The Magnificent Maidens who guarded our city of
cities at the point where the ocean and rivers bleed
into one another are gone.
Our house sits on the highest point of the Atlantic shoreline and the glistening Sandy Hook Bay gives way to the dark rolling Atlantic beyond the beach. Rising above the ocean swells that God should have reasoned was enough beauty for us humans to savor at one time, and stretching as far as the eye can see, the crown jewels of the Northeast glistened as the new sun set fire to the windowed skyline of New York City. The ability to have this panorama in my life on a daily basis never bores me and I usually don’t take it for granted. But Tuesday was not a usual day.
The phone rang. Why so early, I mumbled to myself. My daughter was on the other end. “Mother, an airplane slammed into the World Trade Center!”
Her words were incredible. Did I hear her right?
“What”, I said as I turned toward the ocean, my eyes searching to prove her wrong.
I looked out onto the familiar horizon and billows of dark smoke were erasing the color from the blue sky that stretched along the rest of the city skyline and beyond.
My husband and I watched in disbelief, hardly grasping what we were seeing, when another large billow of smoke erupted like a white silk parachute
exploding at full force and lifting vertically into the air.
Our neighbors started coming one by one and we
gathered shoulder to shoulder on the deck, each
silenced by the enormous spectacle.
Then one by one they dispersed just at quietly as they came and Arthur and I went into the house to watch with the rest of the world the unfolding of the
tragic events we had just witnessed.
Six hours later I was back on the deck, still somewhat in shock and starring at unending clouds of death blowing with the afternoon winds northward,
trailing high into the sky. The Magnificent Maidens who guarded our city of cities at the point where the ocean and rivers bleed into one another are gone.
Here I was in America, standing on the ocean’s edge among the green trees and songbirds. In this bucolic setting, I was watching a war 14 miles away.
It was more surreal than anything I could have even imagined I would ever witness. It was unthinkable. It was unbelievable.
Only the steady groan of the large ferries traveling back and forth executing rescue missions between our two shores kept me in reality. This was not just a bad dream. Who would have thought that this could happen here?
Now and forever I will remember that day in September. I will remember how we here in America died as a result of unspeakable acts of violence against innocent people. Those who have lost their lives in these tragic terrorist attacks are gone forever. Those of us that have been left behind had lost
something that next to life is the most precious thing we possess.
We have lost our ability to take an airplane or go into a building or to walk the streets with out fear of harm. We have lost our ability to feel safe from
terrorism in any corner of America and the world. We have lost an important part of our freedom.
I will never forget where I was on September 11, 2001. I will never forget where I was on this horrendous day when deeds of man against man were applauded in the name of religion.
© Sandra Hart published in Asbury Park Press 2001