9-11 Was the Week After I Moved to NYC for College

Of course everyone remembers where they were on 9-11.  I was starting my Freshman year semester at Fordham University.  I was young, afraid, and alone in a new city to begin with, and then the towers came down and everything changed. 

I woke up and jumped down from my ridiculously high bunk bed because of all the storage my roomate had under her bed beneath me.  I was living in a "quad".  Four girls who didn't know each other from Adam.  I groggily grabbed my shower caddie and flip flops to wear in those gross communal showers, but when I walked out into the hallway with my robe on, I realized there was a bit of commotion, and girls who I had class with at 10am weren't talking about class.  I asked them what happened, went back to my dorm and put on the tv.  On that tiny little tube tv that used to be in my parent's bedroom were the smoking twin towers, less than a dozen subway stops from where I was in the Bronx.  Our campus was on lockdown.  I tried to call a family friend who lived in the Village, but no calls were coming in or going out.  Finally, I got in touch with my friend Regina (pictured above) who commuted from Long Island and was a Freshman like I was.  I told her to come to my dorm since she obviously wouldn't be going anywhere.  We hugged, turned on the tv and watched for hours as more and more Freshman filed into our tiny room, trying to make sense of the horrific images we were seeing. 

It was a scary time in NYC, obviously.  Letters were being discovered with traces of anthrax.  I remember being told not to touch handrails in Penn or Union station, and that was the beginning of "see something say something".  I ended up leaving Fordham at the end of that first semester.  After such a tragic day, it puts life in perspective for us.  I never wanted to be that far from my family again.  I hated that I couldn't reach out to them and make sure they were okay.  I wanted to know how my friends and family were back in DC, MD and VA after the Pentagon was attacked.  I was too young and immature to deal with this kind of reality alone.  I later realized no one was prepared to deal with this reality, no matter how old or how much life they had lived.  

During those few months between 9-11 and the middle of December, I went into the city a lot.  There were riots in the Bronx right outside our campus gates.  It was a scary place, but it was also a strong place.  I would walk down 5th avenue with friends and play with the toys and the "Big" piano at FAO Schwatz, street performers were still out making people laugh and sing, music was still echoing in the subway from musicians hoping for that romantic moment a record label rep discovers them, and a sign I will never forget hung in Times Square that read "You Do Us Proud, New York, New York".  I took a picture with some lame digital camera from back then and the quality probably isn't the greatest, but I have it stored away in a picture book from those memories at that first semester at Fordham. 

9-11 affected all of us in different ways.  A family friend of ours lost her brother in the towers.  There was a story at Fordham that a student's parents were on one of the planes that crashed into the towers and that they called their daughter to tell her they loved her before the plane crashed.  I left New York and transferred to American University. I came back home to my city because I felt that's where I belonged.   I never really felt alone in NYC after 9-11.  9-10, yeah.  9-11, something changed.  Families seemed to become stronger.  Friendships seemed to have a tighter bond. After 9-11 my friend Regina would often invite me to drive back to Long Island with her to spend the night at her parents' house, have a home cooked meal, shower without flip flops on, and be with family. I took her up on the offer every single time. We all needed family that day.  My friend Regina and I both transferred after that first semester.  Although I don't see her as often as I'd like, our friendship is a strong and unique one, that was built from putting the pieces back together that fell the day the towers fell. 

Freshman year at Fordham 2001 & Summer 2016 at Gebhard's Beer Culture in NYC.  Thanks for getting me through that day, Regina and becoming my family. 

Sabrina Conte

Sabrina Conte

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