I did not expect to be so moved. Ten years to the day, September 11th 2001 – much of the world gathered to remember the events that impacted so many lives. In Monaco, the American expatriate community gathered too – so far from where the terror occurred so many years before. You sensed a tangible wanting to come together, to assemble, just like after the attack. On that day, wherever in the world you might have found yourself, there was a need to connect to what had happened. It was hard being away from home.
Yesterday’s anniversary was the same. The memorial service was attended not only by Americans, but also by people of multiple nationalities, reflective of this diverse and international village. It was held in the Cathedral, where I couldn’t help thinking of another woman who had left America behind, who became Princess Grace of Monaco and who now lies here forever in rest.
The Cathedral was packed. So many convened not just to commemorate the day, they came to share their where-were-you-when-it-happened. From New Yorkers such as myself, to foreigners who had once worked in New York, from people who knew people, to police officers who work here so proud of what the police did there. From the priest who told his story of being called to the Pentagon the morning after, to tourists who craned their necks to look up at the impossible height the many mornings before– everyone had a story to tell.
So much has since been written; so much has since been read. The words to describe the horror and the loss have become clichéd with over use. To say that the images of the planes crashing into the towers are seared into our collective consciousness is a cliché, but it is true. They are. To say we will never forget is a cliché, but it is true. We won’t.
To watch the commemorations with children who were too young to realize what happened ten years ago and try to explain to them now what it meant is nearly impossible. Fury on such a scale will never be explicable. Nor will the ways those acts changed the world, the wars and loss of life entailed, the doors that have closed. Even the lesser annoyances experienced by children like my own, who have grown up thinking it is perfectly normal to remove shoes and belts and be patted down before flying back to the U.S. No, I tell them, it didn’t used to be like that when I was your age, but then again, neither was it normal to have an iPad and be able to watch any movie you want on the plane.
I spent yesterday indulging in memories. Memories of my time in the city – the one and only New York. Memories of working next door to the Towers, of taking them for granted, of laughing with co-workers as we walked through them to lunch or to have an after work drink at Windows on the World. They are memories that begin to be hazy, that start to feel far away compared to the more vivid, ‘like yesterday’ memories of 2001.
Yesterday was a day of reflection. While it is sad that the painful memories of friends and lives lost are still so intense, it is important to remember and it was good to gather. The expat community, then and now, felt like the closest of families. It reminded me that there was good, greatness even, alongside evil that terrible day – in the kindness, the heroism, the courage, and the indomitable spirit that manifested itself. The world, wherever one was in it, felt like a global village united against terror. The way people all over the world came together, it felt like home.