In the clearing stands a boxer, and a fighter by his trade,
and he carries the reminders, of every glove that laid him down,
and cut him, till he cried out in his anger and his shame
“I am leaving, I am leaving,” but the fighter still remains.
The Boxer, by Paul Simon
On September 11th, 2001, I was in 7th grade and goofing around in Mrs. Rannestadt’s earth science class when the guidance counselor, Mr. Grassel, came in. He let us know that a plane had hit the World Trade Center. In my stupid, 7th grade sense of humor, I chuckled at the thought of a plane sticking out of a building.
Next period was humanities with Mr. Carlisle. We were sitting with our desks in a giant circle, when my brother’s face appeared in the door’s window. My brother was in 12th grade and I went out to see him. He told me it was a terrorist attack, and the buildings had collapsed. I relayed that to my classmates sitting around me.
We all went home during lunchtime. My dad picked up me and my brother and brought us to my mom’s home. My other brother was already there; his high school was a block away and he managed to get home by himself. It was maybe 12 o’clock. From that time until I went to sleep, I watched Nickelodeon. Spongebob Squarepants, Rugrats, the works.
Outside of maybe a few infomercial channels, every other channel was playing the news. Even the sports channels (ESPN, ESPN2, MSG) were streaming other news’ channels. Just over and over, the planes hitting the buildings, the flames erupting out the side, and the collapse. It was just too much. I was 11 years old. I couldn’t watch the tape over and over.
So on a day where our entire nation and perhaps world changed in an instant, my strongest memory is sitting in my room, watching Spongebob and Patrick.
On every 9/11 since, there has been some sort of quiet memorial. News shows would make mention of it, maybe interview someone about it. Privately, I would try to make some memorial of it, especially in my four years at Syracuse. I was surrounded by people from all over the country who didn’t know what my city was like before the attacks and after.
I like to watch a clip of the Daily Show, from the first episode after the attacks. Jon Stewart delivered a powerful, heart-wrenching monologue, where you could see how raw his emotion was, and that he really was a New Yorker born and bred. On the next Saturday Night Live, Paul Simon performed one of the best live shows I have ever seen, singing a quiet, solemn version of The Boxer, including a poignant moment where he got choked up during the final verse. As the song was played, the camera panned across a group of firefighters, EMTs, and policeman fronted by then-Mayor Guiliani. All of them stood at attention, looking at the camera with stoic expressions.
New York City is the greatest city in the world. On 9/11/01 we were irrevocably changed. People who would do us harm announced their intentions in a deliberate and evil strike on the greatest symbol of our strength and power. But we recovered and ten years later, we’re just as strong and powerful and united.
Though we carry the reminders of every glove that laid us down and cut us, we cried out in our anger and our shame. But we still remain.