September 11, 2001 was surreal. And as much as I love Yale, it was the last place I wanted to be. More than anything, I wanted to be home, in New York, with my fellow New Yorkers. But it turned out that Yale was just where I should have been on that day of fire.
My day started with the unwelcome pealing of the telephone in my dorm room, Silliman 1747. My mother called and woke me up at the college-unfriendly hour of 9 a.m. and told me to turn on the TV. Something was happening at the World Trade Center. I didn’t even need to ask the channel. Every single one was showing smoke billowing out of the WTC.
I had always had a love affair with the World Trade Center. For my tenth birthday, I went with my parents and sister to the top-floor Windows on the World restaurant for a celebratory dinner. I always insisted on taking out-of-town visitors to the WTC observation deck to see my favorite city from my favorite vantage point. And, in 1999, I had a summer job on the 93rd floor of 1 WTC (incidentally the exact point of impact of the first plane). So as I sat with my eyes locked on my tiny TV and watched as both towers came tumbling down, I started to cry, which I never do. The thought that dozens of people I knew were dying and a symbol of the city I call home was under attack was overwhelming.
I felt helpless. I needed to do something … else. So I went to class. My first class that day was also one of my favorite in four years of Yale — Vince Scully’s “Modern Architecture.” Amazingly enough, we were in the middle of a unit on New York architecture, and the scheduled lecture for the day was about New York skyscrapers — including the World Trade Center.
And that’s when I realized why Yale was where I needed to be that day. In Professor Scully’s class, I was reminded of New York City through a lens of love and beauty and art, not smoke and fire and death. And walking to and from classes that day, I truly felt that the Yale community was the family we always describe it to be. I asked students if their loved ones were okay. They asked about mine. Every Yalie helped each other crowd out encroaching sadness by filling the silence with warm words and comfortable commentary.
We all came together that night on Cross Campus to hold candles and remember. And amidst a throng of smart, caring, driven people, when it seemed like the world didn’t make sense anymore, I knew everything would be okay. That is what Yale has always been for me since: a foundation.