Sixty years ago, America was broadsided in broad daylight with much of the same circumstances. As a matter of fact, the attack by the Japanese December 7, 1941 on Pearl Harbor is the only major event of such a dark nature to top September 11, 2001. This generation seemed insulated from such a brazen assault on our doorstep. But if 911 taught us anything, it was that the feeling of being "safe" was a relative concept.
September 10th had come and gone. A "normal" day just like any other. September 11 was here and we were not prepared. I can't recall exactly what station or broadcast those of us at AA in Atlanta were watching --perhaps the Today Show-- but I can remember them playing the scence of the crashes over and over. It was a breathtaking sight, fascinating in a weird way. We didn't want to look at it, but something forced us to watch it over and over, as many times as they played it. I'll never forget that.
By this time the Pentagon had been hit and the terror spread. There were rumors that the White House could be next.
We had finally gotten all of the passengers out of the terminal or at least in our part of the building. I felt so sorry for them. They were like sheep without a shepherd. But we all began to discuss, in hushed tones, what was happening. Especially our coworkers who had perished on the two AA flights. There was a vortex of emotions in my mind: anger, deep sadness, hopelessness, fear, anticipation (was it over?). That's when a thought jolted my mind. My wife. What about my wife!? She too was at work that day in an Atlanta high rise. I dialed and redialed her office number trying to get her on the line. She wasn't answering her cell phone either. That wasn't unusual.
No Safe Places
But finally she picked up her desk phone. I didn't wait.
"Honey, get out of that building now and go home!"
My voiced cracked a little. Yes, there were some wild thoughts going through my head. What building was next to be attacked and where? I kept thinking I don't want to have to raise my children alone. After seeing what saw on that TV, I guess a million other people were thinking the same thing. No high rise is safe.
"Honey, she said, "We haven't been cleared to leave yet."
"I don't care! Tell your boss that this is an emergency and you have to leave. And then just do it!"
She told me she had another briefing to go to and promised me she would get out soon.
American finally let me go about 2:45pm. There was nothing else we could do there. Emotionally exhausted from the day's events, I drove home and cried. My wife got home about an hour later. She found me glued to the TV watching every picture, listening to every word. I remember feeling numb and empty. I didn't know one soul personally in the Twin Towers, but I felt this agony at knowing they had to die in such a way. And as they had done thoughout the day, the networks showed over and over the crashes, explosions and the towers falling down. Who would have ever thought. I had several postcards of the towers that I had bought in New York back in '83 when I was stationed at Fort Monmouth, NJ. I pulled them out and looked incredulously at them.
Nightmares and dreamscapes
I probably shouldn't have watched so much TV. I was already a news junkie and this really made things bad. I know this sounds crazy but for the next 2 days I did much of nothing except watch the TV, cry and sleep. On Sept 12, the nightmares began. I dreamed I was in a plane and it crashed into a building. In another dream I saw people that I knew get on a plane and then saw it crash. I felt like I was losing control.
On September 13, I was scheduled to fly to Lansing, MI to speak at a church, but since the whole US was a no fly zone, the trip was cancelled.
Where were you on 911 and what were you thinking? I invite all bloggers to help remember and recall so that we don't forget those who were lost. And prayerfully we can regain our national sanity. I think that even though it has been five years, it is still fresh in our minds. I respect those who don't want to talk about it. I understand.
Tomorrow: 911: Where were you? Part III