. I cried because the entire country was crying.
When I tell others I am blessed, this is one of the reasons why I feel that way. I made it home.
Photo by: Adam Schreibman
“Forty is the old age of youth; fifty is the youth of old age.” – Victor Hugo
“Age is just a number”, as the saying goes. Well, there are numbers, and then there are NUMBERS!
50 is such a number.
I turned 50 recently, and it made me think about age, aging, and life generally more than at all other birthdays combined. There is good reason behind that. As a number, few birthdays resonate in our minds at all, really.
18: I can vote!
21: I CAN DRINK!
30: I am not a kid anymore.
When I turned 40, my wife – you’ve heard of her, she runs this website – threw me a birthday party in Midtown, at a friend’s restaurant. Great time, family and friends, but I didn’t attach special significance to the number itself.
Turning 50 seemed like an appropriate time to take stock of what I have achieved, personally and professionally; to analyze what I have done well, and not so well; and to think about the passage of time, something that I think about often, perhaps more often than most others.
I used to measure the passage of time by two events: the Super Bowl and the Kentucky Derby, two of my so-called yearly “High Holy Days”. When thinking about the past or a past year particularly I would associate that year with the winners of those events.
Now, though, I measure the passage of time through something – someone else – actually: our son. I look at our Christmas card pictures affixed to the refrigerator door – almost all of which were taken by a longtime friend of my wife’s, what luck! – and see him at one, two, three, and so on. I cannot look at the world through his eyes directly, but I can measure the passage of time through him. Now seven, I try not to treat him like he is five – not always successfully, just ask my wife – but I can see how he is maturing physically and mentally. (And two years from now, I will probably struggle not to treat him like he is seven.)
I have rarely been a good judge of guessing people’s ages. Mostly, I think, that is so because when I look in the mirror, I never “see” my age. I always see a person younger than my actual age. I am sure that is a widely-held response.
I received the following message from a friend who I see once, maybe twice, each year, though we communicate fairly regularly: “I didn’t realize it was your birthday, so Happy Birthday. How the hell are you 50!” I admit that I like seeing other people’s surprised faces and hearing their words of disbelief when I announce my age.
When researching quotes about turning 50, something stood out, though: there were many more thoughts about how you look at 50 compared to 40, and 30, and so on. Those lines were expressed, usually, by the “face” that we have at 50. However, there were many fewer quotes about what we have faced, a far more important measure than how we appear to others physically.
Among those few comments relating to what we have faced, I came across this apt quote: “By the time we hit 50, we have learned our hardest lessons. We have found out that only a few things are really important…” – Marie Dressler
The hardest lesson is discovering what is really important to you.
And that comes with age.
By Ramya Mathur
Photograph by Yeshi Kangrang on Unsplash.
Our hands have held many things in our lifetimes. Pencils. Food. Each other. Babies.
Can it hold onto memories? Can we squeeze them back into our brain?
When old age comes, when memories start to fade, can we find a way to make sure we hold on to our most precious memories?
What if it isn’t old age but something else? What if your brain refuses to cooperate? What if your brain is like a sieve? It holds onto the ‘big’ memories but lets go of the smaller ones.
Almost like it has a mind of its own. Almost like it remembers things it wants to but forgets everything else.
It remembers the day your child was born. It remembers what jasmine smells like. It remembers that two weeks ago, you passed the same homeless man on the street and he smiled at you.
But it forgets simple math. It forgets train numbers. It forgets cross streets and building numbers.
It remembers how the back of your husband’s hands feel like. How the sound of your child’s laughter still brightens your day.
It forgets how much sugar he likes in his tea. It forgets how many more stops to go on the train. It forgets which exit to take to your father’s house. It forgets the year you bought your car.
Memories are tricky like that. How do you keep them safe?
Can we house them in crystal balls? Can I take pictures of my memories and stick them in books to look at when I feel like I have forgotten? I wish I could.
I would rather house memories in my mind where they should reside, rather than anywhere else. But maybe that’s too much to ask of my body at this point. Maybe it’s better to accept things I cannot change and work on preserving memories I currently can access.
Maybe, just maybe, it’s time to stop worrying about what I cannot control and start making new memories. And hopefully these, I remember to capture on film.
This way, at least for the future, I’m covered.