20 Years Since 9/11: The End of the Innocence

I was only three months post-college grad and 60 days into my move to my beloved New York City. 22 and “fresh off the boat,” or so I felt after growing up in Atlanta and four years in college in the Midwest. They were some of the most glorious 60 days of my life. Smartphones weren’t really a thing yet (tho I did love my handy flip phone), so I don’t have a mile long roll of pictures from that time, but If I did, you’d see a fantastic start to a PR career, bars and parties with new and old friends almost every night, and a lofty optimism that everything would always go my way.


The morning of September 11th, I was surrounded by 20 other girls at my beauty boutique firm. My mom called that handy flip phone to say something was happening in downtown NY and had I seen anything unusual? Facebook and Twitter weren’t really a thing yet so there was no instant feed of live reports or social commentary. We just watched TV news and waited.


The events of September 11th unfolded as if watching from afar. My friends from home called and I told them everything was totally fine. Maybe it was shock? Maybe I didn’t realize how bad it really was. Instagram wasn’t really a thing yet so there weren’t a bevy of pictures of this devastating moments until a few select ones appeared in the papers days later.


I fled to the upper east Side, and then to New Jersey for a bit. Later that week my parents and grandfather braced a flight and the city and we walked around the rubble. It was devastating. There were armed guards on every corner and my heart rate flew and I ached inside. The open discussion of mental health wasn’t really a thing and so I kept it all in, a feeling of immense anxiety growing, but in 2001, we weren’t “so stressed,” or in “total burnout,” and what’s anxiety?


And then the beauty that comes after the storm. We came together as one and relished in a common enemy. New York Strong. USA proud. Our flag was a symbol of strength and pride across homes and offices across the country. The extreme political division wasn’t a thing then, and so we embraced each other, never blaming a democrat or a republican, only the foreign terrorists that dared attack our Great land, that forever ruined our innocence.