Eight Years Ago

NEW YORK - JUNE 01:  Gianna Frederique of Silv...
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As I write this, my kitchen clock strikes 12:00 p.m. EST. On this day, one of those anniversaries, I have stopped my work on all fronts to pen my own, personal remembrance.

I have had some teary-eyed moments today. My thoughts have ranged from the general implications of the event eight years ago to the personal implications (I lost a close friend in the World Trade Towers, I nearly lost a close friend in the World Trade Towers, a close friend lost a dear sister-in-law on one of the flights, …). There are many events in our collective history for which I do not have either personal memory or personal experience. This one, I do. I will never forget where I was or how I felt eight years ago.

I spent a great deal of  time that day scared, with my heart firmly in my throat. I spent a great deal of time crying in disbelief. Then I spent a great deal of time immersed in sadness and numbness. I tried to get information, but my internet connection was down. I did not have a radio, but collected what I could from co-workers who did. I left my office very early that morning and, in fact, we had been told that we had to leave the Boston-based skyscraper, for fear of continuing attacks. I joined the slow progression of traffic leaving the Massachusetts capital lost in thought and sadness, unaware yet of the details or implications.

Over the next hours, I vainly struggled to locate my NYC-based friends, plagued by spotty phone and internet service. I kept at it until I ultimately connected with all but one of them. I listened to their own stories of terror, sadness and numbness over the next few hours, days and weeks.

I also received calls from friends and family both near and far, wanting and needing to reach out and “touch” someone else, to reassure that there could be a sense of normalcy in our new, crazy, upside-down reality. I remember, too, the strange effects of fear and suspicion close to home, at levels I had never seen or experienced before.

Ultimately, the strangeness did slow its frenetic pace. My friends, family, co-workers and I have all pretty much returned to what appears, for all intents and purposes, to be a state of normalcy. But can you ever really feel normal or ever return to your state of being prior to such a cataclysmic event? For my part, I don’t think I ever will. Every time I look at this Disney limited edition holiday ornament, a gift from a dear friend complete with tiny pewter Twin Towers below a Mickey Mouse-shaped inflatable, my heart skips a beat. Every time I read that children’s picture book, The Man Who Walked Between the Towers, I cannot stop my tears and the familiar hitch in my voice invariably returns by the last page with the drawing of the ghost towers’ outline.

I revisited all of these feelings when I attended our friend’s memorial service. However, I am no hero. I studiously try to avoid the horror of Ground Zero whenever I travel to New York and, to this day, I have never seen video of the event itself.

I do stop every September 11 to think again on what it felt like then and what it means to me now.

I have so many thoughts about 9-11. I do not have nearly enough time to write them all down. Maybe someday I will.

For now, I think it best to honor in my thoughts those who departed and those were left behind. I honor those who responded immediately and those who direct their efforts towards ameliorating the aftermath. I honor all that is good and kind in humanity and remain hopeful that we will never forget and always look upon 9-11 as supreme motivation for peace.

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4 comments on “Eight Years Ago

  1. I was (& still am) a DOJ employee & it was a pretty stunning morning (to put it mildly). When I first heard about the events unfolding in NYC I was dismissive, thinking that some small Cessna-like plane crashed into one of the towers…that it was no big deal. Then the news really starting coming in & I was aghast. We were dismissed from our office at the US Courthouse in Boston by 11am & told to go home. A very close friend worked for Cantor Fitzgerald & was either on floor 104 or 105 of One World Trade Center as the horrific events unfolded. Apparently, he had been on his cell phone with his in-laws who were in NYC visiting him, his wife, & their new baby when phone service went down. Needless to say, he was killed this day 8 years ago. The only silver lining I can think of for this particular aspect of the events is that an unquestionable piece of his remains was found very quickly, so his family had quick closure about his death (as compared to those poor people who held out hope for weeks that their loved ones would be found somewhere & somehow). My friend’s name was Eric Sand. He would be 44 years old now. I miss him.

    And I cannot miss this opportunity to repeat something that I said 8 years ago & have continued to say ever since: I cannot & will not in any way condone the actions of that group of terrorists, but it is my opinion that the events of September 11, 2001 were the results of 50+ years of grossly misdirected foreign & energy policy. Our own shortsightedness, selfishness & greed came home to roost in a horrific way. Until we can honestly own up to our country’s history & have a clear, honest assessment of our nation’s policies (military, diplomatic, energy, etc.), we cannot move forward & find the necessary common ground with all the peoples of the other world’s nations. We have more in common with everyone else than we have dissimilarities. We need to recognize this fact before it kills us all. I am reminded of the words of warning which President Eisenhower spoke in his farewell address at the end of his presidency: “In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.” To view the full text of Eisenhower’s farewell address, follow this link: http://mcadams.posc.mu.edu/ike.htm.

    ‘Nuff said. I have to go quietly cry now.

    Phil

  2. Martha – I was sitting at my desk at work when I got word of what had happened at the Pentagon & Twin Towers. My husband had started his first day of work at a new job and it felt like the world was falling apart. We have a National Guard training facility not far from town and I thought surely that would be a target and airplanes would be running into buildings everywhere. The uncertainty left me numb. In addition, I kept trying to get word from my brother, who worked in D.C. at the time. Turns out he was in a building about 5 miles from the Pentagon. He was in some sort of meeting with other computer tech types & they got word right quick. He called his wife and told her to get out of D.C. immediately. (This was before the Pentagon was hit.) Thankfully, they were safe, but I couldn’t rest easy until I knew that. (Still makes me tear up to think about how close they were – they walked past the Pentagon practically every day.)

    The event, in all of its horror, was gut-wrenching, even though my family & I remained safe. I can barely imagine what it has been like for those who lost people in the tragedies. I’m sorry for your loss, Martha.

  3. I remember that day like it was yesterday…I still struggle with it.

    There’s so much I remember…so much detail, and I can actually recall almost every second of that day…I still get sick thinking about it…

    I remember exactly where I was and what I was doing, and actually memories that go along with each terrible event on that day. I was working for Lincare as a network admin. When the first plane hit, I was sitting in my cube, checking the previous night’s backup. The first I heard about it was from Tim, the guy in the cube across from me…he listened to the news every morning on Cnn.com, so we found out about it as soon as it happened. Tim said out loud, to no one in particular, “A plane just crashed into the WTC in New York”. Like most people, I assumed it was a small private plane that had an accident.

    I had been trying to ignore the whole thing, and soon there was a bunch of other people crowded in Tim’s cube. Eventually I got up to take a look, and at the EXACT SECOND I leaned far enough in to see his monitor, the second plane ripped through the other tower…I don’t know the significance of the timing, but I can tell you that the image I saw is one that I will never, ever forget…8 years later, it’s crystal clear (and hurts just as much). I still can’t accurately describe the feeling that came over me. It was like a combination of horrific sadness, shock, anger, and total confusion at once. The office fell silent as everyone realized this was no accident.

    When the first tower collapsed, again I was filled with horrific shock…not only was it completely unexpected, but it was knowing the fact that there were many firefighters, police, and civilians still inside the building, and I had just witnessed their deaths before my eyes. I remember talking on the phone with Regi, and crying about all the people who may have been inside the tower, and for the first time since I’ve known her, she sounded scared. And I remember feeling, for the first time in my life, that I was not safe in my own country. Even though I was here, in Florida…far from any financial or political hub of any significance….I felt I was no longer safe.

    Jack was 4 months old at the time, and was already sleeping in his own room…but that night we moved his crib back into our bedroom. It was just too scary a time to not have him near us.

    That night, I went outside on the porch for a while, just to try to get my head around everything that happened that day. At first I couldn’t figure out what was wrong, because something was very, very different. Finally, I realized what it was: no planes. There are three major airports nearby, plus an Air Force base, and a Coast Guard base. So at any given time, you look up and see (or more importantly hear) at least one or two planes going by…but tonight it was dead-silent. It remained that way for 4 days…it was very eerie.

    I have to agree with Phil…as terrible as this was, and as much as it hurts to say it…the actions of that day were in retaliation for our foreign policy decisions (and mistakes). For many years, we’ve been funding and training groups for the purpose of manipulating the governments of other countries, and we often made promises we never kept (or intended on keeping). Afghanistan is a realistic example of how we funded, supplied, and trained freedom fighters, promising them improved infrastructure, schools, hospitals, etc. We never kept our end of the bargain. After Afghanistan defeated the Soviets, we forgot all about them…until September 11th.

    As for those who would have us believe it was because the terrorists “hate our freedom”, it is a disgrace and a dishonor to those killed that day to not know the real reasons.

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