Thursday, September 11, 2008

Where were you? September 11, 2001

Where were you seven years ago today?

Where were you when you heard?

I remember opening my AOL e-mail and seeing a picture of the first hit of the twin towers. At that moment, the media assumed it was an accident, but something didn't feel right.

I switched on the TV and called my mother, who lives in NYC. She hadn't heard anything. I told her to turn on her TV. When she did, she said there had been a second hit.

No accident. I begged her to stay put and leave the TV on. I told her that I loved her, and I hung up.

After the buildings collapsed, too short a time later, I tried calling her again, but I would not be able to reach her for another two days.

I reached D. and asked him to come home. He wanted to wait for more news reports to come in. Fifteen minutes later, he called back to say the office was emptying out and he was on his way home.

C was homeschooling, so he was home with me. I wasn't one of the hundreds of thousands of parents that day scrambling to pick up their children from schools or daycare.

We checked the supplies in our tornado shelter area. I tried to keep C occupied, but still keep up with the news.

I became the same sleepless zombie that so many of us were during those first few days. News became my food, my sleep, my friend, my family, my lover.

It was not healthy.

Slowly, reports came in about friends and family in New York.

I was exceedingly lucky - I lost no one. But virtually every person I knew from home had lost someone - a mother, a brother, a friend of the family, a friend of a friend, the grandmother of an acquaintance, their son's preschool classmate's father.

The shock waves went on and on.

Ironically, the person I knew who had the closest loss to me was a woman I knew in Ann Arbor. She lost her son that day, and his three children and his wife lost their father and husband.

The loss to police and firefighting companies was beyond imagining.

The sad stories seemed to (and still do) go on and on.

So, on this day of remembrance, take a moment to hug someone you love, call someone you care about, be just a bit kinder or more patient when you might not have been otherwise.

Counteract this horror, this act of extraordinary violence and hate, by trying to do something nice for the world.

Let's try to tip the scales back towards healing and love.


thailandchani said...

Rebecca at Gratitude Practices had a saying today "The war on terror begins within."

That kind of says it all, doesn't it?


Goofball said...

I was in Crete visiting archeological sites, oblivious to the fact that the world had just changed.

In the evening while waiting until it was my turn to shower, it took about 5 min of mindless flipping through the Greek channels before it sunk in that all channels were broadcasting the same....the same horror images.

Every year I have to think back how something like this could happen and you can be totally unaware of it for so long. It's very odd.

Last year I saw the docudrama "9/11, the day the world changed" made by the BBC and much more than any broadcast before it so touched me. For the first time I really really had to cry over 9/11. They've rebroadcast it last night in Belgium and I saw it again.

Mikaela said...

I love you mom!

Alex Elliot said...

I was driving on the highway and I was so shocked I pulled over and called my friend in NYC who's husband I thought worked in the World Trade Center. We had moved from NYC a year before, but fortunately all of our friends were alright. I remember the next day in class (I was doing my post-BA) there were a lot of empty seats because so many people had family and friends who were victims of 911.

Mikaela said...

And I was having a snack before heading off to dance when the news came on. I called Karin, left the TV on, heard how the reporters started talking about a second hit, the collapse, a plane headed for the pentagon. I went to dance, and the subway was filled with people on their phones getting the news from somebody.

School the next day was filled with long conversations and discussions about what had happened, what happened right then and about who we knew over there. The papers were filled with terrifying pictures. It seemed we just couldn't get enough of the videos showing the two hits. They showed it over and over, and still nobody could believe it was for real.

I was terrified the world would just explode.

Sarabeth said...

I was in a 2 hour yoga class. We knew nothing until we left the confines of the room. The contrast of our inner peace with the crazed pandemonium of that day remains with me.

Anonymous said...

Great description, Jen! You really captured the essentials.

Korie said...

I was just getting out of my statistics class when the first plane hit. I watched the second plane from my next class. It's on mah blog....just took my a while to post today.

thailandchani said...

Forgot to reply to your request to know where people were :)

At the time, I was still working and had worked a night shift on Monday. I got home around 2.30 a.m. on Tuesday and slept for a while. I woke up early a.m. and couldn't get back to sleep. I turned on CNN to lull me back. It happened to be around that time the planes hit the towers.

I was groggy but thought it was probably Osama bin Laden at the time since he's been using planes as cruise missiles all over the world for 20 years.

Unlike most, I wasn't all that shocked by the fact that a terrorist attack had occurred in the US. Terrorist attacks had been occurring in major cities throughout the world for quite a while - nearly all of them Al Qaeda or its offshoots. It also wasn't the first attack on US soil.

I didn't go back to sleep though. I stayed up and watched CNN all day. When I went back to work that evening, we watched coverage there as well.


anno said...

I remember how cautiously we all moved afterwards, as if, if we weren't careful, the world might shatter.

Unknown said...

taking care of ourselves, each other, and the world. May this come to pass. Thank you.

Valerie Harrison (bellini) said...

I think it is a date that we will always remember no matter what country you're from.

Anonymous said...

Excellent post. Like you, I didn't lose anyone personally, but everyone I knew from home had. All I wanted to do was get in my car and drive home.

Anonymous said...

Counteract this horror, this act of extraordinary violence and hate, by trying to do something nice for the world.

This is one of the best things I've read today. Thank you.

Seven years seems such a long time ago and I can hardly remember what it was like to live in a pre-9/11 world.

Sister Sassy said...

Great Post.

I was campaigning in SW Detroit for Hansen Clark (it was voting day for Det City Council) when a bunch of women started screaming that the Arabs were attacking us. I pulled my car up and turned on NPR to see what was going on.

When we understood, most of us left. I went to my internship and put a paperclip into the old tv so we could get a signal, then spent a good part of my day in front of the TV. Later that day we learned Jim's great uncle (from the UP) had died and we had to drive 11 hours north. It was an interesting and surreal time. We spent days watching the footage...and then we turned it off and I can't bring myself to watch it again.

Proud Italian Cook said...

I was home sick with the flu and glued to the tv in disbelief!

Momisodes said...

Thank you for the reminder in acting kindly.

I remember every second of that morning. I just arrived home from working the night shift. I turned on the Today Show while getting ready for bed, and saw it all unfold. I was single, alone, in my 400 sq. ft studio. My brother, SIL and my best friend, all worked near the towers. I thought I would never see them again.

April said...

What a great tribute that would be. I get sad, not only for what was lost that day, but how poorly it was handled.
Sorry. You probably didn't want to go there, but that's where I go.

nyc/caribbean ragazza said...

I remember every moment of that day as well. I was living in L.A. but most of my friends are in NYC.

It wasn't until the next day that I found out one of my friends was dead. He worked at Cantor Fitzgerald.

Jen said...

Chani - very good reminder.

Goofball - I'm with so many folks here who just can't watch it again. I read that the Tunnel is burning for a second day - I'm so sorry!!!

Mikaela - love you, too! ;-) I think a lot of us were terrified "the world would explode"

Alex - it seems several of us on this list shared similar thoughts and reactions.

Sarabeth - that would be quite a contrast indeed.

Mae - it was bizarre trying to capture what went through my mind at the time. I guess it does boil down to essentials, doesn't it?

Lilac - it was a great post. There have been many wonderful posts on the subject - it's so important to keep this date and its aftermath in mind.

Chani - I was aware of Bin Laden at the time and had had a friend who only narrowly escaped the fire at the Towers from the earlier time in terms of the Sheik's conviction that was the supposed catalyst for 9/11, but I hadn't had the background you did - how were you so aware of him and Al Qaeda?

Anno - that's a great description

Greg - it's the one of the few ways I can respond these days. Responding to violence with violence is the easy answer, and sometimes it's necessary, but I'd like to search for more complex answers.

Thanks for that reminder, Val.

Oh, Jerseygirl, I was SO there with you!

Thanks for the kind words, Dingo - I can't imagine the pre-9/11 world, either, and I so desperately want to.

Sassy, I'm with you on rewatching the footage. That trip up north must have been truly surreal. I was very grateful that I didn't have to leave my home other than brief periods.

Marie - I'm glad you were home and safe, but sorry you were sick!

Oh, Sandy, that would have been horrifying. I can't even imagine it.

April - that's definitely another part of where I go. Absolutely.

NYC - a close friend had just left Cantor Fitzgerald the year before. I was so grateful she was gone from that place. I'm so, so sorry about your loss.

Betsy said...

We had just moved back to the States after 8 years abroad. I was 8+ months pregnant and home with a precocious toddler. I remember the shock I felt, the horror, and the question that kept haunting me:

"How can I bring a child into a world where peace and safety are so precarious?!"

Jen said...

Wow, Betsy, that must have been rather terrifying. What I didn't mention here is that we'd only had our German daughter with us for a couple of weeks. All of the students were given the option to return to their home countries after the dust settled. Her family paid us the ultimate compliment by trusting us to keep her safe, and we had a wonderful year together.

Flower Child said...

I was at work in DC. The whole thing was just chaotic - the towers and then the Pentagon. I had to reassure everyone (through intermittent phone and email connections) that while I was in DC, I wasn't exactly near the Pentagon. We walked home from work that day after the mad rush of cars and the whole place was eerily quiet. Then came the soldiers staked out on every downtown corner. It's not quite that tense anymore but we still have more x-ray machines per capita than any other city I know.

glamah16 said...

I was getting ready for work and watching GMA. My mother had died the mOnth before. I was in shock and was scared in the highrise we lived in overlooking the lake in Chicago. My friend called and said get out. She thought Chicago could be a target too. I didnt want to go to work in another highrise downtown and since I had a field job I just drove to the burbs. Everyone was calling each other to check on everybody. I rembered feeling helpless because my protector, my mother wasnt alive and I had no clue what to do. I spent the next few days in awe and disbelief. I knew none of the victims, but had friends who did. I did loose a classmate years earlier in the Pan Am Locekerbie crash.

Karen Olson said...

I was the only one in the newsroom at the New Haven Register when one of the advertising guys came in and asked me to turn on the TV, because he'd heard on the radio that a plane hit one of the Trade Center towers. We watched in horror as the second plane hit.

Because I was the only daytime copy editor on the newsdesk, I was charged with putting out a special edition that afternoon. I barely had time to breathe and it didn't sink in until I got home, when the endorphins melted away and all that was left was rubble.

A girl I went to high school with was one of the flight attendants on the Boston flight.


I was at work at a church in Tulsa. Husband worked there too. He was in the media offices and they had the TV on. A bunch of us huddled in there and watched as the second plane hit.

I remember the silence and sadness that was everywhere. Everything just seemed darker for a week or two.

For a year or two after that, I was always profiled at airports and had to step to the side and be hand searched. I'm mixed with white, black, east indian, chinese, spanish - no one knows what I am. If it meant MY airplane was safer, I was happy to oblige.

The profiling has stopped. Quite frankly, I would like for some of it to start back - it made me feel safer if that makes sense. (Before I get hate mail, let me say I don't want people arrested and hauled away without a trial for how they look.)

Anonymous said...

I was at work. My boss flew into the office and said, "There's something going on in New York." We turned on The Today Show and watched the second plane hit. I'll never forget the horror of realizing that this was happening on purpose.

The plane that ended up going down in PA had entered Cleveland airspace, which prompted our corporate office to close our branch offices in the area.

I drove home that day, watching the sky, wondering what could happen next. I was glued to the TV for the next 24 hours.

It was seven years ago. Seven years. It doesn't feel like it.

Jen said...

Those were some really poignant stories.

FC - I'm still amazed by the measures in NYC - I can't imagine what it must be like in Washington.

Glamah - that must have been horrifying on so many levels. We've talked about it before, but again, I'm so sorry for the loss of your mother.

Karen - I can't imagine trying to get out an edition of that scope in that amount of time. It's stories like yours that truly remind us of what journalists go through. It's easy for us to "bash the media" but we forget what extraordinary skill it takes to cover something immense and do it in a way that is coherent when our own emotions may be bouncing around like ping pong balls.

Widney - I see your point on both sides - yes, security and safety is good, but the profiling still makes me ill. There have now been many memos circulating in Michigan that voters are going to be challenged based on color, age or facial features and it just infuriates me. I was tapped for screening three times in two years and I'm a white woman who looks every inch like a suburban mom, so I'm not sure why I was singled out, but... so you have it. I lived in Russia for a while, and maybe something came up on my ID or something.

Leslie, it really doesn't feel like seven years, does it? For me, in some ways it feels like no time at all and in other ways it feels like forever.

Anonymous said...

In a strange twist, I spent a good part of this Sept 11 on an airplane flying into a Hurricane!

But in 2001 I was teaching at IUP which is only 30-40 minutes from Shanksville where Flight 93 went down. Someone ran in shouting to turn on the TV and then ALL of my student's cell phones began to ring...parents FRANTIC to talk with their know they were safe....I couod have dismissed the class, but I didn't. We TALKED AND TALKED about what this might mean and how we, as teachers, had to learn that even though we were all terrified inside, we had to be calm for the children in our classrooms. Then I went down to my office, closed the door, and sobbed.

Cynthia said...

Here's my story:

Thanks for inspiring me to write it.

Becca said...

The world (as we knew it) seemed to be teetering on the brink of destruction during that horrible time. It's something we can never forget, that's for sure.

My husband and I were actually on a plane that morning, and all planes were forced to land, so we spent three days in North Carolina, about halfway between our son's home and the rest of our family in Michigan, wondering what was going to happen next.

Anonymous said...

My day started with my husband calling me and saying "I'm ok, but I just drove the car through aguard rail at 45 mph and I think it's totaled." The cops couldn't believe he walked away from the car.

On the way to the shop, the tow truck driver told us someone had flown a plane into the World Trade Center.

National grief eclipsed my near-loss, but I still remember 9/11 first as the day I was almost widowed.

painted maypole said...

beautiful post

Jen said...

Wow, Hotmamamia - that's quite a story. I had a classroom full of third graders who watched the Challenger blow up before their eyes. That was one of those truly odd moments as a teacher that I'll never forget. I'm sure you were a great comfort to your students on that day.

Mom - I just dropped a note on your blog and I'm going to read your post fully tomorrow.

Becca, I can't even imagine what that would have been like. It's one of the times in my life that I really, really wanted to be AT HOME. (And, lucky for me, I was).

Eat - I went through a similar crash with D and C where the car was completely totaled and they both walked away. That must have been totally surreal, given the combination of circumstances. I'm so glad your husband was okay.

PM - thanks.

Núria said...

I remember that horrible moment when a friend of mine called me and told me to turn the TV on and watch what happend in N.Y.
I couldn't believe what I saw. I was with my small daughter at home and my husband was working at the office.
I felt that the 3rd world war was about to happen soon. I cried for all those people who were suffering... it was a horrible day, days, week. I remember that days passed and the noise of a plane would drive me crazy.

w said...

I was at work and the receptionist told us to go to have a look at the news. I couldn't believe what I was seeing.