I knew I was going to write today about the anniversary of September 11th. I didn’t know what I was going to write. I waited until I sat down and then just let the words flow. It’s been 10 years but it feels like a lifetime ago. To me, anyway. I just didn’t think I could let the date go by and not write about it. And a stream of consciousness is exactly what I needed for something like this.
I didn’t focus on the tragedy of the day. I don’t have any commentary about the state of the world and if we’re really better off. I don’t really think I’m in a position to judge or assess that. Instead, I wrote about how I felt that day. How that one day shook me to the core but my reaction probably showed otherwise.
I will admit that I didn’t limit myself to 5 minutes today. It was more important for me to get the words out than adhere to a time limit.
I don’t like to be a cliche any more than anybody else does. But I don’t see how you can’t pause on 9/11 to remember 9/11. It’s been 10 years and for me, that was my where-were-you-when-it-happened moment. For our parents, it was where they were when Kennedy was shot. For our grandparents, it was more than likely where they were when Pearl Harbor was attacked.
This is the tragedy of our generation.
I was on my way to work and was listening to talk radio, like I usually did. There was breaking news that an airplane had crashed into one of the World Trade Center buildings in NYC. I thought nothing more of it than, oh okay.
In my mind, it was a small private aircraft that had veered off course and crashed into the building, probably killing the pilot and barely making a scratch on the building.
Once I got to work, my mother (who loves a good news story) called me from her office to tell me of the plane crash. I dismissed her say yeah, yeah. I heard about it. She told me she thought it was a big plane, like a 737 or something. Again, I told her there was no way. It was just some small plane or something.
Then I got off the phone and my officemate had a small black & white TV set in her office. We huddle around staring at the fuzzy picture trying to make sense of what we were seeing. Two planes. Commercial planes. We still didn’t understand what was going on.
My mother called again. This time, in her best alarmist voice, she told me that the towers were collapsing. Umm no. My mother is so naive. She believes every rumor she hears. In my best I-know-better-than-you voice, I told her that wasn’t even possible. That was ridiculous.
Once again, I was proven wrong, as we all know. I don’t know if my brain was trying too hard to analyze the situation but it all seemed so unbelievable. Bits and pieces were flying in all day. We heard that all flights had been grounded. We heard that terrorist activity was suspected. We heard about the plane crashing into the Pentagon. We heard about a plane crash in Pennsylvania, not really knowing if it was related.
Then I went to a meeting. Sounds bizarre but working at a technology company, it was a lot of business as usual. I sat through a meeting and don’t remember a single thing we discussed. I felt outside my body and then I finally looked at everyone and said “should we even be here?”
It felt wrong to carry on with business as usual. I couldn’t focus. I didn’t know what I was feeling. I decided to leave work, as did many other people. It wasn’t that we could do anything at home but I guess we felt the need to be closer to our tv sets and to our families until we really understood what it meant.
The odd thing was, I stopped by Sears on my way home. We had been planning to paint the bedroom and I was anxious to get started. I couldn’t focus on work but I didn’t want the day’s activity to interrupt my life. I think I was in denial. One of my high school friends was murdered the year after we all went away to college. When I found out about her death, I didn’t change my plans to go to a water park the next day. I can’t say I enjoyed myself. But I needed to keep myself occupied. Perhaps it was the same thing.
I remember chit-chatting with the clerk at Sears and he made some general comment about what a strange day it was. I know I agreed, got the paint and left.
It was as I was putting the paint in the car that I realized what was making the day so quiet. It was the deafening silence. Complete and utter stillness when you looked up into the sky. I never realized the background noise and activity that has become such a part of our lives with all of the air activity. It seemed that even the birds had ceased flying.
It was a lonely, sad day and one I will never forget.