Friday, September 11, 2009
That Terrible Day
This morning a news reporter described September 11, 2001, as “that terrible day,” and indeed, the very word itself is related to terror. The word could not be more appropriate to describe the heinous terrorist attack on our country that day.
I was at work in a factory at that time, and when the first news reports came on the radio saying that a plane had struck one of the World Trade Center towers, I really did not think much of it. I assumed that it was a small prop plane. Shortly thereafter, the second plane hit the other twin tower, and my nonchalance turned to dread as I turned to my neighbor and said, “That’s no coincidence. We’re under attack!” The horror continued to unfold as we learned that it was two commercial jets carrying passengers. I think that at this point, many of my coworkers had not yet truly understood what was going on.
When yet another aircraft struck the Pentagon, no one had any further doubts. We were under attack. In a nation where we always felt impervious to any such extreme act of terror, our lives and this nation were about to be changed forever.
A friend of mine works at the Pentagon. My eyes welled with tears as I feared for her safety. It turns out that the section of the building where she works was under renovation, and everyone in her department was actually working out of offices across the highway. My friend had not even reported to work that morning, but had stayed home to work. However, she was called to report to duty and was one of the few civilians who was required to enter the burning building to retrieve files and documents, the smell of burning bodies and carnage filling her nose. She described a war zone to us later in emails: “Although I'm accustomed to the military, I'm not accustomed to a civilian
city with fighter jets circling, humvees rolling and empty streets. It's
beyond surreal. Not everyone has been accounted for, which is causing quiet
concern amongst those in our office.” The most horrible of all was her task of fielding calls from families searching for their loved ones who worked at the Pentagon.
The tragedy continued as the 4th plane struck a field in Pennsylvania. Heroes were made of the passengers who had become aware of the other attacks and made the brave decision to fight back. “Let’s roll” took on a whole new meaning that day. This was the airplane that actually entered Ohio air space before turning around to head back east. At that time, I lived directly under a route that planes travel and I have always wondered just how many minutes away that plane was from where I lived.
I could not bear to watch the horror of people leaping to their deaths as their buildings burned. I watched in disbelief as first one, and then the second tower tumbled down, oh so quickly. My first thought was, “oh my God, did everyone get out?” Thoughts turned to sorrow when it was revealed that so many of New York’s finest policemen, EMTs and fireman were trapped and lost their lives.
Then-President Bush acted quickly to order all planes out of the sky, an action that I believed saved us from further attacks, and indeed, there were weapons found on some of the other grounded flights. For me, it was disquieting to look up in the sky and not see trails from jets. At any other time, I could always count no less than 4 if I would happen to look up and search the sky. I remember taking my children outside with me to look at the empty sky and told them, “This country is going to find a way to make sure that this never happens again!” Though I was never a fan of President Bush, I was proud of him the day he stood at Ground Zero and said that those who had done this were “going to be hearing from us soon!” For the first time in a very long time, people in this country felt united in their sorrow and anger. I was deeply touched that so much of the world mourned with us. Indeed, many countries observed national moments of silence for the US and our loss.
Panic ensued. Long lines of cars circled city blocks so that they could fill up on gas. Some gas stations in the area responded by raising prices to $4 and even $5 dollars, a price that I found unfathomable. How ironic that just a few years later, gas prices would actually exceed $4 for part of a summer! The price gougers were later fined $1000 for each station that took advantage of peoples’ fears.
I don’t think that we as a country have ever lost that fear. Some of it needs to be retained so that we are increasingly aware of, and take seriously, any further threats to our national safety. Though I abhor war, I felt it was necessary to go into Afghanistan and hold the Taliban and Al Queda responsible. However, it upsets me that so many people are prejudiced against Muslims and the Middle East nations as a whole. Those who attacked us represent a fanatical group and most Muslims are peace loving. I’ll never forget watching the news when we began dropping bombs in Iraq while in the arms of a Muslim sweetheart. It grieved our hearts.
For today, however, I want to honor those who died in the attacks, and honor those for whom life was forever changed in one way or another because of that day.
May we never again experience another day so terrible.