9/11 Ten Years Later…

by Migdalia Rivera

911 World Trade Center

Today as I sit in my living room, listening to the police vehicles and fire trucks outside my window, I reflect on 911 and how much my life has changed.

Ten years ago, I was working at a boutique law firm in the compliance department. I researched laws, both nationally and internationally, while also montioring the production of goods for various fashion labels, like Tommy Hilfiger. I loved what I did! I was provided with samples and always received advance notice of sample sales. Not only did I look stylish, I felt I was making the world a better place by ensuring workers, mainly immigrants, were paid a fair and just amount for their labor. I was even planning on making a career of it by becoming an auditor. I wanted to travel, to meet the people and see the factories, not via images inside a report, but in person.  

That all changed after 911.

I was at work when it happened, just settling in for the day, when a co-worker read what had happened online. She let out a gasp and a loud scream, before telling us what had just occurred. Reports at first claimed there was a fire at the World Trade Center. My coworkers and I couldn’t believe her.  We rushed to her side. It couldn’t be true… but it was. We did not know it yet but Flight 11 had crashed at precisely 8:46:30.

As the initial reports were corrected to reflect a plane crash, it started to sink in. Our office was in chaos. Many were weeping. Several of my coworkers had family members who worked in or near the World Trade Center.  The news of that 1st plane crash was devastating but nothing compared to hearing of the second plane crash at 9:03:02.

Fear set in my heart. The managing partner ordered us to a conference room. The room was in chaos.We did not know what was to come. I wanted to go home to my children, Karl who was 7 and Andrew who was 5 1/2  months old. I wanted to drink in their innocence. I wanted to feel them near me.

My ex husband called. I was crying.  I called my nanny. She was hysterical and rightly so. I recall leaving work and seeing chaos on 34th Street. People were milling about… talking, crying, hugging.

I ran to Karl’s school. It took me all of ten minutes. I had never run so fast. I was so happy to see him! He felt so real, so alive. He didn’t understand what was happening. He only knew what he had been told but it was still terrifying. His teacher had fainted in front of the class. He still remembers.

After picking up Karl, I rushed home. Thankfully, it was just a few short blocks from the school. My nanny was hysterical. She left shortly after I arrived home, to pick up her own kids from school. I couldn’t blame her.

During that time, I received a variety of calls from family and friends. I opened my home to all of them since transportation was pretty much at a standstill. Many decided to walk to their own homes, miles away…to see their families and to hug their children. I understood.

Soon after 911, my nanny moved back to Mexico. Andrew was placed in new care. Karl switched schools, his previous school contained too many memories for him. He did not want to return.  My ex husband wanted to volunteer at Ground Zero. We had so many arguments because of that. I have to admit, I was selfish. I did not want him to go. It felt as if a black cloud was hanging over us and it was, both literally and figuratively. We were ordered not to open our windows. Knowing this, I pleaded with him. If the air quality was bad in our area, imagine how it must have been in Ground Zero. In hindsight, I am glad I convinced him not to go.

But this did not stop the asthma attacks both my sons began having. This did not stop the epileptic seizures Andrew and my niece, Lea, began having. This did not stop the migraines I began having. I no longer wanted to live in New York. I no longer wanted to become a compliance Auditor. The Managing Partner at the law firm convinced me otherwise. I agreed. I wanted to leave New York, I wanted to leave my job… and I did both.

Ten years later, I’ve returned to New York. My life is not the same. Its changed considerably after 911. I am now a divorced, single Mom of two wonderful boys. I no longer work in the Legal field. I started my own company, Stiletto Media, LLC, one that allows me more time with my children and helps other women do the same.

911 initially caused fear in my heart, it made me run. It now stirs a fire in me. It has helped me to see what is truly important in my life… the relationships, the people, and my family.

How has 911 changed you?

We will never forget.

In loving memory of William Henry, Rescue 1, a family friend.