Every year this day makes me nauseous, cautious and uncomfortable.
It was 13 years ago today I was walking out of my International Studies class at Ramapo College when I walked into the “fish bowl” and saw everyone looking up, expressionless, at the TV. I stood next to one of the vice presidents and watched the news, not knowing what to make out of everything, but knowing, I needed to be there.
There was no doubt in my mind, I needed to be there telling people’s stories. So many thoughts were running through my head.
“This is historic. This is incomprehensible. This is scary. This is something that is going to change our lives forever.”
I remember not calling my parents, or my relatives, but calling the newspaper I had just finished a summer internship with and asking if they needed any extra help. They asked if I could get into Hoboken. I said, yes, and they sent me. At the time, I wasn’t 21, and I had no clue where Hoboken even was, and Siri wasn’t even a thought then.
As I raced passed my college apartment to throw on a pair of jeans and t-shirt, grab a notebook, phone charger and my keys, one of my soon-to-be sorority sisters asked where I was going. When I told her, she advised against it, but I said something to the effect of, “don’t worry, I’ll be fine.”
Driving down Rt. 17 in Northern Jersey, I could see the smoke rising from the New York City skyline. My mind was going in every direction as I listened to the radio speculation about what had just happened, as well as thought to myself, “how the heck am I going to find Hoboken?”
While, I didn’t make it to Hoboken, I did make it into Jersey City. From the moment I got close to the water, people who were trying to get as far away as they could; were knocking on my car window asking if I could give them a ride out of there. Someone even asked if they could just take my car.
Instead, I forced my way into a parking lot, locked my car, said a little prayer asking that it would still be there when I got back and headed to the waterfront. I checked in briefly with my editors to see what they needed.
“Get whatever you can. Talk to people getting off the boats, buses. Get their stories. Call us back in a few hours with what you have.”