Remembering Their Smiles

by Connie Cushing
Cincinnati, Ohio, USA

I was shocked, to say the least, by the news I saw on 11 September, 2001. We turned the television on about one minute into the World Trade Center (WTC) disaster. I know this is devastating for New Yorkers who work and live in the city, and for Americans who mourn the loss of fellow countrymen.

Remembering Their SmilesThis event really got to my family, because my three boys and I were just in New York last week. I’d always wanted to see the city that never sleeps, and thought it would be a unique experience for the boys. We started in New Jersey and crossed the Hudson. We took pictures of the famous skyline, toured the Statue of Liberty, Staten island, Times Square, and rode buses and subways. By far the most impressive sight was the World Trade Center Towers. Their grandeur and awe-inspiring mass was overwhelming.

At first my boys were a little frightened to go up. They had heard of the bombing at the WTC eight years before and were skeptical. A WTC employee heard me trying to relieve their fears and chimed in. He said that the Towers were designed to withstand earthquakes and other disasters, that he’d been working at the towers then, and that he felt safe there. So then my children felt safe also.

I fear elevators, so going up to the roof of the South Tower was challenging. The elevator operator was jovial, teased me, and made me laugh despite my anxiety. One of our companions is afraid of heights and suffers from vertigo. When on the roof she was too anxious to take a picture of the boys and me near the edge. A security guard came over and took the picture for us and eventually talked her over to the edge to look out. It helped that the guard rail was there and that the section wasn’t exactly on the edge of the building but had a roof beneath it. So
we were all in the picture.

Everyone in New York was friendly and helpful. After all — we had “tourist” written all over our faces. All in all it was one of my most memorable experiences ever. Now my memory will be forever ingrained with those people. They went out of their way to make our trip more pleasant and enjoyable with a smile and a joke.

The New Yorkers we met had a gentle way of setting a stranger at ease in a big and daunting place. I will always remember them for that — but even more so now — for today I know those people may be no more. I feel privileged for knowing them, even if for only a moment in time.

Originally published as HeroicStories #253 on Sept 13, 2001

2 thoughts on “Remembering Their Smiles”

  1. Hello,

    That is truly a beautiful memory and thank you for sharing it.

    A wonderful testament of all the loving and caring people on our world.


  2. 911 is an important date in my family too. My husband ,(then fiancé) head just arrived in the United States about 4 days before that day and we had just returned home to Cincinnati on 9/10. He was watching the Today show and saw the first jet hit the first Tower and asked me what was happening. I put down the newspaper and started watching/listening along with him. Given that no one knew what was happening all the news people were talking fast—
    making it hard for my husband to understand. English is his second language, so I worked extra hard to try to understand in order to help him.


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