Thursday, September 8, 2011

Where were you?

You have to live in a hole this week to not be bombarded with the upcoming 10-year anniversary of the World Trade Center attacks on September 11. Everyone is discussing where they were, what they felt, and what they remember of that day.

I don't think you care or need to know about my recollection of the day since it likely isn't much different than your own. Plus, I sort of don't get... okay, I totally don't get... why we need to mark the tenth year other than, of course, to sell media. I don't mean that out of disrepect. Actually, I think every year, those lives lost and the events of that day should be remembered with such fervor.

But, one day, my memory of September 11, 2001 may not be as clear as it is today, so I think it is important to document it, if only for my children and their children, and so on. This year seems to be the year to do it.


I sit at the same light every morning that I come to work. Rarely do a catch a green light at this one particular very open-viewed intersection, and on the morning of 9/11/01, it was no different. I distinctly remember looking  up at the sky staring at its crisp, clear blueness as I waited at the red light.

From that intersection, I had to drive two more blocks to get to work. I was listening to normal morning news jibberish on NRP.

By the time I turned off the car and walked inside to my office, it had been reported on the news channels that a plane had hit one of the towers.


Ten years ago, you couldn't just click on your computer and get play by plays of events like we can today. I know. OHH. EMM. GEE.

Our office has a TV in the waiting room, so I headed up there to see what was being reported. Never in a million years did I think that it wasn't a horrible accident or pilot error. Apparently, my boss didn't either, because he was giving me the "get back to work and stop watching TV" stink eye every time he would acknowledge my presence in the waiting room.

By now, every major network was reporting with live footage of Manhattan and the Twin Towers. And then, it happened. The second plane. The second tower hit. On TV. While I was watching.

I felt like the air had been completely sucked out of me. No one was able to say a word in the waiting room. There was panic in the voices of the news anchors.

Live images of people jumping out of the towers, and then the collapse of the South Tower, had me in such shock and disbelief that I couldn't stay to watch. What was happening does not happen in America.

I went back into my office where we listened to the radio. We couldn't work and act like it was just a 'normal' day. Yet, no one was telling us to go home... Be with your family... Hug your children... Keep them safe.


I called my sister, who works in downtown Cleveland. As we were on the phone, someone said over my shoulder that the Pentagon had been hit. I told my sister, and she broke into tears.

If my recollection is accurate, buildings in downtown Cleveland were soon thereafter evacuated, which was likely a result of the confirmation that Flight 93 had also been hijacked.

That morning was the first time I had ever heard the names Osama bin Laden and el-Qaeda. Crazy what goes on when you aren't paying attention.


I headed home earlier than usual that day. I knew that Audrey, who was three years old at the time, was safe. But, I felt that I needed to be with her and Matt. Screw work.

I never took my eyes off the sky on my way home. The day and sky had turned eerily quiet, but I thought if "they" could orchestrate such a coordinated attack on American soil, anything is possible. It may not be over.

In fact, when I look at airplanes in the sky, to this day, I think, "I wonder if..." and "I hope not..."


Our friend, Colin, is a pilot, and his wife, Kim, came over on the evening of 9/11. Colin had been flying that day (if I recall correctly, he was in New York) and with the airspace closed, it would be days before he could get back home. Thankfully, he was safe.

In the days that followed, Matt and I watched CNN nonstop. We always allowed the TV to be on with Audrey in the room because we knew she was entirely way too young to be able to fully realize that the images she was seeing were real. God knows it was hard enough for us.

Still to this day, I don't think Audrey completely understands what happened on 9/11. Unless you were mentally or physically present, I don't think you can fathom it.

There has only been one other time since I saw the people jumping, the plane hitting, and the towers falling that I have felt the level of air-sucking helplessness as I did on 9/11. And, that was when Matt and I sat in the theatre watching the movie, Flight 93.  


Where were you and what were you doing on September 11, 2001?


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