I remember the phone ringing. That’s what woke me up on a normal Tuesday morning in September. I answered the phone to the sound of my ex-husbands voice, which just kind of irritated me. Then he said, “Are you watching the news? A plane just hit the World Trade Center.” Here in Arizona, the first plane hit at 6:46 am local time. I rolled over and turned on the news. As I sat and watched I don’t remember thinking much of anything except how amazing it was that a building could withstand a hit like that and stay standing. Then, as I watched, the second plane hit. Just to demonstrate how complacent I was (and the country, I think) I thought to myself, “what the hell are the guys in the traffic control tower doing?!” Not once, not even for a split second, did the thought ‘terrorist attack’ trickle into my mind.
I didn’t cry. I just sat there, shocked. I got up and started getting ready for work, keeping the news on. Then more reports started coming in, The Pentagon, the field in Pennsylvania, every plane in the United States ordered out of the sky. It was crazy. When has that EVER happened?! How do you land every single plane streaking across the sky?
The drive to work was odd. All of the cars on the freeway were going 55 mph. I remember this vividly. Phoenix highways aren’t exactly the friendliest places to drive during rush hour. But that morning it was like everyone was in a trance. No one was cutting anyone off, it had never been easier to merge, and I could look over and just know that the driver in the car ahead of me, behind me, or beside me was hanging on every single word of whatever news report on whatever station they were listening to, because every single station was reporting it.
The rest of the day was just a blur of news reports, updates, speculations, disbelief.
I spoke with my family in Connecticut. My brother-in-law is a firefighter and so it was especially hard for them. They lost a friend in New York that day. A firefighter for the FDNY Rescue 3 Special Collapse Unit. He was never found. They had friends that worked at ground zero in the days following to help with the rescue and recovery. I can’t even imagine the horrors they would have seen.
I say “not so” personal experience because I did not personally know any one of the 3,000 people who lost their lives that day. I was only slightly inconvenienced as I was supposed to take a plane that Friday, the 14th to visit a friend in Ohio. There were thousand and thousands of people stranded in airports far away from their original destinations that needed to get home. Friday was the first day that they would get that opportunity. Who cared that I had a weekend of fun planned. It was less than important. And to be honest, the idea of getting on an airplane scared the hell out of me.
I know people who have personal connections to that day, but my grief is not personal, it’s a grief that every American felt that day, and all the days since. I grieve for the thousands of faceless names, the families that experienced tremendous loss, as well as the loss of our sense of security. The days and weeks that followed were filled with a show of unity and patriotism. Every where you looked people were flying the American Flag proudly. We were banding together to show that we were not broken, we would get through this and if anything, it made us stronger.
Now, here we are, ten years later. There are memorials planned all over the country, but I think the most anticipated memorial will be happening right at the sight of ground zero. The memory pools mark the site of each tower, with the names of all of the mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, daughters, sons that perished that day, not only at The World Trade Center, but The Pentagon and the field in Pennsylvania.
This was my generation’s John F. Kennedy assassination. You can ask anyone where they were and what they were doing when they heard that news and they can tell you. You can ask anyone where they were and what they were doing on 9/11. That’s all you need to say and they can tell you.