Friday, September 11, 2015

9-11 Remembrance

Where was I when the world stopped turning?

I was at my desk, at work.  It was a Tuesday, we had a new employee starting, and I was going to take her around and take her under my wing, tell her how things worked...  I was fairly senior in that department a lifetime ago.

As I took a break, I checked a message board (a cooking board, as it happens), and I read that a plane had struck one of the World Trade Center towers.  I thought it was probably a little private plane, and hoped everyone was OK.  I believe I said a quick prayer.  I was busy.

The magnitude of the event struck me as the day wore on.  One of my dearest friends, best buddies from the age of 14, worked a couple blocks from the WTC.  I knew people who worked there.  I had been there many times, and I knew how many people worked there.  I thought how many would have been killed, and it made me sick.  In fact, the death count was far less than I had expected, but still too high.

Oddly enough, I never saw the footage of the attack, never saw the towers crumble with all the people inside them.  I watched the news unfold, listening to the radio.
Globe from the World Trade Center


Images caught my attention - a river of rescue workers going UP the stairs as the towers were about to crumble...a man, covered with dust, standing on the edge of Ground Zero and shouting to the workers, asking if there was something - anything - he could do to help.

There were all the discussions.  I read a post on the message board from a Canadian who actually said, 'Americans need to think, seriously and without offence, what they have done to provoke this attack.'  And she thought she was being sweetly reasonable.  I replied that it was like telling the family of a murdered jogger that they needed to think, seriously and without offence, what their murdered loved one had done to provoke the attack.  She left the board.

Just this year, 14 years after the attack, I learned that a man I'd worked with and liked a great deal, who had left my company to go to New York - and happy he was to be back in the Big Apple! - had died in the first tower. 

And I never saw the videos.  I work in a business that deals with damage, injury and mayhem.  I have a very strong stomach, and I probably know, better than many, the effect of an injury on a human body, and the progress of disintegration of that body after the human dies.  I decided it was not fitting.  I knew what had happened, I had lived through the trauma of the news, I had followed the rescue efforts, I had wondered and questioned and clenched my fists.  But the footage was never being played when I had my attention on the event.
I suppose I could watch it now.  But I have other images now.  That man, shouting his offer to help.  The survivors reporting the river of rescuers going up the stairs in that doomed building.  People joining together from all over the world to send support of all types.  Images of light.

I had a chance.  In the heat of discussions and arguments and grieving, a friend posted THIS is why I am angry!  And she posted the footage.  I watched the plane come into the screen, watched it circle around, straighten -   And I stopped the video. 


Never forget.  And always remember that even in the darkest times we can find the light.

29 comments:

  1. Thanks, Diana. I know writing this had to be hard.
    Your piece brought tears to my eye. Even though I lived "safely" in San Diego at the time, we really, truly, must NEVER forget September 11.

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    1. Thank you, Inge. I have come to think that what we must remember is the grace and heroism of the people around us. Odd to think that we are surprised by it, but there it is... Thanks for stopping in!

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    2. Diana,
      I mentioned your article on my blog with a link back here, hoping more people will read this and not only reflect on that terrible day but - as you said - remember the heroic efforts of men, women and the wonderful search canines who rallied together.

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  2. We can find the light. I love that. Thank you.

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  3. Beautifully said, Diana. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this horrible event.

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  4. I just watched a documentary about two men , Pablo Ortiz and Frank De Martini, who rescued over 70 people from the North Tower. It's 9/11 Heroes of the 99th Floor. There was a lot of heroism exhibited that day by ordinary Americans.

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    1. I think people are generally ready to step in and be heroes at need. We talk about the nastiness of society and forget the heroes just waiting to be discovered.

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  5. We will NEVER forget Diana !
    I was home with 2-year-old J.J. & I had to watch it all unfold because with the missing 4th plane , ALL I could think was " What is the NEXT tallest building between New York & Washington D.C. " ? TWO LIBERTY ! Which , I believe , You were referring to when talking about work . Obviously , my heart was in my throat knowing all the people working there with you could be in SERIOUS peril !

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    1. With J.J. the danger must have seemed doubly close. I kept wondering where they would hit next. Thanks so much for stopping by, Jay - it's wonderful to see you here!

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  6. Nice to know people have been stupid and insensitive about reacting to tragedy and violence for years. :p

    But it is a little comforting to realize others stepped in to help.

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    1. Someone said that the only thing you can do with people is to love them. Sometimes it's rather hard. Thanks for stopping by!

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  7. I can't imagine how difficult it was to know someone who worked nearby. That would have been difficult.

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    1. Thank you, Stephanie! Fortunately, the word came quickly to me, and it was good news, for the most part. Those who had to wait were much to be pitied.

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  8. I am British, I live in Devon, England, though I lived on the outskirts of London at the time of 9/11. Just looking at that image of the plane makes my stomach turn over.
    The thing that struck (frightened?) me most was the next day when I was walking to work. All planes had been grounded and it was so eerie with no planes going over. Inge mentioned your post to me..
    It was beautiful, thank you.

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    1. Thank you for visiting, Helen. The eeriest moment I experienced came nearly two months after the attack. I was driving the 300 miles between my home and Philadelphia, along a large highway. People had pulled over onto the shoulders and were looking up into the sky. I looked, and I pulled over, as well. We were gazing at a group of airplanes, the first that had been in the sky since the attacks. It was odd how quickly we had forgotten their existence.

      ...about the English (accounting for a good share of my ancestry): It was not until I had grown up and studied history that I realized for the first time, with its full impact, that for several years the only things standing between Hitler and the domination of Europe were the stout hearts and resolute courage of the people of the British Isles. I'm not sure enough credit has been given.

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  9. Gosh, what a moving post. Thank you, Diana. Beautiful and so sad.

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  10. Thank you, Yvette - I always marvel at the people who say 'so the towers fell: it was fourteen years ago. Get over it!' You do move on, but the fact of the impact remains.

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  11. We were watching the coverage in my class until they sent us straight to our 5th period class, then home. I've seen the footage so many times, I wish I'd never seen it. Beautiful post, though.

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    1. I was happy that I hadn't seen it. Still haven't, to this day. I do remember bringing in supplies, seeing if they needed blood donations (they didn't, as a matter of fact). It hit me the hardest this year when I thought, "You know, I haven't seen Joe since I left XX company in 1998, He went to NYC, I know... I wonder how he is." I 'googled' his name, since it was an uncommon one, and he had been an attorney. And I found him. There was no mistake. His family had provided a photo, and that was the man.

      Thirteen years, it had been, and I had been looking forward to reconnecting... The loss felt very fresh, a regret that I couldn't phone him and say, "Hi! Remember me?"

      Thanks for stopping by.

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  12. I was walking down the hallway on my way to class for my first day of my sophomore year of college. Someone came running down the hall, saying something like what that cooking message board said. I stood there is shock- you know those moments, where your brain can't make sense of what it's just heard. Then I ran to the commons to see what was going on. They still had the tent they'd set up for freshman orientation standing in the main commons, and they'd pulled in TVs hooked up to really long extension chords, and the whole campus crammed in there to watch. There was the usual confusion- frenzied college students trying to fins out more information because they lived near there, or someone they knew and loved worked inside. No one knew anything, no one had answers, but everyone cared. I myself was too cowardly to sit and watch the news all day- or the images as the buildings came down.
    But I saw my fellow students holding each other, and crying. I saw the signs going up- by the hour- calling for group outings to the red cross to give blood or supplies or whatever. I saw cardboard boxes asking for donations of any kind to be sent down down there. I heard the prayers at the candlelight vigils and saw the fear we all shared.
    And as time passed, the thing that I remember most about that time wasn't the news or the growing discrimination against anyone who looked like they came from that part of the world or the fear-mongering used by the government to take away freedoms we didn't realize we'd be taking for granted. No, it was the flags. Everywhere I looked, every road I drove, every state I passed through- there were American flags and prayers and messages of "we stand with you". Those flags, more than any other single thing about that time, stand out in the map of memory as what defined this country in the aftermath. It wasn't fear or anger or disillusion- it was love.
    Thank you for reminding us.

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    1. Hi, Beverly -

      I had forgotten the flags. I remember I got home, thought "Well, if someone wants to kill an American citizen, I'll let them know that one lives here." And I put out the flag. They were everywhere. They were beautiful, and the messages of support...

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  13. A powerful and emotional post, Diana! I was getting dressed in the bathroom where we had a little tv. It was on when I walked in, and I saw a hole in the first tower. Morning news reporters had no idea what was happening yet. I couldn't get a coherent sentence out, and yelled to my husband that there was a hole in the building. The moment I saw the second jet appear live on the screen, I knew it was a terror attack. I had to go into work to meet the vice principal even though I was off-track. While I was at Starbucks, I saw the first tower come down. Stunned! That's not supposed to happen. As soon as I was finished with my meeting, I went home. I had planned to do some work while at school, but I went home and crawled under an afghan to watch the coverage. It was all surreal. One of my sisters in Calgary had an officemate killed in one of the towers; that's when I realized that this touched families and friends all over the world. I'll never forget; it ranks up there with my memories of JFK's assassination and Columbine. Things like this change you forever.

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    1. It's hard to express the strangeness when you are touched by a tragedy and it hits you that it is real, that it is not a movie, and people you know and like are involved. I'll never forget getting a call from my best buddy's mother saying (she had a lovely, silvery voice), "Diana, I wanted you to know that I heard from Martha. She is safe and well." (Martha worked two blocks from the WTC. I hadn't realized how uptight I was until I suddenly relaxed, too stunned to cry.

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  14. How amazing that even now you haven't seen the footage. It feels like those images have become part of our culture now, a symbol of some sort. Yet somehow they have never lost their power.

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    1. Hi, Kate -
      It truly is odd. I haven't been avoiding it, I just haven't been seeking it out. I went to a wonderful talk given by Kenneth Feinberg, who was the Special Master for the 911 grants (where the families were given, gratis, some compensation for the loss of their loved ones). He was amazing. He knew the work would be hard, and he studied and spoke with clergy of all kinds, with psychologists, counselors... He spoke of the cases that kept him awake at 3am. Some of them were heartbreaking, some uplifting.

      Thanks for stopping by!

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  15. Beautifully said. We will never forget!

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