Tuesday, September 11, 2012

nine eleven ... 11 years ago

Last year, my mom's boss called me at the end of August to interview me about the upcoming Ten Year Anniversary of September 11th. We scheduled a time, and I ask my mom to send me the article in which she'd extensively quoted me 10 years before. Like many of us, 9/11 often times seems like a verb, an adjective to me; the fiery buildings on the TV, the speculation, the interviews, the fear, the devastation. Over time in the last 11 years, it can accidentally and unfortunately become all too commonplace. But in the last 2 weeks, the specials, the speaking of the families, the memorials. It's real again. I remember again. Every year, I remember again.  And reading those words that a 24 year old frightened girl spoke to her mom after the long and terrible day was eerie. It brought tears to my eyes and took me to a place that I hadn't visited a in a long while.

Stuck in traffic on the New Jersey turnpike, watching the first seemingly tiny plane hit with my own eyes, I might have rolled them thinking, what kind of idiot would hit a huge building?  I was late for work, and everyone was just staring at this small stream of smoke rising form the building.  But then not long after, watching that second plane, (a news plane maybe? my mind wondered, coming to assess the damage of the first?) circle around and hit the other building, again with  my own eyes, my body still covers with goosebumps when I think of the simplistic, almost childish thought went through my head, "that, was on purpose". Instantly I felt so very afraid and alone, as the turnpike turned to a parking lot and people started getting out of their cars in disbelief, looking across the river and sharing the horror with strangers. When I got to work, 45 minutes later, I felt so afraid for my co-workers who had husbands and wives, brothers and sisters, and kids in the city. The internet and the phones were down, rumors were circling that no one could get in or out of the City or the other Burroughs, where many lived.  We stood together shoulder to shoulder and looked out of the window from our 5th floor office window watching in silence, but we needed to see, so we moved out to the parking structure and watched in disbelief as the towers came down. We stood there, hugging and crying, and not knowing the the hell this meant, just that it was something awful, we couldn't comprehend.  I left work alone and stopped at the store after about an hour of commuting, where the bottled water was already sold out. I was numb in the aisle wondering where I would get clean water, imagining the worst.  Police escorts took us off of the turnpike and onto some back roads that I was unfamiliar with. Someone in another store store said planes were hitting all over the east coast, and one had just hit the white house. I took the last three cases of water at that store.  I tried to call my mom and Lawrence but all circuits were busy.

Never in my life did I wish more that everyone I loved was in Joseph, Oregon than at that moment. I didn't know what was going on, but I knew I didn't want to be where I was. I didn't want to be close enough to see things happen with my own eyes.
The morning of September 11th, 2011 - 10 years later - at 9am I was going for a run. It was the first day of my new phase with my fitness accountability group. I ran 2.5 miles and went to the grocery store, shopped, and called Lawrence and the kids to pick me up. I thought and reflected the whole time. I thought about what else I could have said, should of said to answer the interview questions.    How could I have described, how did that day change me, in ways that were the same and in ways that were different than anyone else in this world?  In so many ways it changed everyone...who was I to be answering a question about how it changed me?

I thanked, and continue to thank, God for another day to love the ones I love.  

At the one year anniversary, I was living in Portland, a newlywed.  It was then that I found out this affected everyone in the country so profusely.  Being in NYC many times in the months following the 9/11 attacks...I naively thought it was something that happened to the city, it happened more to the people downtown that it did to those in midtown, it happened more the people in midtown than it did to those in New Jersey, and I foolishly thought, it happened more to those in New Jersey than it did to people in Oregon.  Because my own experience felt so big at that time, I missed the bigger picture.  But when I got home.  When I was here.  That's when I found out that it happened to everybody.  And on days like today, we remember the victims, those who gave and give their lives for bravery and to save others, those who died in this and all senseless attacks, those who lost people that mattered more to them that life itself.  

We also remember that the attack happened to each of us as well.  In some personal and profound way, we all were changed, we all remember, we all have a story.  And a loss.  We are brought back to the moment that we realized that this was bad, that we might not be safe.  The uncertainty.  The goosebumps.  We can all remember what that moment was for us.  Who was sitting next to us.  Our exact line of thinking.  

I couldn't write this a year ago, like I wanted to.  I had all the words in my head, but I couldn't do them justice on the page.  I was shaken from that interview, numb and haunted by the emotions it stirred.  But today, I came back here because I wanted to tell my story, and because I want to hear yours.


  1. I remember the moment well. The moment I first learned of the attacks. I was getting ready for work, and unlike most days decided to flip the tv on. When I saw what I saw, I sat down on the edge of my bed in fear my knees would give out. I never left that spot that day. My cordless phone clutched in my hands as I took phone calls from family members, sharing our fear and uncertainty. It was a few hours of painstakingly horrible waiting until we heard from my aunt. A new yorker, who by mere chance could have been working on one of those planes. When I heard she was safe and sound, I was happy. But still so sad so many were not. It was years and years, before she healed from that experience, and maybe she never will.

    I think whether we were there, or here. Or whether we know a victim or a family member of a victim, or not....this is one thing that unites us all. Love that you wrote this...

  2. I was an ostrich with my head in the sand on the west coast in a very big Navy city. I had just moved into my apartment for my third year in law school. Still didn't have the cable hooked up. NEVER listened to the news on the radio. My friend Sharon called me at 9 or so saying something about how a plane had hit Trump Towers. My reaction? Well, he must have pissed some one off. She never mentioned the tower had come down... or maybe I was still asleep? This is pre-smart phone. Certainly pre-NPR listening time for me.

    At noon or so Pacific Time I rolled in to the Jeep dealer for an oil change and that's where I saw what I had missed over the last 6-7 hours. THAT is where I screamed, "Oh my God!! There's another one!" at the screen that almost everyone else there had seen a least a million times earlier that day. The rest of the day was a fog. I was in San Diego - a Navy heavy town. All the ships left their ports immediately. Little did I know my future husband was on one of those big ships heading out to sea.

    I never saw the towers in person. I missed out on my opportunity to go to NYC with family to see the 3 Tenors sing... why? Because of a dumb law school class or two. Jeesh... 9/11 happened 3 years before my first visit to NYC. I saw ground zero when I visited. I shuttered. As I did when I would drive down the GW Parkway in DC trying to imagine seeing that plane hit the Pentagon.

    I moved to DC with no fear in 2003. The snipers had just finished their rampage when I decided to move. Georgetown had gotten 24"+ of snow in one shower when I decided to move. We cannot live in fear of terrorism... but for the love of Christ get your cable hooked up asap when you move into a new place.