Friday, September 9, 2011

where were you? (9.11.01)

Knowing that the 10th anniversary of 9/11 was coming up, I've done a lot of reflecting.  I have recorded and watched several shows that recapped every detail of that day.  I don't know why I want to put myself through watching it and feeling that emotion all over again, but it's something that I'm drawn to do.

I didn't know anyone who lost a loved one on 9/11.  I didn't know anyone who was even in New York or DC the day the towers and the Pentagon were struck.  Do all Americans (or humans?) feel this strong connection to what happened, even if they weren't directly affected? 


I was 21, living in Tennesee, and working for a group home for kids with developmental disabilities.  I had driven up north to visit my fabulous boyfriend (who turned in to my fabulous husband) and spend the weekend with his family at their cabin on a small lake.  R had been off work on Monday but had to go back that Tuesday morning.  I had to work Tuesday night so I got in the shower after he left for work.  He lived at home with his mom and dad at that time and worked just 5 minutes down the road. 

After I got out of the shower, I went back into R's room to finish packing up and getting ready to go.  I walked out to the living room and R's mom was sitting there watching the news in silence.  It was obvious that something serious was happening and it wasn't long before I understood that a plane had crashed into the first tower.  It was shocking and sad, knowing that lots of people had lost their lives.  I went back to R's room to gather my things and turned on the T.V.  As I was sitting there, I watched with the rest of the world as the second plane crashed into the second tower.  I remember a gut-wrenching feeling washing over me as I realized that this was in no way an accident.

Still though, I didn't realize the gravity of what was happening or how it would affect so many people for so many years to come.  I know I had a conversation with R's mom about it, but I don't remember what was said.  I think we were both in awe.  I got on the road to head back home because I had to work that night.  I listened to news radio, as the coverage was the only thing that was on all day as I made the 5+ hour drive back to Tennessee. 

As the events unfolded ... the Pentagon was struck...the towers collapsed... I wondered when it would end.  How many lives would be lost? I listened to it all as I drove and drove and drove.  The road felt different that day.  There were no planes flying taking off or landing as I passed airports.  I sobbed in my car as reality set in.  I got home in time to get to work and as I walked in, it was quiet.  Usually a rambunctious group of kids and co-workers, they were all gathered around the television watching the news.  We did our jobs but stayed tuned in to what was going on.  I remember around 8 or 9 that night, we all took turns going to the gas station to fill up because there were reports that gas prices were going to soar.

In the following days, as the death toll climbed, what had happened started sinking in.  I remember seeing signs with messages of love and support and American flags everywhere, uniting us as fellow Americans.  Not just white people or black people.  Not just Democrats or Republicans.  That was before the blame and accusations started.  Before all middle-eastern Americans were regarded as terrorists.  Before I realized how very alive racism is in America.  Before our country was torn apart by this war.  The death toll continues to climb today.

When I watch these shows today, I feel just exactly like I did 10 years ago.  I feel sick with grief for the people that lost their loved ones.  I get overwhelmed with emotion, imagining how scary it must have been to be on one of those planes.  Or to be in one of the buildings, watching as the plane came straight for them.  Or to be a firefighter or policeman climbing up the stairwell when everyone else was climbing down, knowing that I might not come back out.  It pains me to think about the innocent children that died.  The children that were left without one or both parents as a result of what happened.  In an instant, life changed for everyone.  We can't go back and un-crash the planes.  I can't un-see it on television and un-hear it on the radio.  I can't un-feel what I've felt for the last 10 years every time I think about it.  I feel so drawn to and connected to this tragedy and I can't explain why. 

I can't imagine what it's like for people who were directly impacted then and those who continue to be affected by it now.  My heart goes out to them today and every day.  I can't believe it's been 10 years. 


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