She remembers the silence of New York City, the faces of the firefighters across the street from her home, the bravery of those who rushed to Ground Zero, the smell of smoke in the air.
Woodbury resident Joyce Denn was born and raised in New York City. She was in Queens during the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
Looking back 10 years later, Denn said the overall feeling was “numbness,” but she also recalled the goodness of people and the feeling of a shared experience, albeit a tragic one.
On Sept. 11, 2001, Denn was at home, getting ready for her move to Minnesota. A friend called to tell her what was happening. She saw the second plane strike one of the Twin Towers.
Denn lived across the street from a fire hall, and she regarded those firefighters as heroes.
In the days after the attacks, the familiar fire trucks and faces were gone, replaced with trucks of a different color and new people—firefighters from outside New York City had come to fill in for those working at Ground Zero.
"They used to look out for my kids when they saw them playing outside or walking home from school. They used to give the kids rides in the fire trucks, letting them sound the siren and try on the helmets,” Denn said. “When my kids were old enough to stay home alone, I used to tell them to go to the fire house if they needed help with anything. NYC lost so many of our bravest that day. And 10 years later it still hurts.”
A feeling of frustration still rests with Denn, who became more involved in politics following 9/11.
She said the U.S. squandered much of the goodwill it garnered after the attacks by going to war in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Osama bin Laden, Denn noted, “wasn’t killed on a battlefield.”
The deaths and injures to thousands of Americans, Iraqis and Afghans could have been prevented by not going to war, she said. “And they used 9/11 as an excuse.”
Denn is also irked by the suggestion that New Yorkers are not real Americans.
“That just burns me up,” she said.
The nation could have united after 9/11, instead of becoming “more polarized,” Denn said. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan also promoted a view in the Arab world of the U.S. as an aggressor.
“We really pulled together as a nation after 9/11 — all over the nation, all over world,” she said. “We saw the best in people, and we tend to lose sight of that.”
Denn fears another terrorist attack.
“I think it’s not just possible, I think it’s likely,” she said.
She doesn’t foresee an attack on the scale of 9/11, but could imagine terrorists sneaking a dirty bomb into the country.
She doesn’t feel the profiling of Muslims as extremists is appropriate—“It could be anyone," she said—and there are other mechanisms by which the U.S. could improve its security.
“We frisk the old ladies at the airport, but we don’t inspect cargo ships,” she said.
Unless it comes up on news, Denn said she doesn’t think of 9/11.
The 10th anniversary will be another day of Denn, who works as a labor nurse at St. John’s Hospital.
But she does wish the national sentiment of togetherness that existed in the weeks following 9/11 would return.
“We’re all in this together, and if we could get that feeling back… I just remember the feeling after. It would go a long way toward helping us with the problems were facing now,” Denn said.
While Denn said she loves living in Minnesota, she will always be a New Yorker at heart. And she remains an optimist about the human condition.
“The lesson of 9/11 is not the horror that extremists can perpetrate, it is the goodness of ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances, doing extraordinary things for no reason other than our common humanity and the fact that, in the end, most of us will do the right thing because it is the right thing to do,” she said.
Other Patch 9/11 coverage:
- Apple Valley:
Eagan: Eagan Resident Mike Ferber Hopes Memories of 9/11 Won’t Fade
Eagan: Incidental Soldier
Eagan: Eagan City Administrator Tom Hedges Reflects on 9/11
Edina: Retired Army Vet Spurred to Re-Enlist Following 9/11 Attacks
Fridley: Demand Soared for Speakers on Islam after 9/11
Inver Grove Heights: VFW Commander: Sept. 11 Changed the Country
Lake Minnetonka: Remembering Wayzata Native Gordy Aamoth
Lakeville: Lakeville VFW Post Manager's Wife Working at Pentagon on Sept. 11
Minnetonka: 9/11 Memories From a Former New Yorker
Mendota Heights: Retired Mendota Heights Pilot Recalls ‘Paradigm Shift’
Northfield: and Northfielder Will Never Forget His Birthday in Iraq
Oakdale: Terror and Joy Came Together for Oakdale Family
Richfield: 9/11 Aftermath: Richfield Couple Waits for Possible Deployment
St. Louis Park: 9/11 Attacks Made Being Muslim ‘More Difficult’
Woodbury: Woodbury Resident, NYC Native Recalls 9/11