I don’t just remember that tragic day on Sept. 11 when trite references to the horror blip by on the news. I remember it every single day of my life, as do countless others — those of us who were in New York, people all over our world. We saw, we experienced, we lived though something unimaginable, something that couldn’t have possibly happened in our lifetime, yet it did. 

The smell of its aftermath still lingers large in my memories, as does everything about that day: the view of the tip of Manhattan on fire as my brother and I hauled over the Queensboro Bridge to escape. 

Images of missing persons wallpapered our city. Fliers tacked on subways, walls of restaurants, lamp posts and churches. Fliers of the hundreds and thousands of people who went missing. People who would never find their way home, people who were lost forever.

I remember waking up from the most horrific nightmare, one that repeated for days and years to come. I remember the streetside vigils, the gatherings in the park, the countless memorial services. The bomb scares, the evacuations, being stuck on the subway thinking this was it, only to learn of the next threat — Anthrax. 

People changed forever. 

Children lost parents that they had yet to get the chance to know and love. They lost their innocence in an instant. They grew up overnight without ever knowing it. 

Many people just like me were unable to get out of bed, to move out of our apartments, to go to work — to picture our lives moving forward. Yet with every one of those visions, I witnessed something softer. Taxis stopped honking and people started caring.

We helped others as we struggled to help ourselves. In an instant, a city that was known for its crusty nature cracked to the core, we the people broken. But through all of those experiences, the indelible memories that will never erase, we triumphed in the midst of our tragedies.

We were granted the chance to witness and move beyond the unimaginable — buildings melted, people jumped, mushroom clouds danced, heroes fought to rescue. We survived, our world moved on, and we prevailed. My memories will never slip away, yet now I am able to move forward.

Christina Julian is a freelance writer living in Calistoga.

Editor's Note: In 2011, on the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, Napa Valley Publishing newspapers asked area residents to submit their memories of the attacks. In honor of the 16th anniversary, we are revisiting some of those powerful essays.

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