I was across the street working in World Financial Center 2 the morning of September 11, 2001. I heard the second plane hit, heard the explosion, and for a moment thought I was going to die. But I didn’t.
I walked out of the building alongside hundreds of others and looked across the street at two burning skyscrapers, amazed and horrified, confused and nervous. We watched as people leapt to their deaths to avoid burning and heard the sound of human bodies hitting concrete after falling 70 stories. We stood, unable to help, unsure what to do next. And then we fled the city. I was on a train in NJ when someone announced the first tower had fallen.
For the next month, I couldn’t sleep without nightmares. I became a news radio junkie. I developed troubling, severe anxiety. I wondered if I would ever feel comfortable on a plane or in a tall building again. I read countless stories about the day and couldn’t stop looking at photos that made me sob. I spent several months unemployed, sitting at home in front of my computer all day, truly depressed for the first time in my life. Everything felt broken and wrong and terrifying. I wasn’t sure how to get back to my normal life.
Little things helped. Spending time with friends, finding a crummy job that gave me somewhere to go every day, something to do with myself. Family. Eventually, I began to heal. I moved to Brooklyn. I passed the WTC site every time I went to see a movie at my favorite theater. I rode the subway without constant fear of terrorism. I flew more and more to various cities in the US, first with the help of large doses of Xanax and then more and more without it. I began to feel comfortable in the world again. I fell even more in love with the city I had always dreamed of living in.
I spent the majority of this past decade living in New York City. The same city I fled that morning, the same city I came back to a few months later, worried but defiant. The city I truly grew up in, for better or worse. I’ve moved away now, but New York City will always be my home.