9/11 plus 10: More local memories
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9/11 plus 10: More local memories

'Until my last day on this earth'

On the morning of 9/11, some friends and I were on treadmills at the Bergen County YJCC in Washington Township, watching television, as we did every morning. We watched the Today Show most mornings from 8 a.m. until we were finished working out, which usually took a couple of hours. I was staring at the TV above me and could not take my eyes off the screen when I saw the pictures that interrupted the show with breaking news. First I thought a plane had hit the building by accident, as most people did, but then I saw a picture of the second plane and continued to watch in horror and disbelief as the building tumbled. We all stood in shock for what seemed like hours. Most of us never left the YJCC that day. We gathered in the auditorium with our resident rabbi at the time, David Nelson, who calmed us down as best as he could with his spirituality. It was just great to be all together with our “Y” family. There were many tears shed. Some of us came back at night and we all gathered together again. We all felt so lucky to be alive and at this wonderful Jewish institution where we felt such kinship.

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Susan Benkel, pictured here during a visit to Israel, says 9/11 taught her that nothing should be taken for granted.

My son was in Saddle River Day School, and the school was locked down. He told me later that the students also gathered and discussed the event. He told me they were all stunned, and there was a lot of crying going on. As it turned out, one of the former students at his school, Jeremy Glick, was on Flight 93. He was deemed a hero, and the school and his wife (also a former student) later memorialized him in a beautiful ceremony.

I personally knew a couple of people who perished at the World Trade Center. One was a guy I dated when I was in high school. Another was the son of someone else we know. Later I heard of others that I knew of.

This attack taught me that we are not invincible. I am not as trusting of people as I once was. These people that attacked us had spent time in this country right under our noses, and we didn’t know just how dangerous and venomous they were and still are. I learned that nothing is to be taken for granted. Living in New Jersey and being a former New Yorker, I know after speaking with people from other states that there was just no way for them to understand what we felt. They think they do, but they weren’t close enough. They didn’t see the smoke as you drove on the highways and looked toward New York City. They didn’t see the hole in the ground and see the skyline, which I loved so much, change.

I will remember that day and the days to follow until my last day on this earth. It was so devastating. It seems like just yesterday. It’s hard to believe it’s been 10 years.

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