|Photo credit: Bill Marsilii
Fourteen years ago today I was putting on make-up upstairs while listening to the Today show, sound streaming up through the split-level apartment from our living room below. A lot was going through my mind and heart that morning. In 5 days Bill and I would be getting married at the Russian Tea Room in New York City on September 16th, 2001. Nine months of wedding planning had come to an end and we were both spending the last week before our vows in light and anticipation.
Then Bill yelled from the living room, “Oh my god. A plane. It just crashed into the World Trade Center Tower.”
I ran downstairs to see what was going on. We both couldn’t believe it. At first the news said it was a small plane, but as the minutes grew they realized that a commercial passenger jet had been hijacked and purposely crashed into the tower.
We were numb, we were stunned. Bill and I joined others and walked out to 6th Avenue where we could see the horror burning tower with our own eyes, not like some fantasy on a TV.
It was getting close to 9am, by then and I had to be a work mid-town by 9:30, so kissed Bill, asking him to keep in touch with me and got into the 6th Ave Subway. A small TV was on in the office, where we watch stunned while sipping our morning coffee. We all tried to work but found ourselves coming out of our offices from time to time to check the TV and be in each other’s company. Then, the second tower was struck.
By 11am that day, they told all of us to go home. People from each building were pouring out of offices. A few of us heading downtown walked together. People were in cars parked on the streets, doors and windows opened, news radios on. Lines were forming at payphones; all cell phone service was out. My office was on 40th Street between 5th and 6th Ave. I walked down 5th Ave for a few blocks with my companions then down 6th Ave nearly 36 blocks to 4th street.
When I got back to the apartment about 30 minutes later Bill had said he was on the street when the first tower collapsed.
Three weeks before Bill was working at a building adjacent to the towers. He would have been in the subway station below the building when the plane hit the first tower. We were so thankful, and so horrified for all the people who were killed. Terrorism didn’t happen here, that happened in Israel and Europe, this was America. But New Yorkers are a strong and resilient bunch. Rudy Giuliani was mayor and we knew we were in good hands. We knew they would catch those responsible and who didn’t perish on that day and keep New Yorker’s safe.
Over the next few days, memorials popped up at parks across the city. Photos next to photos of people missing from the mass murder. Candles of all sizes on the concrete below the photo memorials. And bouquets from weddings were also placed at the base of the memorials. Only foot traffic was allowed downtown to 14th street. Since we were close to 4th street, we were part of that vehicle ban area. In order to get into the barricaded area, yes there were physical barriers at 14th street, you had to prove you lived below 14th street by showing your driver’s license or something else with your address on it. One of Bill’s friends had a scheduled going away party the following Wednesday night uptown. The winds had shifted uptown and at the outdoor cafe we could smell the smoke from the smoldering bodies and rubble.
Bill and I decided to keep our wedding on as planned. We felt if we postponed then the terrorists would have won. By Saturday the airports were opened so two of my friends living in Florida were able to fly in. I’m glad because, my dear friend Iris was my maid of honor. By Sunday, we really did have something to celebrate. Our wedding was so life affirming. We spent our wedding night at the Waldorf Astoria then took a cab back to our apartment that following morning. Later that day we went to the memorial at Washington Square Park. We saw wedding bouquets and saw that others were also married the weekend following. Yes, we would NOT let them win is what the bouquets said to me. Love and life would continue here and it would be sweet, albeit it bitter sweet right now.
At the urging of our relatives we postponed our honeymoon to Italy for 3 weeks, as they didn’t want us boarding a plane that soon. It was surreal once again, walking past the museum in Rome with a huge banner showing the burning Towers. We kept in touch with relatives at Internet cafes, there are a lot in Italy, and watched CNN to see what was going on back home.
One day Bill and I will return to Italy, hopefully this time not in the shadow of an American Holocaust. Today, I will solemnly remember all those lives taken unlawfully, cruelly, and taken with malice. We are Americans. We believe in Freedom, Liberty and in God. And that it is the God given right of all people to be free. Today on 911 we remember, we will never forget.
Lauri Jon Caravella is a teacher, an artist, a ballerina and a mother. She loves to take photographs, teach children art, create comic book heroes, design jewellerry and of course dance!