Remembering 9/11—Ten Years Later

eugene clark9/11/11—As I sat in my West Village apartment this morning, I took note of the time that the first plane hit the Twin Towers ten years ago today.  As then, I was reading the morning paper. Again, it was a beautiful late summer day, albeit not with the clear blue sky I recall on that fateful day in 2001.

jon schlisselUnlike ten years ago, this morning there was no cacophony of sirens. Yet I drifted back to that day’s unfolding of events: the phone call that alerted me to the first plane striking the North Tower; the rushing into the street to see the tragedy unfold from my corner; the silent vigil as I watched the Towers cascade into rubble; and the sea of dust-covered refugees escaping the all-enveloping cloud of debris that moments before were buildings soaring over 100 stories.

Disparate images and thoughts come into focus in rapid succession—aftermaths of unity, war, disaffection, and an America now facing an immobilizing ideological split. These are interspersed with images of my own life events in the last decade. However, these historical and personal threads of thought merge as my mind settles on two dear friends who lost their lives on 9/11.

Eugene (Gene) Clark was working on the 102nd floor of the World Trade Center South Tower that day. His partner Larry Courtney called me to say that Gene had left him a voice message stating, “I’m OK. The plane hit the other tower, and we’re evacuating.” Larry returned home to wait for Gene’s arrival. Only now can I allow myself to recognize the pain he endured over the following days of waiting, hoping, and finally acknowledging that Gene would never be coming home again.

Jon Schlissel was working at his supervisory job at the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance on the 87th floor of the South Tower. Everyone in his office would successfully escape except Jon, a man in a wheelchair, and a heavyset woman. It is believed that Jon lost his life trying to assist the other two in getting out. Knowing Jon, I wouldn’t doubt this for a second.

Friends from out of state have asked if I was planning to attend commemorative events this day. My answer was, “No.” Having lived through the events, it is a day for personal reflection. However, this does not mean I do it alone. As I traveled through the country after 9/11, I was moved by how each town along my driving route was acknowledging solidarity with NYC in some unique way. Flags flew, yard sales raised money for victims’ families, and signs of support hung in windows. Ten years later as I visited Venice, Italy, I came across a square named for the events of 9/11. There is a world consciousness that surrounds this day, and I am very much a part of this.

The question that lingers is not a need of rediscovery by looking back. Rather, I wonder how we use the memory of a day of violence and loss, to create a future of peace and possibility.

 by William Repicci

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