Monday, September 12, 2005

Remembering 9/11/2001

Much has been written about the terrorist attacks, and any thoughts and discussion I have to offer would be nothing original. However, I'll contribute my personal experience.

At the time, in addition to my daytime IT job, I was running my aunt's wine store at night. Often after closing up, I'd go to the video store next door and chat with my friend Joe. On the night of September 10th, we got to talking about the latest terrorism against Israeli civilians; as I recall, there had been a new bus bombing. In all truth, I said to him, "The United States is blessed by God that we haven't been hit by a major terrorist attack." More than the words themselves indicate, that was a near-boast, akin to "God is on our side." Now, by "major" I was not ignoring the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center, or the 1995 bombing of the Murrah Building in Oklahoma City; I was referring to terrorism that produced a very large number of casualties.

Little did I know how that would come back to haunt me.

September 11, 2001, was my day off. My landlord was attending to his home-based business and was watching the morning TV news. When reports came in of the second airplane hitting the World Trade Center, he rushed to my door and knocked frantically. I was sound asleep. Letting him in, I was confused as to why he said only to hurry and turn on my TV to the news. The video of smoke billowing from both towers nearly made me drop the remote control, as if we were living a dramatic movie scene.

The second plane made terrorism the only plausible explanation. Throughout the rest of the morning, we sat in front of the TVs, incredulous at every event: first the Pentagon, then Flight 93 that crashed in Pennsylvania, and rumors of additional hijacked planes (which had not yet been heard from). Live video showed people scrambling for their lives, and though the final tally was not as great as the tens of thousands we initially feared, it in no wise mitigated the gruesome number of casualties. Especially terrible was the loss of over 300 firefighters, who died as the finest example of heroes. They included department chaplain Father Mychal Judge. Administering last rites to a fallen firefighter, he removed his helmet and was struck in the head by falling debris.

Phone lines were naturally all in use, but I eventually got through to my aunt, and then my mother, who was in London on vacation. I went to my aunt's store that afternoon, in bad need myself of a stiff drink to calm my nerves. After closing, I went next door to talk to Joe. He couldn't believe that that part of our conversation the night before had come true.

My uncle, I'm told, originally had business that morning at the WTC, but that got postponed. My sister's friend, visiting from Colorado, was not as fortunate. He wasn't supposed to be at the WTC at all, but he was on the second airplane that was hijacked and diverted toward New York City.

Later we learned our quiet area was right in the flight path of the two planes that were hijacked and diverted south to Manhattan. We couldn't have suspected a thing as they flew over us, but it was still an unshakable creepy feeling.

Like most people probably found, sound sleeping was difficult for me that night. Even as a small child, I never needed a light on when sleeping; but I did that night. It was difficult when a certain video was especially dominant in my thoughts: by late night, the news had obtained amateur footage shot from ground level, which showed the first plane hitting the World Trade Center. SFGate includes part of it at the start of a video compendium, though it omits the first few seconds that I will never forget. The person was filming someone on the street, then pointed it up when an aircraft was heard unusually close -- just in time to see it plunge into the north tower.

My sentiment is not the most Christian one, but has not changed since the days after 9/11, when we discovered the hijacker's membership in al Qaeda and found a prime suspect in Osama bin Laden. Paraphrasing what Norman Schwarzkopf reputedly said about Saddam Hussein, "It's God's job to judge him. It's our job to arrange the meeting."


Blogger TKC said...

I was on vacation at the time. I was doing a bicycling tour across Maryland. I stopped at a store to get some water and only heard a short bit on the radio in the background that a plane had struck one of the WTCs. I thought, "What a freak accident." and went on my way. I did not find out till later in the day that we had been attacked. I knew that once we fould out who had done this that we would be going to war.
The route we took that day skirted around Camp David.

Monday, September 12, 2005 7:02:00 PM  
Blogger Eric Grumbles said...

My wife used to leave for work much earlier in the morning than I did. She was on her way to work when the first plane hit (pacific time) and called me on her cell phone to tell me about it. I turned on the TV just in time to see the second one hit and told her we were under attack, it wasn't an accident.

Her brother's wife was a student at the NYU school of dentistry, which is only a few blocks away. They live just outside Newark, in Montclair and he could see the whole thing, but couldn't get into the city or reach her on the phone to find out if she was okay, or not. None of us heard from her for about 8 hours and when she finally could make a call, she was only able to get a long distance line and call us in California.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005 12:04:00 AM  
Blogger Arun said...

When I was about to have my dinner that evening (me living in India), I was shocked to see a huge building on fire(i confess i never knew WTC till then), and when i happened to see the second plane hitting the tower, it was nothin less then awful. i didn't sleep the whole night, and in my school the next day talked about this the whole day.

it was just numbers till a couple of years back, and when i gotta see a documentry on BBC then i felt de pain. all those killed are someone's wife, husband, daughter n sons

it's hard now to think of that one terrible day that changed the whole of america

Tuesday, September 13, 2005 3:42:00 PM  

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