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Flipped a Coin, Went to Montauk Instead

I was living on LI, NY. I had moved back to my home town because Grama really wanted me home near her. I knew if she was asking me, after being away for 7 years, and visits would no longer suffice, then it was time. In June of 2001, I packed up my life with my boyfriend and left him in AZ. I thought when he came to visit me, I'd be able to convince him to move to NY too. We could make some serious bank then eventually move back to AZ together and buy our house.

My man flew to NY on a redeye flight on 9/10 for a visit with me and to see where I came from. Since my bday is 9/12, it would be a special visit for me. The early morning hours of 9/11, we flipped a coin to go to NYC for the day to Greenwich Village and all the Museums or go the opposite direction to Montauk Point to wander through nature and see the beaches. Completely on a whim, we went to Montauk and were on the ferry to Block Island at 9am. As we cruised across the ocean, I looked up in the sky noticing planes flying from the north, heading toward LaGuardia Airport then circling and going back north. I'd never seen commercial planes circle and go back the way they came.

The ferry Captain announced over the speakers that the first of the Twin Towers was just hit in NYC. We went to the cabin to watch the news on a small TV and saw the next tower hit. A couple got a cell phone call from their son on the 92nd floor saying goodbye, I love you. It was devastating hearing the mother's one sided call with her son and her husband listening in, both of them screaming in tears of shock.

We debarked at the dock on Block Island for our overnight holiday but could not enjoy anything. We didn't even know if a ferry would come back to pick us up again. We had no idea what was going on or what would happen next. Everyone was stoic, stunned, silent and walking like zombies. We walked into the small town, found Water St. and every tourist was indoors watching TV news coverage at all the bars, restaurants, shops. There are very few year round residents on BI and all the summer employees had already left by Labor Day, leaving BI in a quieted atmosphere already. Now it was ghostly empty, adding to the eerie attitude.

Our cell phone calls couldn't go through to anyone for several hours. By evening, the first call we could make went to his mom in AZ to let her know we didn't go to NYC. Then to mine. We let them do the phone tree to everyone else. We just went to the beach and contemplated our love for each other for the 2 days we stayed. A ferry was there at the dock but we still were not sure life would continue as usual.

We visited with my friends and family. We did different things on Long Island during the rest of his stay. We didn't even attempt going into Manhattan because all the bridges and tunnels were closed for days. Indeed, it would be absolute mayhem for many weeks afterward. We did circumvent The City and drove Upstate to Sterling Forest for the Renaissance Faire. The atmosphere was not as jovial as that event usually is since everyone knows someone who was at or near Ground Zero.

Everywhere we went, everyone tried to keep up the appearance of normalcy but people randomly burst into tears where they stood. He convinced me to move back to AZ. Within the month, I did and with Grama's blessing. If she had not fallen ill just before I left, she would have been leaving with me to live in AZ with us. She was back at home but not well enough to travel.

I couldn't stay in NY even if my man hadn't visited or hadn't convinced me to move back to AZ. I couldn't endure how devastated the population was from the 9/11 event. I had a simple retail job to occupy me and provide me an income but a free schedule to be with Grama. Returning to work after he went back to AZ was difficult because regular customers would fall crying into my arms, people I knew from school ran into me and immediately related their experience on the morning of 9/11. It was all anyone talked about. Who they knew at Ground Zero. Their sister called in sick that day or would've been in Tower I. So many stories, so many experiences, so many people affected, so many people lost. It was overwhelming and I was living in Suffolk County, not even in Manhattan.

Being empathic to a degree, I feel what people express to me. I feel what they're feeling. Not quite like Spock doing a mind meld but along those lines. I'd been in a spiritual, artistic community for 7 years and had forgotten how to put up the "NY Barrier", the wall New Yorkers maintain so they can keep their personal space while crammed into an elevator with 22 people. I'd forgotten how NOT to make eyecontact with passersby. I had gotten used to smiling at everyone, greeting each person with eyecontact and a nod, now it was becoming my undoing. I had to return to AZ, to my life, to my red rocks. I have New Yorker neurons and cells but am not a New Yorker anymore.

My last view of The City, was through my Uhaul truck passenger window going over the Verranzano Bridge and seeing the tremendous spotlights shining up to the stars in the place of the Twin Towers that had been part of my NYC skyline since I was in grade school. I cried and drove west.

qazrazl qazrazl 41-45, F 3 Responses Mar 28, 2009

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It was a tragedy. The last time I was in NY, leaving Long Island through Valley Stream, going over the Verizano Narrows Bridge, was back in April 4, 1994. I think back to that time, when every thing was "normal" ( when is anything ever normal??) I guess I should use the term "simpler" I have not been back to NY since that time, because it has changed so much, and I would like to remember the good old days. It would really make me sad to look at the City skyline, and not see the Twin Towers. I remember when I was very young, my Dad worked at JFK airport, and he would tell my mom about the new buildings going up (Twin Towers) I think that was 1969-1970. It makes me sad to think of that, because 1 year after the Twin Towers went down, my Dad passed away. RIP, Dad. RIP, Twin Towers.

Thanks for the kind words.

Beautifully written. You took me there. Thanks for sharing your story.