Tuesday, September 11, 2007

On this anniversary of the day that everything changed.

I was on the bus, on my way to work. It was one of those quiet mornings, the bus was packed, but there was not a sound until someone with a walkman on gasped loudly and said, "Oh no! Oh my god!"
Of course everyone turned their heads to see what the commotion was. He addressed us all like he was suddenly our friend breaking bad news. "A plane just flew into the World trade Center in New York! They are thinking it may have been hijacked!"

I didn't really understand what I just heard. At this point I had never even been to New York, so for me it was kind of a distant land that I had only seen in movies. I knew it was bad, I just didn't quite understand how bad.

I walked into the office where I worked. At the time I was working for a very large corporation who had offices in New York and Seattle. Usually, at this time of the morning, our offices were bustling, but it was dead quiet. I finally called the receptionist and asked where everyone was. She told me to go to the conference room.
I walked in and noticed that almost every one of my coworkers were huddled around the big screen we usually used for presenting new lines (It was a fashion company) It was tuned into CNN. I saw the first tower on screen with smoke billowing out of it and it started to become crystal clear just how big this really was. Then I saw the next plane crash into the second tower. People screamed, "NO!" even the reporter looked shaken. We sat there for what seemed like a really long time and just watched the screen. They repeated it over and over again. Crash, crash, crash....
It was a movie that I wanted to leave, a dream I wanted to wake up from. All I wanted was to go get my daughter and go home and lock the doors and never think about what I just saw ever again.

Then they fell.

I can't even tell you what I was thinking, because I think I just stopped feeling. I went numb. I could not believe it was happening. Nothing I have ever experienced in my lifetime had prepared me for this.

The rest of the day the managers had rolled televisions into all of our conference rooms. We all took shifts sitting in front of the televisions watching the news. Listening to the news tell us of "Possible targets in Seattle" watching those horrific moments on repeat so many times that I will never have to see them again and the picture is so burned in my minds eye I could recreate every billow of smoke, every dot flinging itself off of the building. It is something I can't forget.

The days that followed were just as surreal. People were different. We were all afraid. Suddenly flags went up all over town. Everyone knew someone who was in New York, had just flown the day before, had a friend or family member who was effected or even worse, who had died.

Then there were the recordings of the last calls. The news playing the voices of the dead on a loop.

On 9/10 I had decided to end the relationship I was in. We had talked, we had pretty much ended our engagement. He was going to move out November 1st. On September 12th, we were moving up our wedding date to March. Suddenly, life was short and we were in a huge hurry.
9/11 only put off the inevitable. We eventually got past our fear and came to our senses. We were very good friends, but we were not in love. He moved out that February, after everything started calming down again, after nothing blew up on New Years Eve, after we started to feel our false sense of security again.

Honestly, this day comes, and I try not to think about it. This day comes and I try to pretend it never happened. Not because I don't respect the dead or the loss, but because I don't want that fear to take hold again. That fear is what gives the people who did this to us the control. It is exactly what they want. It is what makes them win.

The more time that passes, the more my memory of that morning fades, the more I can remember the dead and that day but not feel that fear. Someday 9/11 will be a day, for those of us lucky enough to live on to very old age, that our Great Grandchildren will ask us about for class projects and out of curiosity after they hear about it in history class.

They will ask, "Grandma, do you remember what you were doing on September 11th?"


Earl said...

It's a day nobody will forget. I thought about doing a post of my own about this but, like you, I try not to think about it. But since you brought it up... I was working in Wash DC at a govt agency. As we were watching on a tv at work we got word about the Pentagon and then rumors of a crash on the Mall and of another plane headed our way. We evacuated the building, met my wife around the corner (she worked in a building nearby) and those of us living across the river in Virginia walked home because we heard that the subway was shut down. It was eiry (sp?) to be part of a mass exodus walking out of a city, toward the smoking Pentagon while some Pentagon employees and military personnel were walking into the city, with F-14s or F-15s flying overhead, a stench in the air from the burning building, and police in armored vehicles by the Jefferson Memorial warning everyone to stay on the sidewalks out of fear apparently that there were terrorist in our midst. It was frightening. We didn't live there much longer because we decided it was more important to be close to our families. And we had it easy. It was a life changing event for us, as it was for millions others. But you are right - we can't let the fear take over. I will feel better when the day passes.

Michelle Auer said...

Wow! That is crazy. I didn't mention the Pentagon, mostly because that didn't get as much press as NYC, so even though I knew it was happening there too, it wasn't burned into my brain the same way.
Thanks for sharing!

Anonymous said...

I vividly remember being at work when the news broke. We all huddled around a TV in utter disbelief and horror and watched the live footage as the 2nd plane hit and then the later collapse of the towers. It was like watching some horrible movie, that you just wanted to end, but it didn't. Those images of people throwing themselves to their deaths from the high floors are permanently etched on my mind.

Even though I live in a country which has become almost 'accustomed' to the threat of terrorism, it never ceases to affect me. I grew up in the 70's and 80's with the very real threat of IRA attacks, and then the switch in more recent times, to the newer threats. It has made us resiliant and determined that no-one will make us fear to carry on living our lives as usual. We are all perhaps a little more vigilant, but we will not live in fear.

Deb Hardman said...

I remember your phone call waking me up, the shaking sound of your voice. The shock & horror & disbelief. Then the quiet. Then strangness of quiet skies. Only a rare EAFB jet, no passenger planes passing ove. I had never realized how in the background they always were until they weren't there anymore.

I love you. I wish I could give you a big hug right now.


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