Our Recollections From 9/11: Kate

It’s been 10 years since the tragic events of September 11, 2001 and we continue to feel very real aftershocks. In the hours, days and weeks following the tragedy, no one could imagine how much our world would change—how our concepts of peace and freedom would shift and morph, and how our sense of national security and global terror were irrevocably changed. The Frisky staff took the time to share our personal experiences of 9/11, and hope that this will inspire you to recall your own feelings and experiences in the comments. We see this as an opportunity to remember, memorialize and come together, and we hope you’ll join us. So far, we’ve heard from Amelia, Ami, Jessica, and Julie. Finally, here is Kate’s.
I had just started my senior year at Barnard College on 116th street in New York City. It was a gorgeous morning and I had that “the hills are alive with the sound of music” feeling as I walked to my 8:30 am class. The minute I left class, however, I was acutely aware that something was wrong. There were tons of students lingering in the hall, many with tears in their eyes. I walked up to a girl I didn’t know and asked what was going on. She told me that two planes had flown into the World Trade Center. From there, I ran to my dorm room. I watched the towers crumble on the television, hugging my roommates as we all sat huddled on a bed. A few hours later, we took a very surreal elevator trip to the top floor of the dorm, where we had a horrifyingly clear view of the smoke cloud engulfing lower Manhattan.

The comings-and-goings of the next few days are hard to remember. Partly because, as the editor-in-chief of my student newspaper, I swung into journalist mode, figuring out how we wanted to cover the event. I think that lead to a certain level of detachment. I only remember flashbulbs of the next week: carrying a candle to a campus vigil, editing an essay from a student who had lost her cousin, deciding whether to call in sick to my internship which was directly across the street from the Empire State Building, the horrible smell permeating the city that none of us had the heart to identify as burned steel and flesh.

There is one moment a week later that I will never forget. One of my fears the morning of the attacks was the fact that my mom, a professor who usually resides in North Carolina, was teaching in New York for the semester. She was living in an apartment pretty far downtown. I didn’t think she was close enough to the Twin Towers to be in any real danger, but I did feel hugely relieved when I finally reached her by phone midday to confirm that she was alright. Still, I didn’t get see her face-to-face for another week, because so much as getting on the subway at the time felt like a scary thing. When we did finally make plans to meet, I remember getting off the train at Union Square. The normally bustling places felt so haunted and serene at the same time—there were missing person flyers posted everywhere, white candles burning all around, and barely anyone on the street.

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw my mom. We walked towards each other quickly and didn’t say a word as we scooped each other into a hug—one of the tightest I’ve ever received. I felt so incredibly lucky to have my mom there, which is all anyone really wants after something terrible has happened. At the same time, I felt very aware that thousands of people had been stripped of the simple pleasure of hugging their deeply loved parent, or spouse, or cousin, or friend. In that moment hugging my mom, it was like I was able to release all of the emotions I’d been bottling for days in trying to go about a semi-normal life. My mom and I stood there hugging for at least 10 minutes. It’s one of the only times I’ve ever seen my mom cry.

Photo: Getty