I am a lifelong New Yorker.

I went to NYU, worked in New Jersey, spent more hours in the shadows of the World Trade Center than I care to remember. You could look down LaGuardia Place and see the twin towers, yes, people called them that all the time. They imposed themselves over the lower end of the city, outsized in a way the Empire State Building isn’t. It wasn’t a pretty building, but like some women who shine when made up and dressed to the nines, when you saw them from the New Jersey side at sunset, they could not have been prettier.

I used to eat there when I passed by there. There was a deli in the basement, not too overpriced, a Borders and a Krispy Kreme on the outside and on warm spring and summer days, a farmers market with fresh strawberries from upstate farms.  The backside of Trinity Church faced it, as did a row of shops.

On the labor day weekend before 9/11, my partner Jen, and I, had a little picnic under the Brooklyn Bridge, grilling peaches.

You can’t do that now.

That Tuesday was a beautiful day, clear, cloudless, in the 70’s. I was up arouind 8:30, working at home, as I have done for most of my writing life. I had Howard Stern on and I heard that a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center I turned  on the TV and saw one of the towers on fire. I knew instantly that Osama Bin Laden had done it. No doubt, no question. Al Qaeda had come back. Then they hit the second tower.

I had been in those buildings, on the 105th floor, in fact, and the view had been beautiful.

Which is why conspiracy theories upset me. The inside of those buildings had a large lobby open stories high, the floors were compact, though. No one set any explosives there unless they had months to do so.

An hour later, the buildings collapsed. I can’t say I was surprised. But the dust was astounding. I’d seen controlled explosions on TV, but it was like the breath left a dying man. The towers were down.

By that time I had called my mother and we were frantically searching for people. My cousin walked out of WTC7, which later collpased, north, with her kids and got home. My friends managed to spend the night in Jersey with my best friend. They just showed up having used the ferry to escape.

I went to the store in the afternoon, masses of people were walking home, like refugees. That happened all over the city. However, I saw an F-15 flying over my head, towards Central Park at 2000 feet. In an irony, my cousin’s husband, who is an F-15 mechanic, was called to his base earlier in that day, and it was probably one of the jets from his squadron.

By then, the smell was everywhere, the smell of burning paper and flesh and it didn’t go away for days. Jen woke up late, and by the time she got up, ashes were filling her Brooklyn Heights apartment.

When people get upset that New Yorkers don’t share their experiences, and this is just a fraction of what I remember and  the only reason I’m writing about it is that I don’t want to be asked about it. Here it is.

But I will say this: my starkest memories of 9/11 are the year of funerals. Day after day, some family buried someone and it made the papers.

I hate the tourists who come to rubberneck at the hole. I hate them and wish they would go away. When I went down there one time, I saw people selling pictures of the towers on fire.

You know, people fell from them on fire. Alive.

The people rebroadcasting their 9/11 broadcasts are no better than vermin. Matt Lauer should be placed on a glue trap in the sun.

This doesn’t belong to America. It  isn’t some grand national cause. It is a  tragedy some get to live with forever. You can remember the dead, but because you became scared of brown people or of someone blowing up your mall or of airplanes, you can share in it. You cannot and if you were smart, you wouldn’t want to. No one should want to carry the burdens of another because they feel they should.

Bush used 9/11 to prove himself a man and, as he had his entire life, failed miserably, killing thousands in the process. The dead of 9/11 deserved justice, not torture and a pointless, losing war in Iraq. Not Rudy Giuliani making money off the one good day in his miserable life. They have gotten so much less than they deserved, with ABC piling on top.

So I’ll do what I do every year at this time, avoid anything to do with this and hope it ends soon.

Steve Gilliard

Steve Gilliard