If you’re old enough to remember what happened on September 11th, 2001, and perhaps even if you don’t remember it, today is a day to reflect on the best and worst of what humanity can bring. The worst: terrorists killing hundreds because they’re mad about US foreign policy vis-a-vis Israel and Saudi Arabia. The best–watching New Yorkers and Washingtonians in particular, and Americans in general, bond together dealing with this crisis. The outpouring of love and support following this dark day was nothing less than stunning.
My reminiscences of the events of 9/11 : I woke up that morning to hear Spike O’Dell on WGN announcing a plane had just crashed into the WTC. I thought it must have been some bizarre kind of accident, perhaps a plane had a major structural failure or tried to avoid another plane and lost control. I turned on the TV news to see what was going on, just in time to see the second plane crash. I remember hearing Katie Couric saying “Oh my God, there’s _another_ one” or something along those lines. My stomach lurched and I thought, “That was no accident”. I had to get ready for work, but the images pouring in about the destruction and absolute panic were so compelling it was impossible not to watch, and the responses of citizens, police, and fire departments were amazing. It was gut-wrenching and heartening at the same time. Stories started to come in about people being rescued and some jumping to their deaths rather than burn alive. I tried to call my aunt and uncle in NYC, but the phone lines were jammed and I couldn’t get through. For 3 days I wondered if they were alive or if they, too, had fallen victim to these homicide bombers. Not long after, a third plane crashed into the Pentagon. All planes were ordered to land at the nearest airport soon after. United Flight 93 was reported as missing, as was a Delta flight. Then the Delta flight landed. Flight 93 crashed in Pennsylvania.
I called my husband’s unit to ask what was going to happen to their unit, because they were on active duty for two weeks in Germany and all flights had been shut down. Point Man had been on a United flight to Germany with the rest of his unit only 3 days prior. The unit administrator freaked out–he hadn’t heard what had happened yet and had a lot of family in NYC.
Then the news came that one of the towers collapsed. I was driving to work by then. I nearly had to pull over, the shock was overwhelming. I knew hundreds had just died in one horrific moment. When I arrived at work, we listened to the radio until one of the staffers brought in her portable TV. We watched the second tower plummet to the ground, taking hundreds more to their deaths. All we could do was watch in stunned silence as the remaining firefighters frantically dug through the WTC rubble to rescue any survivors and fought the fires raging at the Pentagon. Tears streamed down our faces as we watched the agony of a city under attack–OUR city, the city that represents America to so many around the world. We were powerless to do anything but pray–pray for the people who died, pray for the firemen, pray for the paramedics, pray for the police officers, pray for the injured, pray for the families who mourned their lost loved ones or rejoiced when learning their loved ones had made it out of the WTC and Pentagon alive. We could not tear ourselves way from the TV as the networks replayed the crashes and the collapses over and over again, trying to make sense of the senseless violence, trying to give us news, sometimes conflicting about what was happening and why. It was heart-breaking, confusing, chaotic, and frightening.
I was filled with dread and hope at the same time–dread because I knew that the actions of these homicide bombers meant war. It was inevitable. I was filled with hope as the entire country rallied around the people of NYC and the Pentagon to help them in any way they could. I cheered along with everyone whenever someone was rescued from the rubble alive, and cried with everyone whenever we heard the too-many sad stories of those who did not come out alive–their final calls to their wives or husbands or parents to tell them that they loved them, the 911 tapes of panicked victims. I breathed a huge sigh of relief when my sister called me to let me know my aunt, uncle, and cousins were OK. When my husband came home 10 days later, I hugged him tight. So many lost loved ones that day, and I wept for their loss. I was blessed because I had not lost anyone I knew.