I know this blog is usually purely a topical blog, however, since and through remembrance of the events of September 11, 2001, I have continued to learn lessons about perspective, fear, and my place in this world.
My 9/11 story is not atypical. I was sitting in traffic on my way to my collections job for May Department Stores. I was resigned to worked one of many recent 10am to 8pm shifts, I lived an hour away with traffic and before I had kids, I was notoriously early. Listening to the Steve and DC radio show, they started talking about the first plane striking the World Trade Center. They were watching CNN at that point and I "felt" the second plane hit and the second tower fall through their retelling. At first...I thought it was a joke. I thought they were playing some sort of prank and I was getting angry. Not only was it not funny in any way, shape, or form, but the "prank" was lasting way too long. There were several moments of silence as they more or less watched CNN on air. I began to realize that this was really happening. I became paranoid in the car, what did this mean? Sitting in traffic near a major airport, I starting mentally playing with the idea that myself and all these other fathers, mothers, friends, and lovers were virtually sitting ducks. Traffic continued to move at a snails pace, I just tried to remain calm and make it to work.
When I arrived, utter chaos. My job was to make collection calls on behalf of Filene's Department Stores which was predominantly in Boston and New York. How in the world was I supposed to call people and tell them they needed to leave their homes and pay 10.00 in the store, or tear yourself away from that TV for 10 seconds and grab your credit card and just make your payment real quick? Especially with the sheer number of people that were in the towers and people on the planes that were traveling to and/or from either location respectively. (and of course by this time the Pentagon and Pennsylvania planes had gone down as well) I took a stand and refused to make calls. Our department VP had relocated from New York and could not confirm the safety of several people that he knew who worked in the Trade Center,he agreed whole heartedly and sent us home.
The commute home was as bad as the commute in...wall to wall traffic. I was hungry for more information. Are we being attacked? Am I safe in my car? I had daydreams of tanks running through US cities, and marshal law. I HATED the news and now all I can find on the radio are commercials? I finally and quite by accident ran across a local talk radio station that I did not know existed and stumbled upon a live feed from CNN. Confusion and talks of people jumping out of the towers, choosing to either end it all on their terms or hoping that despite the odds they would be make it. I recognized that we were all witnesses to sheer human desperation and I began to cry in my car.
I drove out to the vacant property that would one day become our homesite. My husband was there clearing the land. When I arrived, he was surprised to see me. I sat in my car and looked at the land. He had cut down dozens of cedar trees, just topping the "tree" part and leaving in some cases 4-5 foot cedar trunks cut at an angle like a spear. I remember looking out across the land and thinking that he was prepping the land to handle anyone who may try to parachute in, completely irrational, but it made total sense to me in that moment. I commented to him and he laughed and that's when it dawned on me that he had no idea. I proceeded to fill him in, we sat in my car listening to the radio for over an hour. He eventually put away his chainsaw, locked his car, and we drove home hand in hand. The first time in a long time we had held hands.
We watched TV for hours. We watched until our hearts had broken. Cried when we saw fellow humans free falling through the air, cried when we saw people bleeding in the streets, cried when we heard stories of heroism and families reunited. Then when I couldn't rewatch it another minute, I cried in disbelief and for innocence lost.
I will never forget September 11, 2001. I make it a point not to remember it as a thing that happened, but instead as a moment that rocked my soul. It changed me in so many ways. It made me conscious of family and friends. To this day, it makes me say I love you to every family member EVERY time I talk to them on the phone. I say I love you (and mean it) so much that unfortunately the random phone caller gets it as well...(guy at Home Depot, you know who you are). I am more cautious and aware of my surroundings. My friends laugh at me. Sometimes, I notice a random truck parked on the side of the road and I will make a comment about IED's. While it's never been a problem in this country before, I no longer think like it's not possible. I wouldn't call it paranoia, because I do not live in fear, but I also no longer live blind to the fact that in a singular moment everything can change. One minute your putting on mascara in traffic and the next it's running down your face.
My prayers are with all of you who lost someone, survived, or witnessed the events of 9/11 either in person, on TV, or publication. Some had so much taken away from them that day, but from my own experience, I believe we all lost something.