I've Got Issues...And Peace


Boulder, Colorado,
October 22
Family, marital, and individual psychotherapist. Mother to four who no longer need my services but still enjoy my love as I do theirs. I specialize in stepfamily dynamics and difficult transitions. I try to write from the heart with a sense of vulnerability, humor and a frank look at myself. Art shown: "Four Pots" by Lindsey Leavell


Editor’s Pick
SEPTEMBER 11, 2008 9:00PM

Taxi Cab Confessions on 911

Rate: 22 Flag

NYC taxi 

I grew up on the East coast, and my father made the commute from Connecticut into New York City for many years.  Although I’ve been living in Colorado for the past 25 years, since the horrific events of September 11, 2001, I’ve made it a point to travel annually to NYC to support the theater and the arts, and to support the people who live in this fractured place.

Every time I go, I make it a point to talk to the New York City taxicab drivers.  I get in the cab, tell them where I need to go, and then I ask them, “Were you driving on 911?”

I have never found cab drivers so talkative, so willing to talk, so needing to talk.  And, while uncanny, without exception, 100% of the drivers I’ve asked over the years were indeed driving on 911.

Without further prompting, each one of them tells their stories, rushing their words out, speaking in excited tones.  They talk until they reach my destination, and even then, I sit with my hand on the door handle, listening to them, for as long as it takes, as they seem to want to make sure I understand how horrible it was, how they still suffer from nightmares, their memories still haunt them. 

One of the drivers told me of how he had saved for years to own his own cab, was at the World Trade Centers that morning, had dropped a passenger off right before the second plane hit.  He sat there for a while, stunned, watching the unfolding confusion, trying to decide what to do and then realized with shock and then urgency that his life was in danger.


He called his wife, he abandoned his cab, and ran with the hundreds of other New Yorkers…he ran for his life and he ran for his wife’s life.  He met up with her, and together they ran for the life of their child who was in a nearby day care center.  The three of them ran for their lives as the second tower came crashing down, the rubble spreading smoke and fumes like desperate fingers searching for help.  His cab was gone, but they had one another, they had their family and that was all that mattered.

I've heard dozens of stories over the years.  Compelling stories. 

The one cab driver that has stayed seared in my mind, that haunts me even now, was an older man, a Muslim, who had been a U.S. citizen for over 20 years.  His accent was thick and his patrioticism fierce.  He loves this country, he is an American citizen.  He told of the dozens of times since 911 he has had passengers, fellow Americans, scream at him, tell him to go back to the Middle East, call him names, slander him, curse him, spit at him, blame him.

To be driving on 911 and witness what happened to a city that was his home for over 20 years, to be treated like the enemy by his fellow countrymen was demolishing.  But he was not bitter.  He was not full of hatred.  He quietly said, “This is my home.  This is my country.  They just don’t understand.  They may never understand. I pray for them.”

Over the years since 911, I make my annual trip.  I’m going again in January.  And when I get into those cabs, I will continue to ask the driver if they were in The City on 911.   I know there is a good chance I will come across a driver that will have a story, will be anxious to tell their story, welcomes the opportunity to tell their story, MUST tell their story…over and over and over again.

Consider this the next time you are in this great proud place.  When you get into that inevitable cab, ask your cabbie if they were driving on 911, and you may be surprised at the gratefulness they will have to be given the opportunity to exorcise their demons from that terrible day.

NYC taxi 

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I am still amazed, so many years later, how many different points of view exist about that day. Yours is original and enlightening.

Thank you!
Jodi, thanks for reading and commenting. Every anniversary of 9/11, I think of those cab drivers, and especially the older Muslim driver who had suffered so much prejudice and had so much graciousness.
Cab drivers are the subconscious of a city. Talk to them, let them tell you their stories, and you will know the place like no other.

I love talking to cabbies wherever I may be in the world. I still remember many of the stories I've been told and they've influenced me tremendously.
Amazing post. Very emotional to read.
Mary, thanks for this post. While I live far from New York City, I have a similar acquaintance/remembrance. There is a convenience store close to our home owned and operated by a Pakistani family. They are all US citizens. Following 9/11, these people, our neighbors, had insulted slurred at them, suspicious glances thrown their way and were generally made to feel less than human by people who had been their customers for years. It hurts my heart to think of all the loving people who have been maligned like this.
This is an interesting perspective, and I think you are very generous to lend your skills to listening to these people. I know it is interesting, too, but you know what I mean. As an experienced counselor, you are allowing them a chance to vent or at least let some steam off something that must still be very difficult for them.
As always, I am amazed at your spirit and wisdom -- you go, Girl!
Cabbies know far more than people ever suspect. It is no wonder to me that they should have such stories. And it is a brilliant thing to be asking for them.
NYC has great street art.
Thanks Roger!

Lt. Columbo: Actually I always talk to cab drivers. I am often humbled by the places they have come from, the wars they have seen and their attitudes at gratefulness.

Kaysong: Thank you and I get emotional everytime I think of all of them.

Julie, witnessing that kind of blatant prejudice is painful. I've often wondered, so what IF Obama were Muslim. The majority of Muslims are peaceful reasonable people.

Lalucas: Thanks for your perspective. I've honestly never thought of it that way. It has always felt like such a gift to be in their presence.

Liz, I often wish I had written their stories and compiled them into a short book. It's a regret.
Koakuma: That they do.
I LOVE your posts. Feel like I'm right in the story with you. My dad owned a cab and was a cab driver for years in the city. He picked up anybody and everybody... never judged a soul. So many fierce and loyal people in this country that have fought so hard to be here. It would be nice if we could just drop all of our preconceptions and just enjoy one another. Thanks for sharing. Your stories are always worth the time.
Similarly, the wife of a good friend--he passed away recently--immigrated from Iran. An American citizen, she teaches at the local community college here. She was repeatedly subjected to abuse and rage from colleagues after 9/11. I don't understand such unfocused and misguided rage. I liken it to racism, and despise it as such.

Nice post!
Very fun. You have a remarkable memory. I was once a cab driver (it was a nightmare) and know those stories. I watched the towers fall from my roof... The amazing thing to me was the anger and desire for revenge that erupted in the rest of the country, but here there was little if any violence against Muslims. I've pondered this. Is it because here we are so used to the diversity? We know 60 per cent of cab drivers at one time spoke Urdu--at a time when most Americans thought that was a breed of sheep. As a unit, the city has opposed the war almost from the beginning. The doormen, the bartenders, the actors and actresses, and the executives--I can't recall one that was for the war! If they're here, they must be working for the CIA. (This is a joke.) Maybe I'll have a short play up when you come, so let me know.
Rich, yes,this kind of hatred, prejudice, racism...difficult to understand. And towards fellow Americans. BTW, I tried to write you back on my message center and it is not allowing "Reply" I haven't forgotten about you!


Have you ever written about watching the towers fall from your roof? I can't begin to imagine what that was like. I think you're right when you say diversity may be the reason. This is the uniqueness of NYC--it has a million different worlds in it, and people get along, co-exist, live. It's a model for accepting many differences among many different people.

As for your play, I'm absolutely interested and I'll send you a note with my e-mail so you can keep me updated.
screamin' mama: Thank you so much! It puts a bounce in my evening to hear that you love my posts and feel they put you right in there. Your dad sounds like a wonderful man.
Marykelly: Every New Yorker has an intimate story to tell that day, and what--three, four, five million saw it? I could go into the detail, but the story is bigger than that, mostly about what happened afterward, and how it was used. I'm pissed. And I'm here, with all the bells and whistles on this program, I suppose you know how to reach me. BS (how's that for a bloggers initials?)
Ben, I'm a nostalgic person and so I love to hear the stories of people...dull, crazy, mundane, exciting, varied, schizophrenic and, since I'm greedy, to hear the big story too. I'm glad there are an infinite amount of words for an infinite amount of pain.
Texas is not exactly known for always welcoming "others" with open arms, and unfortunately that proved to be true after 9/11 as well. There were multiple reports of vandalism and violence against Muslim (or perceived Muslim) businesses, mosques, and people. Luckily it stopped within a few days, as public sentiment shifted the other direction.
All that running sounds like a Nike commercial. Okay, I admit, very bad taste.
Mary, you're awesome. Seriously. You're so compassionate and respectful of the stories of others. I feel for that Muslim driver and for all the Muslim Americans in NYC that may had been disrespected in some way. Thank you for letting them tell their stories and sharing with us.