I moved back to the United States in the summer of 2001, having spent most of my time during the decade prior to that in Europe – in the UK as a student, and then as a professor in Romania. I managed to piece together enough work to make ends meet that year, teaching adjunct at two seminaries: Alliance Theological Seminary in lower Manhattan, and Biblical Theological Seminary in Hatfield, Pennsylvania.
I was scheduled to teach an evening class on the evening of September 11th, 2001 at Alliance. Needless to say that didn’t go ahead as planned. In fact, the seminary would be closed for about a week.
That morning, the morning of September 11th, 2001, I got a phone call from my sister. As I started with general chit chat, she realized that I didn’t know what had happened. So she told me, and my wife and I put on the TV, and stood transfixed watching it for the next several hours.
It would be about a week, as I recall, before classes would resume at Alliance that semester. Alliance Theological Seminary is located roughly halfway between Canal Street, where vehicle traffic to lower Manhattan was stopped after 9/11, and the place where all access other that authorized personnel was prevented from entering the zone we referred to as Ground Zero.
I remember my trips into the city once classes started up again. The city’s streets were still covered in dust. There were signs asking about missing loved ones on every streetlamp and pole.
The last time I had come into the city prior to 9/11, I had gotten off the subway at the World Trade Center, rather than Canal St. where I usually did, just for a change.
I didn’t even look up, but simply hurried to be on time for my class. I didn’t know it would be my last opportunity to look up at those familiar buildings.
But it was. And I missed it.
As a native of New York City, I am glad that I was teaching there and living in the vicinity in September 2001. I think it would have been harder to be far away, distant and disconnected from my hometown, and to watch these events transpire.
The essence of the sense of tragedy, of shock, of nausea at the smell of death as the subway passed through the closed Fulton St. station, are all things that I can mention, but can’t really describe.
Many people have been blogging about their memory of ten years ago today. I remember it clearly, but it was mostly the witnessing via TV of events that it was impossible to process. It is the experience of being in Manhattan in the weeks afterwards that has made the more lasting impression on me and has had the greater emotional impact.