The first online issue of The Summerset Review was released September 11, 2002—exactly one year after this country's great tragedy. I had spent much time in 2000 in one of the towers of the World Trade Center, working for an electronic equities trading company called Instinet. On my first day of work there, having a meeting at 9am, I thought to give myself ample time, and arrived in the lobby at 8:30.
I was late for the meeting. Unbeknownst to me, new employees in the financial center had to undergo a one-time screening and security process, ultimately resulting in a laminated badge with photo identification, required to be worn at all times. It was more time-consuming than the check-in process at an airport when traveling internationally.
At one point, I asked a security officer why all the fuss. The country was at its back edge of the Internet boom, and the Information Technology sector was at the cusp of a significant downturn; people could have put their jobs in jeopardy if they were late for, or missed, an important meeting.
I was told the policies and processes were put in place in reaction to the 1993 incident, where a bomb was detonated in a parking garage below. All the fuss was not only designed to deter another such incident from occurring, but also infuse confidence in those who worked there, and curtail a trend of companies vacating the World Trade Center and moving to the Newport Financial Center, across the Hudson River in New Jersey.
A year later, on September 11, 2001, I had been working for Instinet's parent company, Reuters, as part of a small team managing the popular news web site. I was no longer in Downtown Manhattan, but still felt the effects of that morning. They are trivial in comparison to those who witnessed first-hand events and survived, those affected by loved ones who perished, and the victims themselves. Nonetheless, I thought I'd share them.
Reuters.com reported the air strikes that morning, of course, and many of the eyes of the world were on our web site. This is what the front page looked like at 9:43am:
Shortly thereafter, the web site went down, and some of us on the team thought, Now, they've knocked out the media, too. But we soon realized our site was not being attacked; it simply could not handle the traffic. Too many people were trying to go to Reuters.com on their computers, to read the latest news.
We scrambled frantically to get the site up, and after several hours we were able to reconfigure all computers at our disposal and simply serve a page containing the single top news story. The page included no links and had minimal graphics. It was the only thing we could do to handle the amount of incoming requests from readers.
As the days and weeks unfolded after September 11, 2001, epic stories were told by relatives, friends, colleagues, and acquaintances of mine, too many to list here, and some of which too sensitive for me to recall, capture in words, and publish.
I remember the story of my brother-in-law, though, who escaped the disaster, wandering over to the East Side, trying to get a ride back home on Long Island. A police officer stopped a van approaching the Midtown Tunnel and told the driver, while pointing to my brother-in-law, "Take this man to Queens, by order of The City of New York." The driver obliged without hesitation.
I remember looking up in the sky that afternoon, seeing no planes, no helicopters, hearing only a ghostly silence.
I remember seeing cars in the parking lot of my Long Island train station at night, long after working hours were over—cars of victims, cars which would remain in their exact spots until retrieved days and weeks later by loved ones or friends.
I remember asking myself, What good is there in any of this? What can we do to make a difference, shed any light in view of what has happened?
And this was when the original idea for The Summerset Review was conceived.
Exactly one year after September 11, 2001, our literary magazine was launched. Through our publishing of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry since then, we put before you an element of hope in the world. - J Levens
September 11, 2001, is a day filled with visions of fire and rubble—complete and utter hell on earth—etched in the memories of New Yorkers. After 9/11, the world waited, wondering if the city that never slept would wake up from its nightmare. There was doubt—would it ever be the same? I had my misgivings. But the city has grown back. The 9/11 Memorial, its construction fraught with peril and delays, will open this year, ten years later. The buildings are back. But will the people ever be the same?
The answer is, like in most cases, not simple. We have rebuilt, absolutely, but every day there is a little fear, a little doubt. Take for instance the recent earthquake tremors felt in New York City. Though its epicenter was some hundreds of miles away in Virginia, the first thought through most New Yorkers' minds did not match their Californian counterparts. Instead of Another earthquake? thoughts were Is this happening again?
Passing by the former site of the World Trade Center and the new site of the 9/11 Memorial, it is impossible to ignore what used to be. I was only a freshman in high school in 2001, silly and in the beginning of my teenage years. I lived the pain and loss of 9/11 through my father, a now retired NYPD Emergency Service officer. He was home when the attacks occurred and left the house immediately, traveling to Queens to meet his unit: a group of men who had pushed me on swings during police picnics, who had tiled my roof two summers before. All of the men—some retired, some not; some young, some old—converged, and were diligently on their way to the scene.
I didn't see my father for two weeks after that. When he returned, he was covered in dust, his eyes bloodshot, his feet sore, his spirit broken. In the weeks following, he attended the funerals of thirteen men who hadn't been as lucky, who left behind children and parents and families. Never before had I seen my father in his dress uniform. Never before had I seen my father, a man who to me had always been made of steel, cry. To see my favorite city in the world crushed was unimaginable. To see my favorite man in the world broken was more than I could bear. It was as if we shared an entire nervous system, and every twist, every piece of rubble he moved hurt me as much as it hurt him.
New York, as well as my father, had difficulties for a long time. The men who survived along with him are bonded together by years of camaraderie, hallmarked by one excruciating experience. But we acknowledge it, and we acknowledge it together. It's safe to say that some of these men will be at my wedding. Ten years later, 9/11 has moved into an official date on the calendar—Patriot's Day—and it may soon become a fleeting thought in the heads of many Americans.
On the anniversary of the event each year, my father and I check up on each other with a card, a note, a phone call, with a voice breaking on one end. It doesn't get easier, but time, as we all hate to admit, heals all wounds. Think what you must about the 9/11 Memorial, about the bureaucracy and politicians surrounding every moment of this year's observances, but the truth is that these ceremonies are a testament to people like my father and to New York. To show that it's a necessity to mourn, but it's also a necessity to rebuild. Life will go on. It must, and it has.
- L Denninger
Theme graphics this issue - "In Honor"
Copyright © The Summerset Review, Inc. 2011.