Wednesday, September 11, 2013

September 11, 2001

Twelve years ago today I was a new mom, just 28 years old.  I worked from home for a marketing research firm and divided my days between that job and taking care of our six-month-old.  We had been in our house just under a year.  Getting there was a nerve-wracking process, since we had moved after only being in our previous house for a few months, and several events happened around the move that caused us financial and emotional grief.  I hadn’t given any effort to make friends in our new town, and had very few, including the neighbors we knew a little and the girl down the street who had been my helper over the summer while I worked.

I don’t remember the details of how I felt about life in general that day.  Likely I was trying to get acclimated to a new schedule.  My son was a high-strung baby but ate and slept well.  My husband and I took zillions of pictures of him and traveled to show him off to family or hosted family at our house nearly every weekend.

Around 10:30 in the morning that day, my mother called me to tell me that the young woman who cleaned her house kept calling her to update her on the planes.  I was in the dark, had no idea what she was talking about.  I never watch TV in the daytime, never listen to the radio.  I asked her to explain.  She practically yelled in exasperation, “Andrea, two planes crashed into the World Trade Center this morning…”

I don’t remember anything else she said.  I turned on the TV and saw what the rest of the world had already known.  I was dumbfounded to see the fires, the dust.  All four planes had done their damage.  Both towers had already collapsed by the time I got to the news.  All those people, gone.

The phone rang.  It was a co-worker, asking about the project I was helping him with, wanting my portion of it now.  I asked him if he knew what was going on in our country.  He said that he did but indicated that his work was more important than me sobbing in front of the TV.  I told him he’d get the work and hung up on him.

I don’t remember if I did any more work that day.

My son was napping.  I dragged him out of bed and brought him downstairs with me, hugging him close.  He didn’t mind.  We watched the TV together as I cried, his baby-ness and innocence soothing me, keeping me on earth when I felt like I was hurtling into thin air, my body turning inside out.  I called my husband and begged him to come home.  I was sure that we were at the start of a war, expected to see gun-toting guerillas in my backyard ready to take my home, my son, my country, my life.

There was an email from my husband’s aunt who worked in Washington, D.C., asking if I had seen the news, explaining that she was trying to call her mother to let her know that she was OK.  Explained that her building was evacuated, that all the trains were shut down, that she wasn’t sure how she would get home, that she and her co-workers felt like sitting ducks.  She asked me to call her mom.  Did I call my husband’s grandmother that day?  I don’t remember.

The images of people covered in dust, the stories of people jumping from the upper levels, the shoe stores handing out shoes to people forced to walk home from the city, the unimaginable actions of the heroes that had lost their lives to save others, knowing that one of the planes went down in the part of the state where my parents live, the clean-up crews, the grieving families, the never-ending news coverage – watching Katie Couric and Matt Lauer grow more weary and more disheveled as the days and nights wore on, seeing them when I went to sleep late and when I woke up early, my husband and I sitting on our bed watching, watching, watching to see what happened and what was to come: all these details wrap up around that one day, the day that our country changed in so many ways, the dawn of the era that we now live in.

September 11, 2001: I will never forget what I was doing that day.  I am only one person from generations of others who can say the same thing about this and other historical events.  My story is only one, but it is important because I remember.  When we remember important events, we have the responsibility to teach our children about it, to honor those who served, and to remember those who were lost.


What were you doing on 9/11/01?  I’d love to hear your story.

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16 comments:

  1. Dear Andrea,
    So glad you posted this morning. My own children are about your age, and I also remember their disbelief, along with my husbands and my own. To this day, it seems impossible that such a horrific act played out right here in our own United States. I went to work that morning, and like everyone else, just couldnt believe it was happening. When I arrived at work, I had not heard. There is so much rushing around in the mornings, I generally do not turn on the TV. I still vividly remember the fear that day, and for a long time after that we were being attacked and it would continue to happen. So very sad. It is awful to think that this is everyday life in some countries...I can't even imagine living like that. We are all so truly blessed....every day of our lives...keep writing....i will keep reading..and appreciating that you take the time....

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    1. Thank you so much for replying. I'm so glad you mentioned the blessings that we all have here. It's easy to forget that when the world seems to stop.

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  2. I was at my former office in Tarrytown, NY (just north of Manhattan) when the first plane hit the WTC. I kept switching my attention from the CNN page on my computer that I was constantly refreshing out the window to the beautiful day and I just couldn't process the contrast between them. My brother and his then-fiancee both worked in Lower Manhattan at the time: I tried frantically to call them both, over and over, but got no answer. Finally they managed to get word to my parents on the West Coast that they were okay, and my mother called me. My now sister-in-law worked at Cantor Fitzgerald at the time. She survived because she was late for work that day; she came out of the PATH station just as the plane hit her office. (When she and my brother married a month later, she was late for her own wedding, and nobody said a word.) My brother, initially thinking that she was in the building when the plane hit, actually got into a physical fight with the firemen that were trying to keep him from going into the building to get her. Many of my coworkers lived in Manhattan and couldn't get home that day because all the roads in and out were closed, so the company actually rented hotel rooms for everyone near the office. I couldn't get home fast enough--fortunately for me, the bridge I needed to take to 'escape' was far enough north that it wasn't closed, so I was able to leave. When I got home, I sat in front of the TV for the rest of the day and cried. A horrible, horrible day.

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    1. Oh my goodness. This is such a close to the heart story. I can't fathom the fear that must have been palpable in the city that day. Thank you for sharing.

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  3. We are close to the same age and I will always remember, too. Event though I was far removed geographically, I was working as a 911 dispatcher at the time. In the early hours no one knew what was going on and our center was so busy implementing emergency protocol and fielding questions from worried citizens who we didn't have answers for. I can't even imagine the horror of the dispatch center in NY.

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    1. I can't imagine being in that job on that day, either. So many in need, scared, and confused.

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  4. My aunt worked in the pentagon where it was hit, but she was away on training. She lost all her co-workers, but she, herself was saved.

    Our home was in NY, but we, ourselves, were in Africa, and had to take a taxi to a nearby café so we could watch it on the news. We didn't have a TV.

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    1. That is terrible. My heart goes out to your aunt. I can't imagine her grief.

      I remember your story about watching the coverage in Africa from your memoir. Such a feeling of helplessness that day.

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  5. I was living in England at the time. I watched the coverage from just after the second plane hitting. I felt so alone, being so far away. I also felt afraid that opening my mouth and my predominate accent put a huge target on my back, so I didn't leave the house for three days, until my next shift at work made me rejoin the world of the living. Sorry this is all one big rambling sentence, but even after 12 years, that is still how my mind feels thinking about that day.

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    1. I know what you mean. Our fears made us irrational that day and in the days after. My husband was the only one in his company to be called home that day. Later I felt a little silly about making him do it but I was just so fearful. I'm sure you were, too, being so far away from home and unsure what the world had in store next.

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  6. I am Canadian. But as a citizen of the world, that day is etched in my memory, too. I was on the phone and I had the Today show on when I first saw the news. I remember feeling off-balance and afraid because of what was happening in the world. And then seeing the images and hearing all the stories afterwards, there was just so much sadness.

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    1. It was just such a huge tragedy and overt threat that no one had seen in our part of the world in so many years. I think paired with the fear and confusion was a sense of shock that clouded the world that day.

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