Like other historical events, I’ll never forget where I was when I learned about the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11th, 2001 and the impact it has had since then.
With the exception of Princess Diana’s death in 1997 and the Space Shuttle explosion, this was the first significant historical event that really touched me or had a profound impact on my life. Thankfully I didn’t lose any friends or family, but it still affected me deeply.
I recall that I was at work and listening to, of all the odd things, Howard Stern. Working in the cubefarm always annoyed me so I tried to plug into internet radio as much as possible to drown out conversations and annoying sounds. It was Howard Stern who reported the first plane hitting the first tower thru my earbuds that day. I remember trying to find details online but found nothing. Then a few minutes later he said something like oh my god another plane has hit the other tower. Oh my god, this has to be terrorism.
At that point I stood up in my cube and announced to the office that America was under attack. Me and about a dozen of my co-workers were frantically searching online for any details whilst another co-worker was flipping stations on her clock radio also looking to hear from the media more details. About a half hour later our boss came over to let us know and found us all huddled together, having already heard the news.
We didn’t get a lot done that day. One of the techies managed to get the huge screen TV in the conference room tuned into The Today Show and most of the office (about 100 people) packed into the conference room to watch it all unfold. It was just awful to watch and we kept hearing reports of alleged threats in our area (Detroit) and lots of other crazy theories and speculation.
Thankfully at the time my husband worked in the building next door to mine so at lunchtime he brought his lunch over to my building at watched TV with us. We were all far too upset to eat. A lot of people left around lunch time to pick up either kids from school and get home. Those of us without kids stayed in the office and comforted one another. We had learned that our CEO’s son, a guy who worked in my department for a while before I started there, worked in one of the World Trade Center towers near the top floor. I never knew him, but many of my co-workers did.
I remember driving home that afternoon feeling very scared but also noting the kindness of others. There was no road rage. I was very surprised at this time when everyone was scared and just wanting to get home that there was no impatience or rage. Other drivers were waving at one another as if to say hey how you doin’, you OK? I remember calling friends and family to make sure they were OK and receiving lots of calls myself. I remember calling my mom to see if she had heard anything from my cousin who lived in Brooklyn at the time and falling to my knees crying tears of relief when I learned that she and her husband and boys were in Italy that week.
The week after the attacks I barely slept. I was so sad, angry, fearful, and confused. When I was home the TV was on constantly. I couldn’t turn it off when I went to sleep as I felt the need to be in the loop constantly in case anything else happened. I remember crying frequently and being embarrassed about the extent to which the attacks affected me. The next Sunday in church (this is when my husband was still trying to drag me to church with him and I was going to make him happy), they did a patriotic thing. Lots of god bless America, America the beautiful, Amazing Grace types of things and I lost it. I ran out crying and stayed in the bathroom for the rest of the service and never went back to church again. All part of my “if there really is a god why does shit like this happen” attitude. In addition, not a single one of my “friends” there followed me out of the sanctuary to see if I was OK.
I remember a light a candle campaign the week after. I think we were supposed to light candles on our porches or something to shine a light on the world or some such thing. I have this huge candle holder. It’s about 5 feet tall and made of cast iron with a glass part that’s bigger than a vase. I remember dragging that bigass thing out onto my porch and cramming a huge Yankee Candle jar candle inside (yeah it’s THAT big) and muttering a few choice words to the terrorists as I lit it.
At some point, not exactly sure when, I sought professional help. The week after the attacks my boss gathered my team to talk about it and to remind us that if we needed to talk to someone about what happened that we have an employee assistance program that we should take advantage of. Part way thru his spiel I lost it again and left the room in tears and some of my co-workers laughed at me. For some reason they though it was completely hilarious that I was upset and crying. So yeah, I needed to talk to someone and took advantage of the EAP for a few weeks. The counselor was very rational and talked some sense into me. We agreed that I was definitely on the unstable side and I was totally overloading and burdening myself with too much information. I agreed to turn the TV off and try to focus on other things. More positive things. To stay vigilant and observant, but focus on the positive and not worry about the what-ifs.
Slowly but surely life got back to normal. But it’s impossible to forget. I understand the “never forget” mantra. But honestly, how could anyone ever forget? It’s impossible.
To this day seeing images of or just thinking about September 11th brings all those feelings right back to the surface. I will never understand that level of hate and insanity. I don’t understand how someone, or groups of someones, can justify and carry out such acts of violence and murder. It makes me sick, it makes me furious, it breaks my heart.
Mentally I’m much better but I’ll never forget and I have to carefully choose what I’m capable of doing on September 11th anniversaries, particularly this year which marks the 10th anniversary. My fife and drum corps has been invited to play at an event honoring some Maryland residents who were killed when the Pentagon was attacked. I’d like to participate and pay honor to them but I fear that the combination of the music and the day’s significance will make me cry and I’ll be a distraction and an embarrassment so I’ve declined. Music on an insignificant day can sometimes move me to tears so I don’t feel at all confident about combining the two with success.
Instead, my husband and I will be spending this morning in quiet reflection. Then later in the day we’re going to run in the 9/11 Heroes Run which honors the 9,000 men and women who gave the ultimate sacrifice on that day and whilst fighting the war on terror since then. I’ll likely cry but at least I can run the anger and emotion off.