All weekend I’ve been reading people’s blog and Facebook posts about their memories of 9/11 and of course have been thinking about my own.
Like the majority of the Tuesdays for the last 10 years, I was at work on September 11, 2001. I used to come in to the office very early because I liked being the first person there – the quiet of the office gave me time to make coffee and check my personal email (these were the pre-laptop and smartphone days for me). So I’d guess I’d been at my desk close to 2 hours when my coworker got a call from a friend of hers who sounded sort of shaken up. I put the call through to her and after a few minutes made my way around to her office to see what was up (we were all nosy like that). Sherrie was already online, checking out cnn.com – which would become our tenuous connection to what was happening in our country for the next few hours, that and the radio since we didn’t have a television in the office.
We did not see the planes hit either building and for that I am so glad, because it’s shocking enough to watch it ten years later, knowing what’s going to happen. Instead we each sat at our desks, frantically refreshing our web pages, hoping for new information and reports that would tell us it was all over. I remember wondering when it was going to end and what this would mean for our country.
Another coworker came in to the office and hadn’t heard anything so I quickly told her what was happening and urged her to call her daughter who lived in NYC with her family.
We gathered in one office, sitting on the floor and listening to the radio, hearing Dan Rather’s voice crack as he reported the first tower’s collapse. I remember feeling disbelief that this was actually happening, thinking it couldn’t be real. Terrorism was brought to our doorstep in the worst, most unimaginable way. We would each steel ourselves away to call family and friends, checking our computers for more updates. I was on instant messenger with my SIL in Texas when the second tower went down. Again we wondered when it was going to end.
After that I don’t remember much. I’m pretty sure we went home early, unable to concentrate on work or think of anything else. At home we watched the news, seeing and hearing all the reports in real time, not having to wait for a website to update or for a server to allow us access to the information.
The next few days were just a blur. We were all in shock and we were so far removed from the epicenter of what happened, I can’t imagine what it would have been like to be closer to what happened. My coworker’s daughter was safe, no one I knew directly was in NYC or on a plane that day. Yet, I moved through life feeling dazed, unable to compute what happen, to believe that there were people in the world so filled with hate and so driven to bring ruin that they would so these things. People die every day, natural disasters happen and kill larger numbers of people, but this was different. This was calculated and motivated by hate and so, so senseless. Pure evil.
I remember the silence of the skies overhead. Our office was fairly close to the airport and we were accustomed to hearing planes coming in for landing or taking off and for days it was quiet, aside from the fighter jets going to and from a nearby Air Force base (hearing those jets still makes me shudder). A friend got married the following weekend and it was a welcome couple days of happiness and celebration – we were all grateful to forget about the rest of the world and get wrapped up in something so joyful.
The following month friends and I planned a girl’s weekend in Chicago – a tradition of ours – and we happened to get a hotel in the shadow of the (then) Sears Tower during the Chicago Marathon weekend. We had a great time but I’d guess we were all a little freaked out when we heard a plane above us, praying the city would not be a target and that another attack wouldn’t occur.
It’s true, life goes on. We were all affected by what happened on 9/11, whether directly or indirectly, whenever we are faced with our own mortality and weakness, we can’t help but feel something – outrage, fear, worry, sadness, disbelief. A year later, I arrived at work at the same time as my coworker whose daughter lived in NYC; it was another beautiful day with clear blue skies. We got out of cars and met in the parking lot as a plane was flying overhead, having just taken off from the nearby airport and we hugged each other fiercely, both of us sobbing because despite the passage of time, those feels were still so fresh and familiar, forever connected to that day. But things continue to happen – people get married, babies are born and trips are planned – we keep living our lives with the new knowledge that things can change quickly. We survive and come back stronger, knowing what we can withstand. Because we have to have hope and faith that good will win over evil in the end; and that evil doesn’t get the last word.
The Friday after 9/11, there was a television special called America: A Tribute to Heroes that brought together celebrities and musicians in a way I hadn’t seen before – of course since then, it’s happened other times for New Orleans and Haiti. I listened to the CDs from those performances with great regularity since then because the emotion was so raw and the love so evident. Those songs helped heal the wounds I felt from 9/11, because good can be born in adversity and love does win, no matter how strong the hate. Life is hard. God is good. Heaven is certain.
There Will Come a Day | Faith Hill
Peace on Earth/Walk On | U2
Imagine | Neil Young
My City of Ruin | Bruce Springsteen
Long Road | Eddie Vedder and Neil Young