9/11, my generation’s “Kennedy moment.” My roommate Jesse broke the news to me around 8 am in the morning as we prepared for morning classes our junior year of college. We saw the second plane crash into the World Trade Center on live television. Surprisingly, this is not my enduring memory of this horrific and senseless event.
I loved my 20’s. While my other friends were getting married, having children, and getting divorced I was living in midtown Manhattan on 10th and 49th. I was a music promoter, a boyfriend, a soccer player and a conscientious observer of the world around me. I was doing exactly what I wanted. If you told me I could go back and do it over again, I wouldn’t change a damn thing (actually, I would worry even less).
Sometime around 2004, Tron (my girlfriend, now wife) introduced me to a co-worker of hers, Juan. He is Colombian and we immediately bonded over footy and beers. Each week I would take the E train down to World Trade Center station and hop the PATH train to Grove Street station. There I would wait for my ride to Lincoln Park in Jersey City where a United Nation’s worth of characters would strap on shin guards and forget about their nine to five’s, or in my case nine to three’s (am).
I’ll never forget the day Carlos thought it would be a good idea to take an umbrella from the car out to the pitch to put his boots on…and then proceed to play in the rain for two hours. That’s how he earned the name Mary (Poppins). But that was not my enduring memory of that hilarious and nonsensical night.
We’d all go out to The Merchant, our local watering hole, after our kick abouts before returning to our loved ones. Then back to our nine to five’s or nine to three’s, whatever. It was such a beautiful time. “Angry” telling me what it meant to be a real Liverpool Red, Joe telling Baz Arsenal were shite, everyone making fun of Mary. I’d leave the pub each week and stroll back to the Grove Street station and wait for the PATH train to take me back to Manhattan.
I am notorious for being comfortably buzzed. I lean my head on the PATH train plexiglass as we rumble back into World Trade Center station. World Trade Center. Ground Zero. The PATH train arcs around 75% of the now vacant, empty hole left by that awful tragedy. Flood lights illuminate the massive ramp used to remove the debris from the massive crater left behind. My heart grows cold. “F— you.” A whisper inside my head. It still hurts. No one talks.
The train doors open and I try to tell myself the pain will go away. I try to tell myself that this heart ache only enhances the joy I get from playing soccer with my friends out in Jersey City, and it does. But this is my enduring memory. This is my moment I will never forget. Alone, on the PATH train, in the afterglow of something so beautiful tempered by something so inconceivable. If I had to do it all over again, I’d stay at The Merchant for one more round.