I was lucky. I wasn’t anywhere near New York when terrorists attacked the World Trade Center. My family members in the city were safe.
But what I witnessed, as one of hundreds of reporters who documented the aftermath of the tragedy, will forever stay with me.
And on each anniversary, I find myself unable to shake these gut-wrenching mental snapshots, now 11-years-old.
As I wrote then, all roads leading into Manhattan were closed the night of the attacks. So a photographer and I parked our car in the Bronx and walked over the vacant Third Avenue Bridge.
I remember feeling as though I’d suddenly set foot inside a movie about apocalyptic survivors.
I remember looking down the empty city streets and thinking how wrong everything looked and felt and smelled.
I remember a shell-shocked man saying: “Follow the smell of death.”
But more than anything, I remember the faces of relatives desperately searching for loved ones who in an instant, an unbelievable instant, were gone.
There was a father who said his son had called after the first plane hit to tell him that he was OK. His boss told him everything was fine and he didn’t have to leave, he told his father. Minutes later the second tower, from where he made the call home, was hit.
I remember the father’s cries when he said he was the one who always taught his son to do as he was told.
I remember a volunteer numbly talking about the empty body bags, the hundreds and hundreds of unnecessary body bags.
I remember and I hope we never forget.