One in Three Thousand: Remembering Nicole

Flight 93, World Trade Centre Memorial, Nicole Miller, New York

Out of nearly 3000 names listed she was the only one with that name – our name.

We are the same, but different.

Though born ten years and a month apart, I’m now the one who’s older – and it was I who was looking for her there.

Using the computer to search a database of names at the 9-11 world trade center memorial in new york


We both love to fly, her the window-seat fanatic but I prefer the aisle. She wanted to be a pilot but her eyesight meant that she had to consider otherwise.

We are both University students – I in Melbourne, her in San Jose – but she’d never finish her degree.

She travelled to New York for a holiday with her best friend, just as I am doing now, but she is yet to return home.

Nicole Carol Miller 

Names of those who perished at the 9-11 memorial in New York City


I came to find a personal connection in this place I’ve heard of so much – the television, newspaper and Internet have been plastered with news, conspiracies or otherwise for 11 years, so much that it annoys me that networks are allowed to continually reuse the footage instead of giving these people, their families and friends closure.

For me, I feel that I’ve been overexposed to the words 911, airplane crashed into the World Trade CenterAl Qaedaand Flight 93 so much so that I’ve become desensitised to them.

It’s sad that I can say that because it was the day that a weight changed the balance so much in the world, including the shift in prejudice of people because of the colour of a person’s skin or their religion.

But by finding her name – my name – at this place, it gave a new meaning to the words Flight 93.

A man remembering at the 911 memorial in new york city


I was 11-years-old when she was 21.

While I was waking up, readying myself for another day at school, she was perhaps fighting for her life.

My flashbulb memory, hearing the news in the hallway of my primary school, marked where her day – her life – ended, yet it was just another monotonous day for me.

I became desensitised to her story, all three-thousand other people’s stories. For me it was the day my best friend cried because the news of 9/11 “ruined her birthday” because that was all anyone talked about, never wishing her a good day on her 12th-birthday.

I became desensitised to the words because my world was blasted with the news across every media I had access to. That night after school, I sat on the couch for four hours and listened to what each channel had to say before turning the TV off, wanting nothing else to do with their stories.

It was too much for me then.

Eleven years it took, but I’ve come back to learn more.

A smiling girl at the 9-11 world trade centre memorial in new york


I went in with my defence’s high, alert to anything that I could use as ammunition against this place. Ready to disregard it, to call it a tourist trap, and to leave to say: “I told you so.”

I couldn’t do that.

Walking around the grounds it’s hard to imagine that 11-years-ago stood the two tallest buildings in Manhattan. Thousands of people streamed through the doors every day for work or meetings without thinking twice about whether or not they’d be alive at the end of the day.

Their world was shattered that day.

Now instead of graceful buildings and office workers going to-and-fro are two ponds, the size of the bases of the buildings, dozens of police casting a watchful eye, a not-quite-ready museum and park space – a memorial to those who lost their lives in some way on that day.

Something beautiful in such an ugly place.

Now 18,000 tourists flock there each day with more to come when construction finishes. Smiling at cameras, the cascading waters a symphony to them but can’t anyone hear that it’s really a cacophony? Is smiling the right thing to do in a place that is essentially a cemetery?

Four new towers begin to loom over this place, including  One World Trade Center, referred to colloquially as Freedom Tower, instead of leaving it open as something of a sanctuary amongst the stifling crush of buildings.

Flag of Honor on sale at the 9-11 world trade center gift shop


In this place, it’s hard not to be overcome with emotion. For some there are tears as they remember, for others, it’s stoic patriotism; how a country has bounced back from such devastation and gone on to place a firm foothold into the war on terror.

For me it was anger.

I was angered that despite the tribute to the people who lost their lives that day, 9-11-01, the American Government is trying to squeeze every penny from the place.

Bins stating that $5 donations are preferred for each and every person were present at every stop, pencils adorning emergency service departments logos, tablecloths in which every person who died that day has had their name emblazoned in red or blue to make a commemorative edition of the American flag, and photographs of the area in ruins are all for sale – there is a time and a place for everything but it’s not the place to be profiteering from the death of so many people. It’s meant to be a place of remembrance.

The dollar signs which have been put on the 9-11 memorial site has turned something of an almost beautiful memorial into a tourist trap and a way to squeeze another dollar.

There’s got to be a better way.

Freedom Tower, or 1WTC, being build in New York City overlooking the 9-11 memorial


She never finished University or got to marry the man she loved.

She died in a field outside of Stonycreek in Pennsylvania aboard Flight 93 when four men with ill intentions took over her plane.

Was she scared? Did she cry? We can only speculate as we gaze at her name among so many others whose lives were taken on that fateful day.

She may be gone but she won’t be forgotten, as she’s become my connection to an event that I wanted nothing to do with as a child; an event that has shaped my life as a young adult; an event which has now become personal thanks to a single connection.

Out of nearly 3,000 names listed she was the only one with that name.

Our name.

Overlooking the fountains and the names of those who died on flight 93, including Nicole Carol Miller
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National September 11 Memorial & Museum at the World Trade Center

One Liberty Plaza, 20th Floor
New York, NY 10006

Website: http://www.911memorial.org

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Information about Nicole Carol Miller has come from this site and the 9/11 Memorial.

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  • Reply
    June 29, 2012 at 5:34 pm

    Beautiful post. I was in NYC that horrible day and will never forgot all that I saw. Thanks for sharing!

    • Reply
      June 29, 2012 at 8:02 pm

      I can’t even begin to imagine what it must have been like to have been there Diane. So glad that you are okay and enjoying your life in France now. 🙂

  • Reply
    June 29, 2012 at 6:07 pm

    Such a beautiful post – I have been so desensitised to the whole incident too, but this really makes it hit home about the individuals who lost their lives on that terrible day. Amazing post Nicole xx

    • Reply
      June 29, 2012 at 8:04 pm

      Thanks for the kind words gorgeous girl. 🙂

      It really is a ‘wow’ moment when you see the area, see the photography and learn about the people involved on that day.

  • Reply
    June 29, 2012 at 8:18 pm

    This was a really moving post. I had a massive lump in my throat the whole time I was at ground zero, and that was before the fountains were unveiled. Seeing all those names and the massive fountains representing where the buildings once stood must evoke so many emotions for everyone who visits and especially for people who lost loved ones.

  • Reply
    June 29, 2012 at 10:04 pm

    Wow this post gave me chills. 9/11 was such a big and important day but also totally overwhelming to try to comprehend. I think you did a really good job here of making it real again.

  • Reply
    Becki | BackpackerBecki
    June 29, 2012 at 10:06 pm

    This is so beautifully written, Nicole and I can only image how emotional it must be finding someone with the same name and wondering what their life would have become. It really hits home about how you would feel if you were placed in that situation.

    I was last in New York on the 9/11 anniverary and the mood amongst the fireman etc was a ‘celebration of life’ for the friends they tragically lost. There was a beautiful community spirit that day.

    It’s shameful that so many people want to profit from this. There are more simple ways of asking people if they would like to donate, not force it upon them in a ‘tourist souvenir’ sense. It’s totally inappropriate and distracts from why that memorial is there. Glad you have highlighted this – it should be stopped.

  • Reply
    Sarah Lee
    July 15, 2012 at 6:32 pm

    What an incredibly emotional post, Nicole – really beautifully written.

    I’ve often wondered about how people can pose for photos with wide theme park smiles at places like this – it’s bizarre. Or maybe as though they’ve only heard about it as a tourist attraction and as they’re on holiday it means they have to pose for the pre-requisite photos with brimming smiles. It’s as though they haven’t heard of the history of the site, or as you point out, don’t consider what the site is (in this case a cemetery).

    It’s also disturbing that the 9/11 Memorial is being denigrated with dollar signs. I guess profits are going to charitable concerns? Even so, it’s all about the way it’s done and what you describe doesn’t sit comfortably at all.

  • Reply
    July 23, 2012 at 6:39 am

    i, too, share my name with a victim of 9/11. and one day i hope to visit the site and pay respect to her.

    her name is samantha egan and she was 24 years old- the age i am now. she was from new jersey, worked in the world trade center and had an older sister named lisa who also worked there. that is all i know about her. i hope one day, like you, i can go and pay tribute to this lady- and her sister- who’s lives were lost that day.

  • Reply
    July 25, 2012 at 7:24 am

    I just got back from New York and we went to the 911 memorial on our final day. It was hard for me to imagine such a nightmare in this dense city. I was 13 when it happened, just moved to a new town and school and it was the second week of going or so. I didn’t understand what was going on at all or why anyone would do what they did.

    I am glad I went. It is a beautiful memorial for such a terrible day.

  • Reply
    July 27, 2012 at 10:22 am

    A beautiful yet tragic post Nicole. I think everyone around the world was affected by this day but when you have a personal connection, no matter how distant, it is always going to be so much more emotional.

  • Reply
    August 4, 2012 at 8:04 am

    Fantastic post, Nicole. Really really well-written.

    I’m always interested to read things written about 9/11 and Ground Zero from the perspective of someone who isn’t American. As you mentioned, 9/11 was a global event; but I think it’s very different when it’s your country rather than someone else’s.

    I haven’t been to the Memorial yet (though I did visit Ground Zero in 2003, when it was still just a pile of rubble), but it bothers me to hear that they’re clearly already trying to make money on it. 🙁 I’d still like to see it though. Thanks for writing about it!

  • Reply
    Teresa G.
    August 15, 2012 at 3:53 am

    This post is poignant, beautiful and touching. 9/11 still feels like it was yesterday to me. I should write a post about it… I have a long story about 2 people I knew. I had serious PTSD after 9-11, I think a lot of NYers did.. wondering what the hell was going to happen next. But, I look at Europe that has been through 2 world wars, and it reminds us that we should move fwd and should realize that so many countries have been through just as bad, or if not, worse.

  • Reply
    September 7, 2012 at 10:02 pm

    Really amazing and touching post. I went and saw the 9/11 memorial in January this year. I was blown away by what a moving experience it stirred up so many emotions.Just looking at all those names, each one of them had a life friends a family and dreams they never got to fulfill, Really makes you appreciate the life you have. But I do agree with you on the profiteering it did feel like like they were trying to squeeze every last penny out of you

  • Reply
    Katherine | Kapcha The World
    September 12, 2012 at 7:20 am

    Wow – a really amazing post Nicole. Such a tragic day. I was at home in Winchester in the UK where I was at university. I’d just finished a 12 hour night shift at Hampshire Ambulance and for some reason decided instead of going to bed to paint my wardrobe. My stepmother phoned and told me to turn on the TV. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. No one knew what had happened – a plane crash, an explosion? No mention of terrorist attacks yet. I watched live as the 2nd plane crashed into the towers. Then the mood changed as everyone knew this couldn’t be an accident. It was exactly 9 months to the day that I was in NYC and up at the observation deck of the World Trade Centre. I was one my own so chatting to anyone and everyone. I still wonder if they lady that sold me stamps and showed me the main sights, or the pretzel guy that I stood talking to for 30 mins were there that tragic day or whether by fate and luck they were not. I’m ashamed to say I never found out their names so I have no way of knowing. I went to NYC again only a few years after the attack, but I haven’t been back since. I always wondered what the memorial would be like and hoped it would be a place for people to reflect on what happened and remember the people that were lost that day and in the years to follow. It’s such a shame that it’s turned into a money making enterprise. Shame on NYC and the US Government for allowing this to happen.

  • Reply
    Ava Apollo
    September 12, 2012 at 7:43 am

    I have goosebumps – both because the post was so beautiful, and because I’m so angry to hear that there are commemorative products for sale. It was death, it was ugly, it was horrible.

    Thanks for the post! It has been hard for me to look at any 9/11 stuff on the web today because it is such a painful memory. Glad if I read one post, it was this one.

  • Reply
    Antoinette | love.antoinette
    September 12, 2012 at 8:14 am

    The sad reality is that some people are so desensitized that they can come up with business schemes for these things. Every tourist trap is a way for people to make money and this has truly become one of those. It’s not only in NYC though, it’s all over the world. As a New Yorker, I have only been to the Memorial site once to show my family around while they visited. I personally do not like to go anywhere near that site. I was a senior in high school when it all happened and I watched the burning towers from our gym building. It’s as real as it ever will be. 11 years and I still have vivid recollections and images in my head.

  • Reply
    Bobbi Lee Hitchon
    September 12, 2012 at 9:47 am

    Beautifully written post and I think I relate to your experience a lot even though I was only hours away from NYC when it happened. I didn’t lose anyone close to me, but I definitely noticed a difference in the world that day and the years following. I think it’s important to look back and remember, but also to rebuild.

  • Reply
    A Cook Not Mad (Nat & Tim)
    September 14, 2012 at 10:04 am

    It’s interesting to read the opinion of someone who was so young when it happened. Everybody has a 9/11 story, whether you knew someone who was there, whether you were there yourself, no matter the story, we all remember where we were when the news hit the small screen.
    For us, Tim was due to start working at the US Embassy in Ottawa. It didn’t happen for a few weeks as they were on lock down. Then we ended up in NYC a year later, on the 1st anniversary, cooking for 100 members of the Canadian families of the deceased, strange thing, life.
    As soon as people were allowed near ground zero everybody started flogging memorabilia. Sickening yes, surprising, not really.

  • Reply
    October 6, 2012 at 6:05 am

    Absolutely touching post. I still remember watching everything unfold in class, stunned. It will never get any easier to understand. And, that angers me how it has been turned into a tourist trap….

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    Carolyn Wagner
    August 16, 2017 at 5:03 am

    I found this post while doing a little research about Nicole. I’m also writing about my connection to her, for publication. We grew up in the same neighborhood, and I knew her from swim team. We were roughly the same age. I met her mother and step father shortly after 9/11. I’m glad you got to see her memorial, and feel the connection.

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    Norma Garcia
    March 4, 2021 at 5:30 am

    Beautiful post. But, then again, Nicole was my friend so I suppose I’m a little biased. She was an amazing person with a heart as big as her million dollar smile. She always made every single bad thing go away the second she turned her lovely face my way. I miss seeing her flash her “sparkly like a holiday” smile & hearing her laughter.. I have missed her every single day since that Tuesday morning almost 20 years ago. The world lost a truly beautiful soul that day but it was blessed to have had a person like Nicole in it for 21 years. Tomorrow is her birthday; she would have turned 40. But instead, she is forever 21. Thank you for writing this about my friend. She is still making an impact in people’s lives & her memory will continue to live on though people like you. Fly high with the angels, my sweet beautiful friend. Until I see you again, I love you & miss your beautiful face. HAPPY BIRTHDAY IN HEAVEN NICOLE!!!

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