Believe Me, I Remember

Today is the sixth anniversary of the terrorist attacks, and remembrance ceremonies are being held in New York and at the Pentagon, among other places. I won’t be attending any of these; after all, I wasn’t directly affected — other than being a D.C. resident on that day. I can still recall, however, that morning in 2001, right down to the most inane, minute details.

Here’s a just a sampler of the things I remember:

  • Wearing a summery, lime-green linen skirt, even though it was after Labor Day, because it was the most beautiful September weather I had ever seen;
  • Hearing from Mary, as she arrived in from parking her car, that a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center;
  • Sitting on the floor around the television in the tiny communications office with a dozen or so equally stunned colleagues;
  • Learning that a plane had hit the Pentagon (true), and that there were explosions at the State Department and on the Mall (both false);
  • Realizing that it wasn’t a series of accidents or coincidences — that it was something;
  • Calling my sister and imploring her to leave her office at 17th & Pennsylvania and go home because she was just too close to the White House;
  • Watching the second tower crumble on the monitor behind the clueless, droning CNN anchor’s head;
  • Being told by the newscasters that, if the fourth plane appeared to be headed for the White House, it would be shot down over Northwest D.C., which is where my office was (and is); and
  • Feeling relief when Flight 93 crashed in Pennsylvania.

And there’s the the thing I wish I didn’t remember, or that I could deny having felt, but I do and I did. To this day, I am devastated by my reaction; my only excuse is that in the moment I felt that perhaps the loss of those lives had possibly saved my own, or my sister’s. It seems absurd and trite and ridiculous in hindsight, to have actually been that scared.

Thus I learned the nature of terrorism: fear triumphing over rational thought. The more afraid, the more irrational — and the more willing to dehumanize others to ensure your own safety. It’s a lesson one does not easily forget.

6 thoughts on “Believe Me, I Remember

  1. Snapdragon September 11, 2007 / 10:07 am

    Hey sis. Not sure where to start…I knew this was coming, of course, but with Mom here, and I think by not being in DC, I haven’t been paying attention to the days.

    And I don’t really want to remember. I’m not sure why, but this year, I don’t want to remember. But of course, I do. One of the most vivid memories I have is spending part of that day together – never so grateful that I have a big sister and that she lived so close by.

    And I don’t think I have ever heard DC so quiet, except the sirens and the F-15s…

    Anyway, wish you were here with me and Mom. I think (hope) she is having a good visit – and she looks fantastic.

  2. Mom September 11, 2007 / 11:21 am

    Morning Honey, Yes, terrible memories — mine started at the house when the first tower was attacked before I left for work; then getting to work and having Gail Thompson call from the highway outside the Pentagon on her way to work — her hysteria at seeing the fire and smoke — then passing by our conference room looking for her Dad only to see the second tower hit. My heart was shredding thinking of you, Eileen, and Jen too — all in DC and Jen possibly in Manhattan……The horror of it all has never gone away and has changed EVERYTHING in our lives. But we all came away with more LOVE for each other and thousands of people we never knew — the heroes and the victims. We should all hold fast to that love — it has changed the world and hopefully will continue to, although at times that is hard to see.
    I am having a delightful time with Eileen and Chris — being togehter with them right now is very special…..I love you, Mom

  3. Shannon September 11, 2007 / 1:32 pm

    It’s funny how just reading a few sentences can make that nauseous feeling come back to my stomach after 6 years. No, we don’t forget.

    An excerpt of things I remember:

    -Black pants and multi-colored shirt that I wearing.
    -Hearing about the first plane from an officemate Betty Anne who heard it on Howard Stern. We thought it was a sick joke.
    -Hearing from another officemate’s (Karla) husband, who was home from work that day, about the second plane and my immediate reaction “This is no accident”.
    -Hearing about the Pentagon plane on my radio and yet another still in the air that they cannot find. Subsequently…feeling sick to my stomach.
    -Finally getting through to Sarah, trying to talk her through figuring out where to go through the rumors of the Mall burning or bombs at the Capitol buidling…completely breaking down in tears after we hung up.
    -Not getting through to the Pitkins; further egging on the growing panic in my stomach.
    -Walking by the conference room and seeing lower Manhattan burning on the tv. Feeling rather panicky about working just down the street from the state Capital buildings here in Albany.
    -Hearing that Flight 93 had crashed in Pennsylvania. Also feeling horrified at my relief. Their heroics saved so many lives.
    -Gov Pataki closing state offices at noon (But I said “F-That!”I left my own at 11:35), and running into my MIL’s front door to grab my 9mo daughter into a huge bear hug.
    -Being wracked with guilt and insomnia for months to come for bringing her into this horrible world and trying to deal with the sickening irrational feeling that I could not protect her from whatever might come next.

    On that last note…we all had irrational feelings from That Day. I like to think that we have all come out of it stronger in some sense. Whether it be more grateful for our families and friends, or looking around a full airplane knowing that a potential hijacker doesn’t stand a chance anymore…we’ve been taught by Flight 93.

    And I will finish with registering my official protest against that inane country song “Have You Forgotten”…FU. I don’t think so.

  4. Joanne September 11, 2007 / 7:51 pm

    I cannot tell you how glad I am that today was crappy weather here in DC. I could not have handled a nice sunny Tuesday for 9/11.

    I remember everything about that day, but that what happens when you were an eyewitness to the attack on the Pentagon.

  5. Mom September 13, 2007 / 4:15 pm

    Hi all,

    I feel I must comment one more time — for my journey home from Houston was a stark reminder of what 9/11 did — one of the “everythings” that changed was life for a young man from nearby Windsor who boarded our plane at Dulles –he was on his way home with his Dad, happy to begin a new life. His other life was ended by an IED almost a year ago. He felt great to be coming home & proud that he had served us all — only he is minus one leg, supported by the first crude prosthesis in an over-sized sneeker; an “arm” supported by a sling & bandage; and worst of all his puffy face with only holes where his eyes, nose, mouth & ears had been. He’d been severely burned as well. I’ve never been on a plane so quiet — people just couldn’t talk. At the airport we were met by a cadre of uniformed soldiers who had made an archway of flags that we all had to walk under — humbling indeed because the honor was not for us — and then everyone (passengers, crew, airport personnel and of course his family and friends) breaking into deafening applause as “Present Arms” was shouted by the lead soldier and everyone snapped to attention and this 23 year old boy walked under the honor guard of red, white & blue. This is one of the most touching memories I will ever have — Everyone followed respectfully car by car down airport road behind a motorcade of police and 80 or so motorcycles with flags flapping. I am glad the motorcade was slow because I cried all the way down the hill. I am still crying and have a very heavy heart. You see these scense on t.v. but you don’t always “see” them. My fervent hope and prayer is that his country takes as good care of him as he tried to take of all of us. I am cynical enough to know that will not happen, but I can and will pray for him instead.

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