Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Highs and Lows that I'll Never Forget

In 2004, as a freshman at my Texas Catholic high school, I visited Ground Zero on a school field trip. When I arrived at the same site last Thursday morning, 6 years later, hazy memories of steel and large holes in the ground surfaced in my head. I didn’t know quite what to expect this time. What I definitely did not expect was the intense emotional ride that I was about to embark on.

My first feeling on that morning was that of sleep deprivation. I met my NYU journalism class at about 9:35 a.m. at the Tribute WTC Visitor Center on 120 Liberty St. I had only slept five hours.

It was about 30 minutes later that the next wave of emotion came. When we began an hour-long audio tour of the site ($10), sadness hit me like a wall. The audio tour consisted of 16 stories told by survivors, volunteers and others affected by 9/11.

When I heard the voice of Mary Lee, a survivor, re-telling the account of her 9-year-old son’s experience on that day, my eyes welled up with tears. Her son was waiting at school, watching as other children disappeared when their parents arrived to pick them up.

“He came around the corner and he saw my dad and when he saw my dad he said he knew that we were dead because we would’ve been there to pick him up,” said Lee. The 15 other stories were no easier to hear.

After our audio tour, we met John Henderson, a volunteer tour guide at the center and a Computer Systems Manager at NYU. The next feeling I experienced: admiration.

“I’m just a person who thought ‘I could do this,’” he said of being a docent at the center. As he led us through its galleries, each exhibiting different pieces of the tragedy that was 9/11, Henderson gracefully shared his knowledge with us.

He revealed to us the brutal statistics of that morning—2,749 killed (not including the terrorists), 22,000 human remains recovered, 40% still unidentified. They were like needles poking at my skin.

While listening to Henderson, I was overwhelmed by the over 1,200 photographs and pieces of memorabilia that lined the walls of Gallery 4. I couldn’t distinguish whether what I was feeling was awe or fear or some kind of a mixture of both. Whatever it was, I knew I would walk out of there a bit different. And I was right. Nothing about Ground Zero is hazy to me now. 

photo by: me


  1. What a great article on such a tragic event!...Never Forget 9-11-01

  2. this is just beautifully done. bravo.