When I first got to New York City in 1998 and started going to college, I made my living working as a tour guide on the double decker buses.
New York City has always been a love story for me.
It is full of history and stories, poetry and bustling life.
When I arrived in this city – it was more like a sacred pilgrimage than just a ‘move’.
I worked the double decker tour buses, cruising the grids of the city streets every day, sailing out on top in the open air, telling tourists about the stories of the city.
I was lonely.
The buildings were my friends.
I had their stories and their history to build around me.
On Summer nights, I would sit with my legs dangling out of my window, wishing on the red blinking light on top of the second tower of the Twin Towers.
New York City does not give you stars in the sky, but it gives you the glowing lights of the skyline.
So I would wish on the red blinking light on top of the Twin Towers like the North Star.
It was the highest point in the skyline of the city.
It was the god of gotham.
Fifteen years ago, they were evacuating us.
I crossed the Williamsburg Bridge on foot with hundreds of other people when I heard the crashing.
I knew what the sound was.
The blinking light tower fell.
The wishing star was gone.
I didn’t turn around and look.
I leaned against the railing of the bridge with people I didn’t know and cried.
Two hours later, we went to the nearest trauma hospital to the Twin Towers to volunteer.
We waited for them to come in.
Someone we could save.
The firefighters returned with eyes bloodshot from liquid glass.
A man from the Ironworkers Union, a big man, came to me looking for his friends.
They had all rushed into the towers to save people, and the towers started to collapse as he was helping people out. He got separated from his friends and couldn’t find them.
Their names were not on the list of the admitted.
“Could you check again?”
I dragged my finger slowly down the list again
knowing they weren’t there
knowing they were dead
and wishing that I could suddenly make four names appear on that list
that didn’t make it.
I remember looking up at him when the paper ran out, when the names ran out.
“……no?” he asked.
He sank down on the steps next to me. Put his head in his hands.
I put my arms around him and held him until more people came looking for names on lists.
But his face is burned in my memory.
The next day their faces were everywhere.
Posted on missing person posters lining the city streets.
I wrote down their names in my journal.
I didn’t want them to be lost.
Writing their names down was my way to try and fight against death.
Five years ago, that journal burned down with my house
and all the names I had written down
drifted away in cursive writing curled smoke.
Some things you cannot hold to
no matter how hard you try.
Some things are not ours to keep.
And no matter how many years pass, no matter how old I get,
I will never understand it.
But on this day