Victoria Noe

Award-winning Author, Speaker, Activist

Ground Zero - 10 Years Later

British & Canadian police officers
at Ground Zero
“Everything’s different this year.”
I wish I had a dollar for every time I said or thought those words, or heard them from someone else yesterday. The anniversary brought many changes to the ceremonies, restrictions and mood.
I was at the corner of Liberty & Trinity for the naming ceremony. I didn’t stay for the whole thing; I was there to listen for my classmate’s name. Last year, I realized it had always been mispronounced, and made it my goal for the 10th anniversary to make sure that was corrected.
When I heard her name - pronounced correctly - I started to laugh. But instead a sob caught in my throat. It was all I could do to control myself, although it would not have been unusual to cry at Ground Zero. I was a little afraid that if I started crying, I might not be able to stop.
That was how I felt 10 years ago. I remember crying at a mass at my daughter’s school, and being unable to stop for what felt like a long time. It probably wasn’t, but control freak that I am, it wasn’t a comfortable feeling.
With a couple of notable exceptions, the people I encountered yesterday - on the streets of Manhattan, at Ground Zero, the British Gardens and the Buddhist floating lanterns ceremony – were friendly, helpful, and kind. We were kind to each other; there’s just no other word for it. Last week, everyone seemed to be on edge; waiting for the other shoe to drop. Sunday morning, it was as if everything let out the breath they’d been holding, and relaxed.
The untold story, really, about all the anniversaries, is the willingness of people to come to New York from around the world. Thousands of police officers were at Ground Zero in their dress uniforms, standing in formation for hours, presenting the colors, showing their respects. They came from around the U.S. and many other countries as well. And I was continually surprised to find that none of them were there for the first time; some had come as often as seven times.
That person was a young Toronto police officer. He said that there were many who questioned why he was making the trip – like everyone else, at their own expense – when “it didn’t have anything to do with us.” He insisted it did, even though a modest number of Canadians died that that. He had to be there, he insisted.
The very personal aspect of 9/11 for me is simply that it brought a group of women - my high school classmates - closer together. Despite having already lost a number of classmates, Carol’s death on that day forced us into action. No longer would we say “we should get together more often”. We just did it, with no more excuses.
So, ten years after that awful day, I am less willing to put things off. I’m less patient with people who make excuses (including myself). I’m more grateful for this fragile life we lead, and more determined to accomplish something in whatever time I have left.
If 9/11 taught us anything, it’s that time is our most precious commodity. No one knows how much they have. But everyone can make the most of it, if they choose.

Coming next:
9/13 – The Buddhists and the Brits: how other cultures and faiths commemorate 9/11
9/14 – The New 9/11 Memorial