I saw a commercial last night for the new Steven Spielberg special about 9/11. Just a few weeks ago, I was reading through Facebook and noticed that someone “liked” a 9/11 Tenth Anniversary page. “Has it really been 10 years,” I said to Zef. “Seems like longer,” he said. And he’s right. I can barely remember what life was like before 9/11. Before plane travel became a pain and the stock market lost it’s mind and gas prices became outrageous. I remember the day everything changed though.
I was at my desk that Tuesday morning when a co-worker popped up out of his cubicle and said a plane has just crashed into one of the World Trade Center towers. His wife had called. She was a nice lady, but as a housewife with a cleaning lady and a grown child, she was prone to calling her husband in fits of contrived hysteria. If I remember correctly, I rolled my eyes as he darted down the aisle and into the conference room with the TV. My friend stopped at my cubicle, “Let’s see what’s going on.” Peter Jennings was giving the news report. The three of us watched without understanding. Surely it was an accident. Who flies a plane into a building? Some of the company executives were starting to file in the room now. They had a meeting at 9:00 am and were only vaguely interested in what the Marketing Kids were doing watching TV in their space. Because the president of the company was running late for the meeting, we were still standing there watching the live broadcast when the second plane crashed in the South Tower. The men in the room all jumped out of their chairs. They knew something was wrong, but I just stood there dumbfounded. “What does this mean?” I asked the company vice president. I had grabbed his arm without realizing it. “I don’t know,” he said. He put his arm around my shoulders like a dad comforting his child. We were the only ones who had spoken. Everyone else seemed to be holding their breath. It’s amazing to me that 30 minutes passed before anyone moved again. We were transfixed on the news. When Peter Jennings announced that the Pentagon had been hit, the VP, who still had his arm around my shoulders, spun me around, took my shoulders in both of his hands and said, “Go clear the other conference rooms and tell everyone to get back to their desks.” I was shaking. I was terrified. I knocked on the door of the adjoining conference room. Most of the people already knew about the first plane crashing into the WTC. Some were annoyed I was disrupting their meeting. “The Pentagon has been hit,” I said with no fanfare at all. My throat was dry and I felt pale. I did as I was asked and went back to watch the news. When the first tower collapsed, I naively assumed the building was already evacuated. When the plane went down in Pennsylvania, it never occurred to me that it was supposed to be rerouted for the White House. At 11 o’clock, I went back to my desk. I turned my CD player over to radio and turned the dial to NPR. I shuffled papers on my desk and listened. There was a frustrating lack of information. I wanted to go home and see my mom, but the building was on lockdown. We weren’t going anywhere.
In the days after 9/11, I was glued to the news reports. The whole thing was so diabolical I couldn’t wrap my brain around it. I cried as reports came out about workers in the WTC making last phone calls home. Their families were still looking for them, putting up posters, making pleas on TV. I have a memory of President Bush having tears in his eyes when he visits Ground Zero, but I can’t remember exactly when that happened. My heart broke for him and I wasn’t even much of a fan of his. In 2008, I was giving a presentation to soldiers returning from Iraq about PTSD. I told them PTSD comes in varying degrees. I made an offhanded statement that I seriously thought I had PTSD from the news reports after 9/11. I couldn’t watch the news or violence of any kind for a good nine months afterward. I thought they would laugh at me. They were quiet, some of them nodded.
It seems to me that there is a underlying agreement that life changed forever that day. That’s why the soldiers didn’t laugh. They understood. Even though I was 30 years old on September 11, 2001, I was still a very sheltered girl. The events of 9/11 jerked a knot in my very being. I knew I had to stop being an irresponsible, impetuous girl and start being a grown up with some investment in the world. It took a while, but I got myself in order. I left my marketing job and went back to school to become a social worker. And I think there is a part of me, somewhere in the back of my heart and mind, that tries every day to be worthy of living past that day.
Where were you on the morning of 9/11/2001?
Currently Slowly Reading: The Help by Kathryn Stockett
Training Log: Activity: C25K W4D3; Activity: Cycling, Time: 45 minutes, Miles: 20