9/11 remembered from the eyes of a New Yorker
For many of students at LZHS, September 11, 2011 was a horrifying day that left many painful memories. Fortunately for students living in LZ, the horrors were seen through television screens. For New York City native, Jasper Oberfelder-Riehm, who I met at a camp in Chicago last summer, events of 9/11 unfolded right in front of his very eyes.
“There were just papers flowing everywhere because of all the wreckage,” Oberfelder-Riehm said. “There was so much burnt paper floating through the air with the breeze and ash. Everything was coated in a thin layer of ash.”
At the time of the attacks, Oberfelder-Riehm was a third grader at the Earth School in the East Village, NYC. The elementary school is located a mere 2.5 miles from what was the World Trade Center.
“I remember my mom picking me up. [She picked me up] after the first tower fell…I was one of the last people to leave,” Oberfelder-Riehm said. “It was spooky. There were rumors floating around…teachers were trying to keep us calm and happy.”
Oberfelder-Riehm recalls being confused about the magnitude of the situation and wanting to know more about what was happening.
“I really, really wanted to go down there when it happened. I wanted to go down there and check it out and see what all the fuss was about.”
While the then eight-year old child was unable to fully grasp the situation, he was well-aware of the chaos.
“I remember my mom . . . I’ve never seen my mom look that stressed,” Oberfelder-Riehm said. “Her hair was messed up; her eyes were bloodshot and poofy. And just to see her in a state of panic was ridiculous.”
Oberfelder-Riehm also recalls that New York City – dubbed the city that never sleeps – was completely abandoned in the wake of the terrorist attacks.
“I’ve never seen New York City so dead in my life; there was nobody on the streets, no one was walking on the sidewalks, everybody was in the road…There was not one car on the road,” Oberfelder-Riehm said.
He remembers the ensuing days as “the first time New Yorkers did not want to be in New York.” While Oberfelder-Riehm considers 9/11 a traumatizing day, he believes that coping with the attacks in the ensuing weeks was the hardest.
“My friend…his view faced the World Trade Center so he could see the World Trade Center every night before he goes to bed and it lit up and he was telling me how that night and every night after that night he never saw the World Trade Center again,” Oberfelder-Riehm said. “[He said] that every morning was just a different morning; he was so used to waking up with the World Trade Center.”
New Yorkers were constantly reminded of the attacks by the lingering smoke, what Oberfelder-Riehm describes as a “constant fog” over the city.
September 11, 2001 will forever remain in Americans’ hearts, and for some, the first-hand experience will leave them with unique memories. For some, the attacks leave a lost sense of security.
“In a city of so much safety and security and police officers everywhere, it showed weakness,” Oberfelder-Riehm said. “We were hit…I feel like it was iconic. It was more like nobody knew what to do. No one had any idea what was going to happen next. Nobody knew what to do to take care of it. No one felt safe.”