By Eileen Rivera
Many articles memorializing the 9/11 attacks, begin with “It was a beautiful, clear day…” For days following the attack, the sky remained clear and bright, serving to show the contrast with the fires and devastation on the ground. For years, we have remembered that beautiful blue sky as a backdrop to a national nightmare. It’s only fitting, that the Tribute in Light shine in the same blue color.
The Tribute in Light was initially conceived as a temporary, artful commemoration of the attack on the World Trade Center and was to be exhibited from March 11, 2002 through April 14. Instead, the display has returned every September 11, beginning at dusk. On a clear night, the lights could be seen from sixty miles away. This year, the lights will illuminate the skies from lower Manhattan for the last time.
I happen to think that my vantage point, on the Jersey City waterfront, offers the best view. It’s a pilgrimage I’ve made every single time the lights have come on. Like many other Americans, I took the attack personally and mourned every one of the victims like they were family. I sit at home, every 9/11, listening as the names are read and watching family members descend into the pit and place flowers into the footprint. My throat tightens and tears fill my eyes; then I wait for sunset to go the riverside and pay my personal respects.
On the promenade the mood is quiet and respectful and I see many of the same people every year. As I walk I hear people explain to their children what happened. I hear people reminisce over where they were and how they felt. There are no protests, no politics, no religion; just people needing a place to mourn and remember.
My family is blessed because we have another place to mourn. We didn’t lose our FDNY Paramedic cousin on 9/11. We lost her five years later, when she succumbed to the mesothelioma that she contracted while working at Ground Zero. Every March 15, we gather together to make our own pilgrimage to St. Raymond’s Cemetery. As we lay flowers on the grave site, we reminisce and laugh over the memory of our times together. Afterward, we sit down to a feast and plan out the family gatherings for the rest of the year. Sharing, caring and loving just as Debbie would’ve liked us to celebrate her life.
On Sunday, September 11, I will make my annual pilgrimage to the waterfront. I will throw flowers into New York Harbor and light a candle. Then I will sit and stare at the blue columns of light, and I will remember.
Entertainment and Cultura Editor, Eileen Rivera.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of
the author and should not be understood to be shared by Being Latino, Inc.