Sunday, September 11, 2011

Always Remembered

I’ve thought long and hard about taking the time to write down where I was and what I was doing on 9.11.01, and despite having a sister working in New York City, and a husband working in Washington DC, I have come to the realization that there is nothing that I could add that hasn’t been said already.  I do remember cloudless bright-blue sky that day, I do remember frantically trying to get in touch with both my husband and my sister to make sure they were ok but what I have harbored all these years is the guilt I eventually would feel when an employee interrupted me in the middle of a task I was doing (looking back on that task it was virtually meaningless in the grand scheme of what was to unfold that day) to tell me that she heard on the radio that a plane had flown into the World Trade Center and I snapped at her for breaking my concentration. In my head I saw a little Cessna-like plane with an inexperienced pilot that had lost control and accidentally clipped into one of those massive and impenetrable buildings, and I promptly went back to the task at hand unencumbered with feeling. It is from that momentary lack of feeling I will carry that guilt for the rest of my days. 

And then we heard it, the announcement on the radio that a second plane had flown into the other Trade Center building and I really think at that moment we all knew that this was clearly no accident.  How things unfolded after that I can’t recall, we had no TVs so we were reliant on the radio, phone-calls, and the internet.  I don’t remember when I heard about the Pentagon or the plane that went down in PA, but I do remember being on the phone with my sister in New York when the first tower fell and hearing the reactions from her roommates.  We were all sitting on the floor of the Director’s office in silence staring at one another and my colleague Troy asked if we could pray together, and looking back on it now I can’t think of a time in my life where I have ever wanted more to join hands with people, ANY people, and say a prayer.  I will never be able to recall the words said during the prayer, but the words didn’t matter, it was the temporary joining of our souls that did. We all needed that moment together.

Very shortly after that I received a call from my husband that his Air National Guard unit was being called to Andrews Air Force Base and my heart fell. Until that moment it had not occurred to me that he would be needed and everything past that moment proceeded in a dream-like state.  I wandered from work to my apartment (it was less than a 10 minute drive) to wait for Shawn to come home and it was during that time that I caught my first glimpses of our temporary hell on earth… the last real memory I have from that day is standing in the parking lot of our apartment building sobbing watching Shawn get into his car dressed in fatigues and driving away.  I stood there crying in the same spot for what felt like an hour but probably only equated to 5 minutes in reality when one of our neighbors who I had never met came out to me, wrapped her arms around my shoulders  and walked me back to my apartment. I don’t know that I ever saw her again after that day. 
It would be 3 days before I saw Shawn again. I had never sensed such a feeling of hopelessness until 18 months later when he was deployed to the Middle East in preparation for war with Iraq.  Since that time I have honored September 11 as we honor our country’s Independence Day.  Every year on the anniversary I faithfully place flags around the front of my home to keep the memory alive, and my neighbors have adopted the practice as well.  As I sit here today and watch the services being held at the 3 crash sites, and the reverence being paid to their memories during the NFL games I am reminded of proud I am to be an American, and our ever-enduring spirit.  

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