Survivor Is Teaching Her Daughter To Remember 9/11
My friend Elizabeth Chan had a first-hand experience of 9/11 and always shares her feelings and perspectives from that day.
Now she is passing that knowledge and feelings on to her daughter. Her daughter is still not old enough to understand but is old enough to hear the words and feelings of her mother.
I asked Elizabeth if I could share her writing, so, thank you Elizabeth:
10 years ago. I wrote this about what I witnessed
18 years ago. Still feels raw like yesterday.
Despite this very real pain, I have softened.
My daughter is the reason.
I have finally met my child. She is being raised and grew up on this hallowed ground. As promised. I planted my family seeds on the ashes of this neighborhood. I’ve watched us grow. As I dreamed. As I expected she is growing up alongside the new buildings. To me, new. To her, just buildings. To us, home.
My heart always breaks in a million pieces this time of year. It’s an open wound that never properly healed.
Tonight my daughter grabbed my face and whispered in my ear “I love you mommy” before falling asleep. We are sleeping beneath the glow of the what to me is the new World Trade Center. To her, it’s just the World Trade Center.
The streets that raised me are now raising her.
She is just old enough to understand what I say and today is the first day of a new tradition for us. We will cross the street and pay our respects. I will start to teach her the history of our home. So that when I’m long gone, she will never forget.
Here is the original writing:
Has it been 8 years? There is still a hole in my heart where the neighborhood I grew up in used to be. I had just moved into my new apartment, just starting this new life I was in a hurry to live. That day changed the way I recognized the neighborhood I grew up in and the safety I've felt in this city for as long as I could remember. Battery Park City was always a fortress of safety for me. The towers were powerful, after all they survived the first bombing in 93.
On 9/11 For 8 hours of my life I thought my parents were dead. Because if you saw the perspective I saw on the street, you would too. The only neighborhood I knew looked engulfed in this thick grey cloud reaching to the Hudson. I cried for hours -- if you were with me you remember me screaming when the towers collapsed on the street. I was on the west side highway just past Chambers. People telling me to run the other directions but I just wanted to go back to my neighborhood to make sure my mom and dad were ok.
Today is always the day where I became an adult, after those 8 hours of trying to figure out how to absorb all of this, the loss of my parents, the loss of my safety, the loss of my childhood neighborhood -- my parents walked to my house covered in ash and soot and buzzed my new apartment door. I had lived there for about one month.
If anyone knew my studio apartment, it was 9x9 and in Union Square. My father was so tired from walking up and down the stairs of his building during his evacuation -- by the time he reached my apartment he stumbled. In that small stumble this thing woke up in my mind that my dad was not this powerful man -- he was mortal. My little brother was confused and a little annoyed at the whole situation. He was 11 at the time and all he knew was he went to school and for the rest of his life he could never go back home.
We all slept in my studio that night. My parents on my futon and my brother and I, pretty much under the futon. That day I took in and took care of my parents. In that small moment of taking care of them is when I became an adult. My friend Naomi lent me a comforter from her dorm. That day I prayed for thanks knowing it could have been so much different for any of us as I was looking at my brother sleeping under the bed. My parents were homeless for many months, living out of hotels and my grandmas house. At least they were all safe and we were still all together.
I live and see ground zero every day. I tend to avoid it because I get furious at the tourists gawking at the construction site. I also get furious at the peddlers hawking images that mean more to me than a nice souvenir. I volunteered to be a tour guide a couple years ago at the 9/11 Museum, but two steps into the museum I started to cry and knew I wasn't ready yet. One day I will be able to give tours about a neighborhood I love so much and remember it. Ground zero is a big hole where my memories used to be. I moved back to Battery Park, but it took many years. I avoided even looking at ground zero because I wanted to remember how things were.
I think I'm getting better. I usually don't go to work today. Today would be the first time in years. I will remember all the people who lost their lives today because I remember them every day. I also remember and am thankful for having my parents that day as well -- because those 8 hours were hell and there are people in our city today who never got their parents, husbands, wives, children back. It was a beautiful day that turned into the saddest day ever.
My husband and I live in Battery Park City again because although I'll never be able to show my children where I grew up the way I remembered -- I can grow up with the neighborhood again and although they would have never experienced 9/11, they too will never forget.