Patriot Day 2013...And My 9/11
posted Sep 11 2013 11:00PM
As September 11 comes to a close I want to take a moment to express my continuing sympathy for those who lost their lives on 9/11/01 and to their families, friends and other loved ones, who have been forced to endure daily reminders of those acts of terrorism and their aftermath.
Also I would like to convey my ongoing respect and honor for those who responded to the victims, many at the cost of their own lives. May their courage never be forgotten.
On September 11, 2001 I was in Bowie, Maryland. I was working as a land surveyor and my crew chief decided to leave the work truck doors open so we could listen to the radio. We soon realized that there was no music playing on any stations. Within minutes we stood silently, listening to the news, our instruments forgotten in our hands. As we listened, our collective horror mounted as we realized this was no joke but a serious and ongoing situation.
My crew went about our job like drones, all three of us pale and shaken. We recieved a call from the home office, who let us know the office was closing for the day. We were told to finish what we were doing and come on in. We completed our tasks silently, loaded our gear into the van silently, and spoke barely a sentence between us as we drove back to the office.
By the time we got there most of the staff had already left, and those who remained appeared just as shellshocked as I was feeling. In a daze I walked out to my car, got in and started the drive home.
At my apartment I turned on the TV and stared at it dumbly. As the news continued and new information came in dribs and drabs, I gained a greater realization of the enormous gravity of the situation. I put my head in my hands and when I took them away they were moist. I realized I was crying. I didn't even know it.
I don't remember much of the rest of the day, other than that I hardly moved from the sofa where I sat and stared at the television. My roommate had moved out some weeks before and I had scheduled an interview with a prospective replacement for that evening. When he showed up I engaged him in perfunctory conversation, then said, "If you can give me the rent for next month, you can move in whenever you want." He gave me the money and left.
Sometime around 11 that night I realized I hadn't eaten anything the entire day. I had no appetite, but I slapped together a sandwich anyway and nibbled at it. I don't remember going to bed. I do remember waking up the next morning hoping it had all been a dream. Of course it wasn't.
I remember driving to work and marveling at how odd it was to see no planes in the sky as I passed BWI. Later I drove the loop road around the airport and stared with a new horror at the tarmac, which was absolutely full of planes. It was more planes than I had ever seen in one place, and not a single one of them was moving. When I think back on 9/11 now, that's the first image that comes to mind: a huge lot, absolutely choked with airplanes. They stood in silent sentinel rows, as though in tribute to the hijacked planes and those aboard who had died.
The second image that comes to mind occurred excactly one month later. On November 11, I attended my first class at Connecticut School of Broadcasting, beginning the long road that would eventually bring me to WAYZ. CSB's DC campus was located in Crystal City, Arlington, VA, and to get there the first night I drove through downtown Washington to Interstate 395 into Virginia, Looking back I'm not sure why I went this way. It certainly wasn't the quickest way. As it happened, this route took me right past the Pentagon.
Having seen the Pentagon on TV almost continually for the past month, I was nevertheless unprepared for how absolutely enormous it was in real life. It was without question the largest building I had ever seen, and still is, for that matter. The highway was directly adjacent to the side of the Pentagon that had been struck by American Airlines Flight 77. The sight of that building with such a gigantic hole in it was nothing less than shocking. It looked as though the wall had been struck by a wrecking ball. The idea of such destruction having been perpetrated intentionally was inconceivable. Yet there was the evidence right in front of me.
I continued on to school and began my classes. But I was shaken, and that feeling didn't lessen for some time after. In a way it still hasn't. I haven't flown since then and have no desire to do so, even all these years later. The idea of getting on an airplane terrifies me, quite frankly, and I'm not sure what I'd do if I were placed in a position where I had no choice but to fly. I guess I'll cross that bridge when I get to it.
9/11 was one of those events that divide American history into a before and after. Other such events include Pearl Harbor, the assassination of President Kennedy, and the explostion of the space shuttle Challenger. But 9/11 was the first of these to occur when I was an adult, and it remains a large and looming memory in my mind. I remember experiencing alternating waves of dread, fear, and horror. For a long time after, like many other Americans, I worried that more such acts of terrorism were coming, and that they could happen at any time. Even when I heard on the news that many of the known members of al-Qaeda had been captured the worry remained. Even five, six, seven years later I worried. The worry lessened over time but never really went away altogether.
The world truly is a different place today. September 11 was designated Patriot Day, and on this day we remember the victims of 9/11 as well as those who worked to rescue them, those who contributed to those rescue efforts directly and indirectly, and those military personnel who have placed themselves into harm's way throughout the War on Terror. Many lives were lost on 9/11 and in the days, months and years since. They may be gone but they will never, ever be forgotten.