"Never miss a chance to do good"--David Stanley
Like most people, I'll never forget that day. I had a funny feeling in my stomach so I decided to call out from work. I had the television on mute. I called my boss while watching the tv screen. I watched the second plane go into the tower. I thought it was a movie until my boss asked, "Is it true that a plane crashed into the twin towers?" Needless to say I was floored.
That was my neighborhood for many years, and I was a few blocks away when the first plane hit. I wound up as one of the thousands and thousands running from that massive debris cloud.
There will never be adequate words to describe this day for those of us who lived through it. To say it changed the world is not enough. The world turned upside down...to borrow a line from Hamilton. If you are twenty or younger, it is the reason you have been raised as you have. If you are you are in your twenties, you witnessed first hand the change of language, the change of how we interacted all because of that day. No matter where you were in the world. Many illusions dissolved in those awful hours as people burned on a clear and crisp September day.If you are in your thirties, you will know exactly what you were doing every moment that day. If you are in your fifties, it is the most historic day you will remember. Older folk will remember it the way they remember JFK being assassinated or a bit older, it was Pearl Harbor on steroids. I still can't watch the coverage without bawling my eyes out. It's not something one forgets.
Hubs was at an air show in Reno. He'd flown out there with his boss. He stayed behind to finish schmoozing while his boss flew out on his private jet about 40 minutes before the first plane hit. It took three days to get hubs on a plane back to Michigan. There was nothing on the plane, nothing allowed in the overheads, no magazines, no food, no water, no utensils to use...they'd stripped any and everything that could have been used in any way to harm someone. Everything went into his luggage except for his wallet. Nothing else was allowed on his person. And everyone was white as a sheet. He said you could tell people were hoping and praying that this plane wasn't going to be another weapon. People were crying as they debarked.
I was in fifth grade. I remember coming down the stairs early in the morning to get ready for school and my mom was watching the news. That alone was unusual. Then at school the principal got on the intercom and said something to the effect of "the terrorists want to disrupt our lives. We will not allow that to happen and we will continue on."It didn't mean much to me then. I couldn't understand why something that happened across the country would affect what we were doing in school that day. Now I'm amazed at my teachers who were able to continue on with the day, despite the horror and shock.
3rd year teaching. 3 minutes from the end of 2nd period, a runner arrived with a note.Since then, I have been asking classes the same question every year. What were you doing when it happened? Three years ago, I stopped asking.Nothing is as unsettling as watching a tragedy become history. Nothing is as important as remembering.
On 9/11 I was working in a shoe store in Corning, NY. As I watched the towers being hit, I called my boss and he said we were still going to work since he hadn't heard anything by then from his boss. As I drove to work that morning I noticed that I was the only one on the road. The road into Corning, and the Corning streets, were eerily empty and quiet. I could have walked naked down the middle of street and no one would have noticed because people everywhere were glued to the news on TV. My boss and I stood in the front windows of the shoe store and watched the television in the barber shop across the street. His boss called later that day and said we could go whenever we wanted. Since we both got paid by the hour, we stayed until closing. I think we sold one pair of shoes. The magnitude of that day didn't really hit me until months later. A woman came into the store and wandered around like she was lost. So I asked if I could help. I helped her find a pair of shoes, and as I was checking her out I noticed she lived in NYC. I looked at her and said, "You were there, weren't you." She slowly nodded her head yes. That's when it hit me.
No words. Just prayers. And a huge thank you to all the first responders.
It was Tuesday. I remember because we were trying to hit deadline at the magazine. I had twenty-three stories and they were all due by noon Tuesday. Most were done, but I was frantically trying to finish the last ones that were behind because I'd had problems locating trainers and owners to interview.My middle son called. "Mom, are you watching the news?"I should have known this was very serious because for once he was, there was no, "Hey, Punk, what you doing?""No, Honey. It's Tuesday. Trying to hit deadline.""Go turn the news on right now."I did just in time for the second plane to hit. It's one of the few times in my life my knees went out from under me. Had I not been standing in front of the couch, I would have collapsed on the floor. I don't cry easily. I give myself two minutes to cry when we have emergencies going on and with rodeo cowboy sons, there have been many. I sobbed uncontrollably for a very long time.My editor called and asked if I knew.Yes. We discussed it a bit. Everyone at the office was melting down, but we had to try and get the issue out.Will, my youngest made up his mind he wanted to go into the military. I thought I missed a bullet with him because he wasn't interested in rough stock. Now he wanted to join the military. He'd always been interested, but this cemented it. He joined the Guard his junior year of high school because he could get two years of enlistment done by the time he graduated. His summer between junior and senior year when most kids are enjoying their last high school summer, he was in basic training. He shipped to Iraq in 2008. He never regretted it. Nor do I.We must never forget, but I fear too many people are. People are already saying what's the big deal. We should forget it and move on. Never. Never forget. Never forget those trapped souls. The ones who plunged to their deaths. The first responders who rushed into the inferno. The man in the red bandana. Flight 93.
I was watching a rerun of L.A. Law, holding my new puppy on my lap, when the program was interrupted by breaking news. I called my mother and told her to turn on the tv. The guy who was renovating our house came into the living room, looked at the tv open-mouthed, and swore (very atypical for him). I was stunned. I remember thinking that life would never be the same again, for anyone.
Telling and re-telling the stories is vital. I had just left my polling place after voting in our primary election and I switched on the car radio to hear the first report of a small plane crash into the WTC. A strange blip of a news story in those first murky moments. By the time I got home a few minutes later, the true horror was unfolding. “The world just changed,” I said to my husband on the phone. “Things will never be the same.” Those same words on the lips of so many people that day... it’s a profound thing to witness the seismic shift, to see the line of demarcation that separates Before from After. We think we’ve seen the moment that will shape everything to come, but there’s always another moment waiting to turn the world upside down. Mortal life is not for the faint of heart.In the Midwest, the utter silence of that deep blue sky reminded us that we were all one under that brilliant sun. The quiet was shattered only by the fighter jets scrambling from air bases for hundreds of miles. The heroism we saw that day and throughout the months and years was astonishing. But what I will remember best about that day is the shoes — the New York shopkeepers who brought out armfuls of sneakers and handed them out to women who were hobbling in heels, covered in ash, just trying to walk home. They begged the walkers to take the shoes, take water, take food.... just to be able to DO something for a fellow creature in the face of such horror. To see everyday people respond to cruelty and hatred with desperate acts of kindness and compassion was a true gift that NYC gave the world that day. Never forget.
I remember I was watching my brother's youngest while our older children were at school because he and his wife were going out to celebrate their anniversary. While I was getting my youngest daughter ready for her head start class, my husband attempted to call a company he needed to talk to with headquarters in the east (probably NYC). He got a recorded message. "Closed due to NATIONAL emergency". I thought my husband (who is known for doing so) misheard and it was natural emergency. I then drove my daughter to school and the station I normally listened to was all talk instead of music but I didn't pay attention to what they were saying.At home we had the TV on the local PBS station which was run by BYU. They played children's programs ALL day. It was after about 6 p.m. when they switched to news. However, they usually ran adult programs (a painting show was one of them) around noon so we usually changed the channel then. That's when we could find only news on, every single other channel, and it was all about the attack. My brother and his wife didn't learn about it until after 3 pm. After they left the theater and went to an appliance store to look at new TV's. They asked what movie was playing on all the TV's. When they heard what happened they ran home to get their kids. (Mind you, we were in the Mountain time zone.)It was around the time of the Olympics (the next year) when I learned I knew someone who lost a family member in the attack.
I was 24 at the time and travelling on my own (but in a group of foreign, young English people) around eastern Canada. My English was SO poor, I struggled to communicate throughout the trip. I was also unable to understand when people talked on TV/films - it seemed all too fast when they spoke.But when I saw the images on TV that day, I didn't really need to understand words. It's okay when people say that no words can describe... I didn't understand back then, but I DID understand!
It was early morning in HI, and we were starting our day. My husband was a Defense Dept employee. He got a phone call telling him what had happened in NY and "don't come to work." We turned on the TV and watched in horror. The phone rang again, "come in right away." He finished dressing and started for the garage. Another phone call before he could leave, "stay home today. Everything is cancelled. The government is on high alert." He returned to work the next day. His office kicked into high gear searching for new threats. Everything was suspect. It took weeks for high anxiety across the island to settle into something less like panic and more like dread.
A few years ago, I visited the 9/11 memorial in Padua, Italy. It includes a single steel beam from the towers, displayed in two illuminated panels. The beam doesn't look that big in pictures, but up close it's massive. I mean massive. And strong. Too strong to bend the way it did. I remember thinking that. A heavy-gauge steel box beam should not bend that way. My heart broke so bad, I can't even tell you.
I was a few months shy of my eighth birthday. My parents tried to keep me out of the room with the TV so I don’t remember much, but I do remember seeing the second plane hit. Within an hour after that, we went to a friend’s house and I remember wondering what was going on because the adults weren’t talking and all of them looked stunned. It’s my one memory of deafening silence. Later, my parents explained what happened, but all I understood was that bad guys had crashed into a really tall building to kill lots of people. For the longest time, I was afraid of hotels because those were the tallest buildings I could identify. Whenever we went on vacation, I always hoped that we were staying in a short hotel because then we’d be safe. It was years before I actually started to understand.
I watched on at TV monitor at a gym in Santa Monica where I was working out as the first plane hit the twin towers. The plane looked small--almost like a Piper Cub. When the second plane hit, I knew it was no accident. I ended my workout and hustled to the Santa Monica court where I was scheduled to attend a hearing involving Paula Poundstone (my job w/the court was to liaison w/the media on celebrity/hi-profile cases). I called my downtown LA office. Forget Paula Poundstone. Courts were going to close. Info was another plane was headed for govt. buildings in L.A. Half of the court Executive Mgt. team, of which I was a member, was sent to one remote location in east LA County, the other half to a location in another part of the county. All non-essential court staff were sent home. From my location, I spent the day fielding media calls and issuing info about the status of court cases. We had no access to TV coverage at our location. It wasn't until I got home that night, that I saw the enormity of the situation and felt speechless shock.
We cab never forget but we also can't be small because of our vengeance. We must always be the shining city on the hill.A light in the darkness.Vote early and often.
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