September 11th: 6am

Hope through tragedy

9/11 had a huge impact on New York skateboarding with the loss of friends and family members. Zoo York even put out this limited edition tribute deck (design by Eli Gesner) in memory of 9/11 which recognizes the FDNY, NYPD, EMS, Red Cross, National Guard, FEMA and all the volunteers at Ground Zero, across the US and around the world.

I woke up early, not able to sleep. If you are my age, you remember exactly what your were doing 15 years ago today. The memory is all too vivid.

When I decided to do this story over a month ago, I began calling local skateparks in New York and contacted a few skate team managers I knew. Following September 11th, Transworld ran an article asking New York skateboarders about their experiences on that day. It appeared in the February 2002 issue. My idea was to revisit this idea. However, I had no idea how deeply this day had impacted some who are part of the New York skate scene.

Considering the impact

My first conversation was with Ed Polio from 5050 Skatepark who lost family in the September 11th attacks. He returned my call to kindly, but firmly, explain to me that even associating this event with skateboarding could be disrespectful.

“We lost mothers, fathers, aunts and uncles. So many of us were deeply affected. When you ask how skaters were affected, it is so much deeper than that.”, said Ed.

I wake up thinking about his words. Procrastinating to write the story, I start fumbling through Instagram. Then I find this post from our good friend and Ramp 48 family, Billy Mowery, who now lives in the city.

Lives changed

The reality is that day will forever be ingrained in our country’s history. But, for those who lost someone, it truly changed their world on a level that is so difficult for many of us to understand. Olivia Siller, who lost a parent in the attacks, explains it well here.

“…we’ve never seen September 12th. I think I can speak for my group as a whole when a person loses someone close to them, they have time to grieve. They have a community of people holding them up. However, for us, we never had time to grieve. We lost our parents, and that fact was broadcasted on television sets around the world. Every year, there are news specials about how tremendous our losses were, how insane it is that it has been so long. At least once a week, 9/11 somehow is mentioned in every one of my classes. Because it truly did and will continually change the world.” – Olivia Siller

Hope through tragedy

And the aftermath of September 11th has not ended. Many who survived are still deeply impacted even 15 years later. Little publicized are those who continue to deal with the post tragedy stress and those who dealt with immense sickness and cancers from breathing in the air that day. It is no doubt that this event did have and continues to have an unimaginable impact on so many of us. However, in the world we live in, September 11th is happening daily around the world.

Terrorism has become all too real. From the attacks in Paris to the bombing in the Istanbul airport one month to the date that my family departed from there. So many of us are affected by terrorism. How can we take these tragedies and turn them into life lessons that change the lives of others? What can we learn after these 15 years and through these many acts of terrorism we continue to see?

Making a difference

Those who lost parents on September 11th and have lived that experience are doing something to bring hope for others. In a video by Vox, four of them recorded a message for the people who lost those they loved in Paris. They shared a glimpse of how they moved on from their own painful losses and offered words of encouragement with these citizens of Paris, the City of Light. Each of them were just children at the time of the attacks, but they are now adults.

They have had fifteen years to come to terms with what happened on September 11th in New York City. Through this, they have all learned that losing someone you love in this way can not allow you to stop living your life. In the video they urge those in Paris and all of us who live in a world affected by terrorism to not be afraid, to make a difference, and to continue to live a life that brings hope to others.

It is no doubt that we will never forget the lives lost that day in New York. However, as these young adults have proved, we can not succumb to fear. We must wake up on tough days and say, “we’ve got this” and live our life in a way that changes the future for the better.