Never Forget / by Jocelyn Duke

soul orbs, watercolor on paper. 2017

soul orbs, watercolor on paper. 2017

Like most people, I will always remember where I was on September 11, 2001. And like most people, the entire day was utterly surreal.

I had graduated from college and was working at Shake The Tree Gallery, a little gift shop in Brookline Village. I had just opened the shop after riding my bike from my apartment in Allston. I turned on the shop's light, some music, listened to the answering machine's messages, and did other opening duties. The owner of the shop was on vacation with her family in the Berkshires and she had entrusted the shop to me.

@10am the little Brookline Village shop was open. @10:45 my first customer...was a zombie. As she walked through expressionless, I let her know if there was anything I could help with I would be happy to do so. She just looked at me, said nothing and left. @10:50 my second customer walked in. Same thing. @11 am the phone rings and it was the owner's mother hysterically asking where her daughter was, "The towers! The towers! We are under attack. New York is under attack! Get out of Boston". Then she hung up.

For the next couple of hours customers came in blankly looked at trinkets & home accessories then left. Everything felt still.

The shop's phone rang again, it was my mom. "Are you ok? I can't get in touch with your brother." He lived in Chelsea at the time. She was worried. I was confused, "What's going on? People are acting strange." That's when she told me. We ended the phone call with "please try getting in touch with your brother. I love you."

I didn't have access to the internet or a reliable radio, so I kept the shop open until closing time. When I got home all my roommates were sitting on the sofa watching the footage of the collapsing towers. It didn't seem real. 

My family got in touch with my brother and my mom's cousin who had worked in the Twin Towers for over two decades 2 days later. They were both traumatized in different ways. One watched both towers fall from his rooftop and the other barely escaped tower 2. Still my emotions felt surreal.

March 2002, I went down to visit my brother in the city. My train arrived into Penn Station. When the train stopped, I grabbed my bag, breezed off the train and thorough the station's lobby. Once I got to the steps leading up to the street I froze, realizing the wall which I had just passed. Pictures of the missing. Hundreds of pictures. My heart dropped to my stomach. I took a deep breathe and went up the stairs.

I met up with my brother, we went out to dinner never discussing 9/11 until we walked back to his apartment. "Do you want to see the lights?" he asked. "Sure" I responded. We went up to his rooftop. Where the towers used to stand now were two columns of lights shining up into the heavens. My brother put arm around my shoulders and we embraced.