Thursday, September 08, 2011

Memories of 09-11 by S.D. Grady

As the 10th Anniversary of the attacks on America come around, I don't think there are many Americans who are not thinking back on that horrid day.  I still struggle to understand what happened.  I still shed tears when I think about it remains incomprehensible to me that humans would do this to one another. I offer up a piece I wrote on the 2nd Anniversary for you to think about.  I don't know that much more has changed in eight years...

Written September 11, 2003

What happened that day two years ago. We all have our own memories. We were all affected in some way by those terrible events. My life since has continued much as it was before, and that might be a good thing in many ways. I have not been forced to bend in fear to the terrorists; a small victory in the war. But for a few weeks in September 2001, that was not entirely so.

It happened on my way to work. I always listen to the radio in the morning, “Matty in the Morning,” something fun and perky while I stare at the traffic. The DJ came on with an odd announcement. “Apparently a plane has crashed into the World Trade Center in New York. That’s a doozy!”

I thought it a curious announcement. Figuring it must be a small craft, but none the less a newsworthy story, I switched the station to WBZ, the local news radio. From the moment I listened to the first live report in Manhattan, life slowed to a crawl.

I was stuck in bumper to bumper traffic. Realizing that it would take forever to reach my exit a mile away, I turned off on the “emergency” exit I use in such cases. This road twists and turns through grave yards, suburban neighborhoods and inner city slums. The scenery passed by as I listened in stunned silence to the surreal report of a major airliner slamming into the first massive tower. The reports were confused, erratic and unbelievable. And then the second plane came.

I knew it then. This was intentional. This was evil. Fear, anger, impotence and sadness rushed through my body.

Rumors of more planes missing. The Air Force scrambling. Maybe we have to shoot down some of the planes. Targeting the Pentagon, the White House, the Capitol building.

I pulled into the parking lot at the theatre, ran into the lobby and dialed my husband at home. He was still asleep. I heard the answering machine pick up. I yelled at him to answer, hung up and redialed. Again the answering machine. I started babbling at the machine. He picked up.

He turned on CNN and MSNBC and relayed the breaking news. The planes had flown out of Logan Airport in Boston and were supposed to fly to the West Coast. A tiny prickle of irrational fear added up some things. My father often worked at the Pentagon, he often flew out of Logan, he often flew to the West Coast. What if…

I had to know if he was safe. Frenzied phone calls to his home in Maine resulted in busy signals. And more busy signals. I could imagine my mother dialing frantically trying to find him. A moment of clarity offered itself to me. He could be on-line. I broke company regulations and sent an e-mail. Five minutes later he called me. We both cried with relief to know that our family was intact.

Meanwhile, another manager had gone back home to get a TV. He watched and relayed news to the floor as the fourth plane went down in the Pennsylvania fields, as the towers fell, as we all stood and stared. And then across the parking lot we spied a small army of children.

Across our parking lot is an office building. A mere 15 floors, but a “tower” anyway. It houses tech companies, a major phone switching station for the city, a police training school and a not so secret FBI office. And in its basement, a day care.

The tower was emptied in fear and the children had nowhere to go. We opened our doors and brought everyone in. A video tape was put on the video wall- that helped to distract. Crayons from coloring contests were dug out. Popcorn and lemonade were dispensed. Cribs were rolled in. Parents were called.

It took almost four hours for all the kids to be picked up. We let them watch a movie to help pass the time.

Over at the tower, it looked like the Army had descended. Fire trucks, bomb squads, police cars and local media. Nobody could enter our parking lot without passing a safety checkpoint. Later that day, a passing Police Officer stopped and said a few arrests had been made around the city. He didn’t say what for.

As the week passed other changes arrived. Our back parking lot became a gathering point for emergency crews. Several times a massive amount of emergency workers from many communities would suddenly appear- to make sure they were ready. The next day the tower was evacuated again because an employee called in a fake bomb threat.

We had to remove promotional material for “Spiderman”. Most of it showed a helicopter crashing into a giant web strung between two eerily familiar towers. Other soon to be released films pulled shots of Manhattan that showed the towers.

A young man on an exchange trip from Germany was noticed taking pictures of the office tower in the parking lot. The other managers wanted to call the cops. I asked him what he was doing. He said, “Taking pictures of the leaves.” While he waited for the theatre to open. Wrong place, wrong time.

I refused to watch the news. They would only show the towers crashing down again.

Almost everyone at work knew or knew of somebody that died that day. A small boy, a distant cousin of mine, was in the tower that morning. My cousin, who is a union organizer, had led the restaurant workers at the top of the tower in their contract negotiations. They were all dead. Entire companies from Massachusetts were on those planes.

We hired a security guard to stand in our lobby all day and check everyone’s bags- for what, I often wondered.

I follow the news and listen to the on-going war with Iraq. Time has softened the edge of my anger, but not completely. A death for a death is not right, either. But, can we just let the evil that led to that day continue to exist? I don’t know.

I still drive to work every day and run the movies, providing an escape from a world that is sometimes very wrong. Perhaps that is something. Perhaps it isn’t.

The sun was shining bright this morning. It was shining two years ago, too.


Judith Leger said...

I was at work when the news came over the radio and I, too, knew something was wrong. My first thought was to go and pick up my kids and go home.

Yes, it was so far away from where I live but not at the same time. This happened on our soil, to our people and for a reason so inconceivable that I still have trouble understanding. Thanks for sharing.

Amber Green said...

I was working downtown Tallahassee then, just barely in view of a sliver of the state's Capitol. We'd been told Shrub would probably be in town today, and hoped the visit would be brief enough not to mess with traffic.

Some news sources said a private plane had crashed into the first tower. My boys' dad called and said no, he was looking at the news feed and that plane looked like a 737 at least. When I relayed this info, my co-workers dismissed this as rumor or a man who didn't know planes. When he then told me a plane had hit the other tower, I repeated his announcement to an attorney who'd previously worked at Walter Reed. All expression left her face. Of all the things I saw and heard and thought that day, her impassive face sticks with me most clearly. She looked at me for maybe a second, maybe ten seconds. Then, without a word, she picked up her keys and left.

Some genius decided to make a number of the downtown streets one-way, without notice. Gridlock resulted. Because my children were at school way off on the edge of town, I figured they were safe where they were. I also figured that if chunks of building started dropping on the streets of Tallahassee, I was safer in a building than stuck in a car that couldn't go anywhere. A Vietnam vet and I stayed for some hours, answering telephones and waiting for the gridlock to ease up. He was very quiet. I didn't have anything to say either. We stuck together, though. Finally my school called and said come get your kids so the teachers can go home.

I took my kids home by a long, circuitous route to avoid crossing downtown. I wouldn't let them see a TV or a newspaper until the announcement that nobody was going to show any more footage of people raining from the sky. I didn't want my boys to live with that nightmare.

Ren said...

I was working EMS at the time in California. I came in for my shift and found everyone around the t.v.

I thought, at first, I was looking at a movie until the second plane flew into view.

That was when I knew.
The word came down that we were to clear the streets immediately, go to the nearest EMS facility. The entire city was on lock-down.
We were hearing that places in California were being targeted.

I couldn't get to my daughter until the lock-down was lifted and even then I had to wait since I was EMS. As a single parent it was terrifying.

To this day, I still can't wrap my head around such an evil act.

DA Kentner said...

Like so many, I was at home when the attack began.

My son was on a rooftop working on plumbing in NJ, right across the bay. He saw the planes hit the twin towers. Everyone was ordered down from the rooftop. Then the union boss asked for a volunteer to go back up and cap the pipes.

Whoever did it would receive eight hours pay for that half hour of work.

Son raced up the stairs.

It took him two hours to make the twenty minute drive home.

S.D. Grady said...

Thanks for all your memories. It truly helps to show that we all were effected by this tragedy.

Anonymous said...

That was the most horrible, life-altering national tragedy I've ever lived through. I think part of it was because I was old enough to fully appreciate what it meant and had two young step-children to protect and try to help make sense of something so utterly senseless.
Funny thing, though: The Captcha that will allow me to post this comment reads "exist." On that day, a small group of extremists decided that because we didn't look, act, or believe as they did, we had no RIGHT to exist. As a nation, as a people, or as individuals. It was a heinous act of war, and I shudder every time I think of the lives lost and the lives forever altered because of it. At the same time, I'm proud of my country and how we pulled together. Have we always gotten it right? No. But for all our missteps, we showed the world that we wouldn't bow down.
And that's what it means to be an American.
Excellent post!