I worked at home on September 1, 2001 and turned on the morning news as I dressed for the day - something I almost never did. Smoke billowed from the first tower hit by an airplane. A moment later, I watched in horror as another plane plowed into the second tower. Then came early reports of plane attacks in Pennsylvania and Washington D.C. Our family lived in all three areas. It took nearly 24 hours to determine that our relatives in Manhattan, Pittsburgh and D.C. were safe.
When our extended family gathered for a reunion in D.C., two summers later, my husband and I decided to tack on a trip to New York City with our teenage daughters. We viewed the city skyline from atop the Empire State Building, shopped along 5th Avenue, and marveled at the number of theater marquees that lit up Broadway.
One afternoon we walked to the World Trade Center site. Thanks to a city map we knew we only needed to walk a few blocks away. From the moment we glimpsed the site heaviness filled my chest. That heaviness didn't ease until we were several blocks away again, upon departure.
What we saw left an indelible impression on all of us. By summer 2003, the placid hole where those magnificent buildings once stood belied the horror of 9/11. But remembrances left by family members and friends of those who died there left no doubt of the trauma suffered by so many.
Amid countless handmade memorials, one particularly stood out for me. Tucked in beside heartfelt notes of loss, lovingly framed photographs and miniature American flags were 7,000 brightly colored origami cranes. The accompanying inscription read:
“Students from Junior High Schools in Matsue, Japan made more than 7,000 paper cranes to symbolize their sadness over the events of fall. In Japan, Sebatsuru, or 1,000 cranes, is typically a symbol of healing, but in recent times has come to also represent a wish for world peace. These cranes represent over 7,000 individual wishes for this difficult yet attainable goal.”