Sunday, September 11, 2011

We Will Not Forget


(This post originally ran on September 11, 2009. It feels right to share it again today.)

It was a Tuesday morning, and I was running errands with my kids. We were in the bank just before 9 am, and the tellers were all abuzz over the news. Some little plane had flown into the World Trade Center, my teller told me. They'd heard it on the radio. I dropped my errands and went straight home, turning on the TV in time to see Flight 175 hit the South Tower.

Of course, it wasn't a small plane, and it wasn't an accident as they had first assumed. I spent the day watching the coverage, knowing the world was changing. I had visited the World Trade Center with my cousin Kim during a high school trip. We had gone up to the observation deck in the South Tower, on the 107th floor. I remembered what it felt like to lean in toward the glass and look down, that awful feeling I got in the bottom of my stomach. How much sicker I felt watching the coverage, hearing that people chose to jump rather than burn. What a desperate choice. What a strange feeling to know that I'd been there, I'd visited a place that didn't even exist anymore.

I worried about Kim, knowing she lived in the city, not knowing where she was working, how far away she was, if she was safe. Another of my cousins was living and working in DC at the time, so it was a pretty tense time until we knew they were safe. Then we started worrying for everyone else: those people who waited, thinking they'd be rescued. People who still needed rescuing. The heroic firefighters and paramedics who rushed in and never came out. Did you know that 411 emergency workers were among the dead? I don't think I ever knew the number.

The thing that stands out to me most about that trip to the observation deck was waiting in line. We waited for what seemed like hours, in a roped off area that zigzagged across the lobby. We were surrounded by people of every ethnicity, from many countries, all speaking different languages. Coming from a less-than-multicultural state and community, to me this was noteworthy. It felt like a place where people coexisted peacefully, where there might not always be understanding but there was tolerance. It seemed like my ideal of being an American, the whole "melting pot" thing; how could you experience such diversity, look out at the Statue of Liberty, and not feel that? After 9/11 it didn't surprise me to read that citizens from over 90 countries died in the attacks on the World Trade Center buildings. It saddened me to think of that place as a target of someone's hatred. We lost a lot that day.

Every year I think how much things have changed since it happened. I think about the people who died and I send good thoughts to those who survived and who lost family and friends. Not long ago I read about those who were exposed to ground zero and how they had lingering problems with asthma and post-traumatic stress disorder for years afterward. I think all of us are still traumatized by this. I don't think anyone who was there--or who watched from afar--will forget it.

Do you remember what you were doing on 9/11? What went through your mind? I've heard people talking about making this day a national holiday--what are your thoughts?

3 comments:

  1. My husband and I were at Yellowstone Nat'l Park traveling through to the Grand Tetons. At our first stop of the morning, Rangers had print-outs from Yahoo news about a plane the World Trade Center but there was really very little information. We thought a small plane must have had an accident. Little did we know! We had very little access to news until the 13th so the devastation was beyond words when we did watch on the night of the 13th. We bought a CD while on this trip so now every time I hear it I think of September 11, 2001, and I will never forget. Of course, I am also reminded of that day every time I fly anywhere.

    I have a friend who told her 8 year old daughter about it yesterday. I don't know if it is really something an 8 year old can comprehend. I know I am not telling my daughter, but we also don't have a TV so there is no news for her to see. I will have to tell her eventually because she will need to know, plus I am sure she will study it as part of US and World History. I just think she needs to be little older.

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  2. I had some professional interactions with Tom Burnett, who was on flight 93, many years prior during my medical career. It's chilling to think about someone you know, even only professionally, having endured what happened on that day. I lost my fiance to sudden death only two weeks prior, and while I only stared blankly at the TV screen due to my own grief, I had deep, deep compassion for those who lost their loved ones that day.

    I believe we have many "9/11's" around the world every day. While the loss of life was catastrophic on this day, I try to take time to wish a little kindness and healing to everyone impacted by suffering, and that we find a way through together, carrying our loved ones in our hearts. I'm sure they would want us to celebrate their lives.

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  3. I was just returning from my first cross country journey on the amtrak and visit to Glacier National Park that morning. We had just seen the huge expanse of this country of ours and were coming off a high of unexplainable proportions to see this event of enexplainable proportions!

    What happened on 9/11 wasn't surprising to me. All around the room people were crying at the meeting in Harrisburg, PA, where I attended as a consultant that day, but the Twin Towers had been attacked already years before as had the USS Cole, so this attack though horrific, wasn't surprising!

    We sat, a large crowd, around tables in a room dominated by a large screen TV with smoking buildings visible in NYC. Commentators talked about the horrible happenings of that morning, but we never saw the second airplane because our 'fearless leader' came into the room and grabbed the remote saying, "That's enough of THAT," and clicked the TV off! We never saw the second airplane nor did we see buildings collapse and were later sent home.

    We sat in shocked horror while news of an airplane crash in Western PA circulated around the crowded room to the grief-stricken sound of crying from several corners of the room.

    Yes, the world was about to change, but was it necessary to attack a country which had nothing to do with these events!!??? It reminds me of a bumper sticker I've seen since then which says, "What's OUR oil doing under their soil?"

    It took one kind of 'fearless leader' to snap the TV off; it took another to attack a country that had nothing to do with 9/11 or Al Qaeda. Brainless leadership is frightening indeed!

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