Friday, September 11, 2009

Memories of September 11, 2001

My daughter was at her father's that morning. My (then) fiance and I were at our apartment, just getting ready to leave for work when the phone rang. It was my daughter telling me to turn on the TV because a plane had just hit a skyscraper in NYC. Still on the phone, I flipped on the TV to see photos of one of the World Trade Center towers engulfed in flames, a plane having flown directly into it.

In that split second, a multitude of thoughts ran through my mind - did the pilot have a heart attack? Was there some sort of incredible mechanical malfunction that caused the crew to lose control of the plane? The one thing that I did not consider for even a moment was that someone had purposefully flown a plane into a building full of people... until the second plane hit a few moments later. My fiance had joined me in front of the tv and, still on the phone with my daughter, my brain registered all three of us gasp and say, "oh my god" at the same moment.

I can still replay that moment in my mind - it was one of those stereotypic moments when time seemed to slow... my mind was having trouble comprehending what had happened, so I did what I do whenever I'm faced with a situation I don't fully understand. I assess and then get on with life. I told my daughter that she needed to get ready for school and that I was sure that we'd know before too long what had happened... and of course not to worry... New York was far away and everything was fine here in Arizona. My fiance and I agreed to keep one another informed of any news, but that the reasonable thing to do was to head to work... which we did.

On my way to the office, I had the news on and it was a hodgepodge of reports and conjecture on what had happened. I was about a half a mile from the office when breaking news interrupted the already unbelievable news to announce that another plane had just flown into the Pentagon. Ok, now I was having a WTF moment. I started scanning the skies over Phoenix looking for rogue planes (and with the traffic coming in and out of our airport, there would have been a lot of potential planes), but everything I saw at that point was following typical landing patterns for Sky Harbor. Little did I know that once those planes landed, and for the next three days, there would be no planes in the air over Arizona, or the rest of the country.

Arriving at the office, I became aware very quickly that it was not going to be a typical day. Everyone that had radios had people huddled around their cubicles listening for more news. The few rare coworkers that arrived not having heard the news were quickly brought up to date. By 9 am our time (after hearing that a fourth plane was also down), there were company wide announcements to stay calm and that they would keep us informed of any essential information. Several of my coworkers were trying to contact family and friends back east or trying to get information on the flights - sadly, more than a couple were met with devastating news over the next couple days. One of our associate offices had been located in one of the towers, and we would soon learn that many of the workers there had lost their lives that day.

As more reports came in and information regarding what everyone now knew were not accidents, I remember sitting at my desk, listening to my radio and beginning to cry as the enormity of the morning's events hit me. I could not wrap my mind around the thought that any group could purposefully, willfully, and with no regard for human life, have done something like this. Empathy is (sometimes unfortunately) often a very strong force in my life, and as much as I tried to grasp it, I realized that I simply couldn't. It was just too much. Throughout the day, as more and more pictures flashed on tv screens, and more reports were released, it was too much. As I tried discussing it with my children it was too much. It is still too much.

The logical side of my brain tells me that in the grand scheme of events, what happened that day, at least statistically, was relatively insignificant. Nearly 3000 people died that day, but on the average, if the current statistics are to be believed, three times that many, or over 9000 people die everyday in the US. 3000 people worldwide lose their lives in motor vehicle related accidents a day. 12000 (four times as many) children worldwide will starve to death each day. Ten times as many (30,000) will lose their lives to the flu this year.

So, to me, what makes what happened on 9/11 so much more significant than all of those other deaths? First and foremost is that on September 11, 2001, lives weren't "lost" - they were taken - deliberately and with malice... secondly, that the death toll didn't end with the body counts at the crash sites. Directly or indirectly, those attacks against humanity (not just the US in light of the fact that citizens of 90+ countries lost their lives in those attacks) have resulted in nearly 100,000 deaths so far. 9/11 may have been the beginning, but the terror is sadly far from over.

Life has gone on, many have become complacent, some have even stopped remembering. I will always remember, although I will not dwell on it... and I will always hope and pray that humanity comes to its senses and (while it probably won't be in my lifetime, but hopefully in my children's lifetimes) learns to live in peace and with a mindset that we are all in this together. I often wonder exactly what it would take to for that to happen... and then I try to believe in miracles.

The "Tribute in Light" memorial is in remembrance of the events of Sept. 11, 2001, in honor of the citizens who lost their lives in the World Trade Center attacks. The two towers of light are composed of two banks of high wattage spotlights that point straight up from a lot next to Ground Zero. This public domain photo was taken from Liberty State Park, N.J., Sept. 11, the five-year anniversary of 9/11. (U.S. Air Force photo/Denise Gould)


Anonymous said...

Your feelings and thoughts have touched me deeply. Thank you for sharing yourself with us. That days and all to follow, hold such meaning to us.

Stop over:

Splendid Little Stars said...

so memorable, so painful, so difficult

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