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Saturday, September 16, 2006

Sept. 11

All week, I've gone back and forth about whether to write about 9/11. For some reason, this year was particularly hard. The horror is still so real.

Living in Oklahoma City has taught me that the horror of a terrorist act, domestic or foreign, never goes away. Oklahomans have not forgotten. New Yorkers won't forget. But as my friend Gina points out in her post, the heartbeat of life goes on. We all go on.

Sometimes, though it's good to remember. Cry.

I was starting my commute from Jefferson City, Missouri to Columbia a little later that day. When I pulled out on the highway, I turned the radio station to KMOX out of St. Louis. My colleague, Nan Wyatt, was going to do a live interview with Gov. Bob Holden, who had been having a heck of a time since he'd taken office.

At first, I thought that I had the wrong station on. Nan wasn't on. It was a reporter from CBS in New York, she was talking about a plane hitting the World Trade Center. I shook my head, "Dumb student pilots."

It took me a minute to realize that the reporter was screaming. Screaming. She said something about another plane hitting the second tower. I kept driving, feeling detached somehow. Was I dreaming? This was a bad dream.

The station cut away, and then another report came in about a plane hitting the Pentagon. My husband was by then, a retired Air Force man. My brother was still in the Navy. My brother-in-law in the army -- stationed at the Pentagon. I found the nearest opportunity and turned around and went back home. I knew I had to reach my mother-in-law in Kansas before she heard the news.

I was shaken. New York was bad enough. But to someone from a military family, the Pentagon represented safety and our country's defense. It was incomprehensible.

By the time I got home, our message machine was full. Family members, friends. I called my husband at work. I called my mother-in-law. She was confused. "He's ok. His new office isn't finished yet, so he's still working at Grand Central Station."

I let her think that. I didn't tell her that my brother's in laws office was one of the few where renovations had been completed, and he was likely working at the Pentagon again.It would be hours before we learned that he had been called away only minutes before to go to Andrews Air Force Base. So thankfully, he had already left the building.

I couldn't take my eyes off the television. "This can't be happening." Then thinking of all our friends in New York and panicking. The next few days are a blur. We finally learned that all friends and family were ok. We, like most Americans watched until we couldn't watch anymore. We cried. We gave blood. We did what we could. We still feel it wasn't enough.

The events of that day still haunt all of us. Things would never be the same again. I would never see Nan again after that week. She went back to St. Louis without her interview. A few months later, she also had died at the hands of her husband. Another shock -- too much to comprehend.

But we're resilient. We'll wipe away the tears and go on, hopefully stronger. And, maybe most of us are a little kinder, a little more grateful for each day.


Andrew said...

You're right -- we all need to go on, tears or no tears. Thanks for sharing.

To Love, Honor and Dismay

V-Grrrl said...

The anniversary of 9/11 is always hard for me. I grieve not just the loss of life but the loss of our innocence.

Sherrie said...

Sept. 11 is a strange day for me.

Like you, I was panicked for family and friends.

It was also the day I got the call from my OB, letting me know that the fertility treatments had worked, and that No. 2 was going to stick. That call came as I was frantically trying to find folks in NYC, just hours after the plane hit.

I was standing in my office, on the 12th floor of a building in downtown Chicago, blocks from the Sears Tower and the Federal Building, wondering just on earth what type of place I was bringing this poor child into.

Child two's entire life, barring conception, has been while we've been fighting the "war on terror." There's something utterly disturbing about that to me.

So my memories of the day are completely bittersweet, for reasons completely different than most.

Redneck Diva said...

My mom says that still, to this day, she remembers all of the things that went through her head when JFK was shot. I imagine that 9/11 will be that way for us. 5 years later and I still get a tight feeling in my chest when I think about the phone calls I received, the reports I watched and heard and for hours not knowing if my cousin who lived in Manhattan was okay. Wonderful post, Cissy.