Sunday, September 11, 2011

10 years ago today

I remember standing in my college apartment one night and watching the Berlin Wall come down. I had a photo, cut from a news paper, of a lone person standing in front of a line of tanks in China on my dorm wall. I was unexpectedly home the day of the Oklahoma City bombing.

On this morning, ten years ago, I was in a hotel in a small town a couple hours drive north of here. I was attending a meeting of a state-wide non-profit on whose board I served at the time. We hadn't started the day's meetings yet and were lingering in the hotel lounge over breakfast pastries and coffee. The hotel had a large-screen tv turned to a morning news show, which no one at my table was truly paying attention to and I was reading the paper.

I remember wondering aloud if Micheal Jordan would make yet another return from retirement when the news show flipped over to the twin towers. The reporter was in front of the towers and there was smoke coming from one of the high floors. The reporter was saying that they could not confirm it, but that there was a report that a plane had flown into the building. At that moment, they assumed it was some horrible accident.

We watched for several minutes . . . wondering what had really happened, how could it have happened. I remember seeing another plane entering the picture of the two towers and at that first moment, I assumed it was a plane that had been sent to investigate . . . since the building was too tall to observe it any other way. And, then the plane approaching, the plane I assumed was there for help, flew into the second building.

After that, it was surreal. It seemed unlikely it was an accident, but the full reality of what had happened wasn't yet sinking in. We watched the utter pandemonium for a bit, and then the group I was meeting with decided that we should go ahead and get our meeting started, do a fast version of our agenda, and leave as early as possible.

We had really only just started meeting when someone came into our meeting room and announced that a plane had flown into the Pentagon. At this point, it we truly understood that someone was declaring war on our country.

We all returned to the lounge to watch the television coverage unfold. We were there when the news program and the world saw the buildings come down. We saw the death and destruction and confusion live with the rest of the nation. There were several people in our group, and not with our group, who had loved ones in New York and Washington. I remember bringing a cup of coffee and a box of tissues to one man sitting at a table, alone. I sat with him and offered a listening ear. I had crisis intervention training from my days volunteering with the crisis line in college. I remember him asking me how it was I was helping rather than panicking.

I'd called the Old Folks and told them to turn on their tv, the country was under attack. I called the Phenom and learned they already had the TV in their office on.

One of the women in our group had a husband who was suppose to be at the pentagon that day, and she couldn't reach him on the phone. One woman in our group had a sister who worked in the financial district, but she was able to reach her on the phone.

Our meeting was cancelled. The woman was still unable to reach her husband, so we decided she needed to go to her mother's home rather than hers. We found two people who had driven together and one agreed to drive the woman's car and the other the woman to her mother's home a couple hours away. I drove straight to the Phenom's office. I just remember absolutely needing to be with the human I love most in this world.

I don't know if I thought the rest of the country was soon going to be targeted or what, but I just knew I needed, more than anything, to be with the Phenom.

Later that night, after watching coverage over and over again of the crashes, and hearing more and more of the truth be unveiled, I finally went to bed. I was exhausted just from the raw emotions. Shortly after I went to bed, Phenom came into the bedroom and said that the tv news had a new shot of the twin towers crash . . . I got up and they had film of the other side of the building . . . of the plane actually crashing into the building. I had nightmares of that scene for months. Every once in a while, that scene still haunts me now. I still find the loss overwhelming. The stories of people who died, who didn't make it out, of people who made sure a weaker person did make it out.

And, I remember the horrifying realization that declaring war on someone was going to be the only option our country would consider. I'm a peace loving monkey, and the prospect that war was soon to come deeply saddened me. It still does.

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