What I remember most is the ambulances. The rows and rows of ambulances lined up outside hospitals in lower Manhattan, waiting to be summoned to collect the injured coming out of the towers.
They never left their stations.
There was no one to pick up.
The memory of the sight of all those ambulances still knocks the wind out of me.
A congregant who worked in Manhattan somehow made his way out and over the bridges to Jersey where he went to pick up his car in the train parking garage. It was late. He told me, "It was the sight of all those cars that made it more than just an attack on a building. All those cars. Where were their owners?"
Living on the east coast, in the tri-state area, I was intimately aware of the pain caused by the attacks - saw the smoke across the river, held the hands of congregants whose loved ones would never come home and couldn't even be buried.
What saved me? Shabbat. From Tuesday to Friday, I was glued to the television, even though much of what was being shown was a loop - the attack, the crash, the ashes, the weeping, the pictures of lost loved ones. Then Friday afternoon, I turned off the TV, lit my candles, and suddenly the stress was over. After havdalah Saturday night I turned on the TV again (as though something had changed but then, something had changed forever on Tuesday, so who knows?) and watched the same videos I'd seen on Friday, and felt the stress return. Thank God for Shabbat. For those of us not personally involved with the rescue efforts, a break, a separation can restore sanity, put perspective on a mind-numbing tragedy.
And yet, after 8 years, I still think of those ambulances, and all the wounded they never got to collect.