September 01, 2003

Voices - from A Small Victory

This is the post I submitted to Voices, which is Michele's project from A Small Victory

I encourage you to also write something and submit it.


As days begin, this was Anyday™. I was running a bit later to work than is usual - no idea why now. I stopped for a bagel at the local grocery, and as I was in my car and exiting the parking lot, KMOX, St. Louis' most popular morning talk radio, interrupted normal programming and reported that a plane had struck a high floor of one of the World Trade Center's towers.

And regular programming recommenced.

A normal, sheltered American, I had a few sad moments of "what a horrible accident," and I continued my drive to work.

Something - I can't recall what - perhaps news from a coworker arriving later than I - prompted me to try to reach; I could not. I believe at this time we learned that the "plane" to strike the World Trade Center was not a small, single-engine plane but rather a full-sized passenger jet.

We began to flock toward televisions - there are three large TVs throughout the office. At this point, there was constant coverage of the first attack. I got the news to date and tried to return to work. When the second plane hit the second tower, I believe everyone knew that this was planned. Work was out of the question.

We sat transfixed in the large conference room - transfixed because we had to be, because we were so summarily appalled and shocked that someone, some entity, some group would do such a horrible thing. I called my client, who resides in New Jersey but has many ties in New York. His brother was in one of the towers.

I returned to the large conference room, and, in the course of the next hour, I saw both towers collapse real time. And then, of course, I saw them collapse over and over and over again. Still determined, I tried again to return to work. And then the third plane hit the Pentagon.

At this point, it becomes "what next?" I fully believe that this was nowhere as bad as it could have been. But there was no relief anywhere - none in the faces of the newscasters who must've known they'd see no sleep for quite some time and that they were tasked in serving the horrible truth to the watching masses; none in the faces of my shocked, stunned coworkers, many of whom had young children who would require quite an explanation of certainly inexplicable things; none for me either, for the stories of individuals began to trickle through the news. The man and woman, holding hands, who chose falling to death rather than burning. People who were passengers on each of the doomed planes. Mothers, fathers, children, infants. Dead. Dying.

The rest of the day is a blur of rewind-play-rewind-play of the footage. On the way home, I stopped at the grocery store where I had purchased my bagel breakfast. There were already volunteers collecting money. I gave.

Once home, I, like everyone else, called friends and relatives to ensure we were all living on the same world, and that sanity still existed - something no one would have questioned 12 hours earlier. I spent the rest of the evening flipping through cable news channels as the news started to repeat itself. More rewind-play, but more personal anecdotes as well.

And then the hopeful search for anyone who might have survived in the rubble and aftermath. The days and weeks blur from here. Cantor Fitzgerald. Televised funerals. The pictures of ash. The weekly news magazines and their coverage. Courageous rescue attempts. Clearing of debris. Interviews of the families of the victims. The comparison to Pearl Harbor.

As time passes, September 11, 2001, stands as a day everyone remembers practically hour by hour. My client's brother escaped before the towers fell. I know no one personally who perished in the attacks, but as I talk with varying people, it's very apparent that I'm only separated by a degree at most. The business trip I recently attended highlighted that.

Very briefly, one man mentioned that his wife's best friend was on one of the planes that crashed into the towers. Another man was slated to give a talk on a high floor of one of the towers on September 11th. Shortly before the event, he cancelled due to lack of interest. The people who attended the event are no more.

Most strikingly, though, is the story of a young female Indian database administrator who was listed as missing after the attacks. According to my friend who knew her, months later her husband was convinced she'd be found "anytime now." They had a young child.

Of course, there's the "how dare they" question we all ask of the terrorists. These people who are victims did nothing but merely live their American lives in America; what else would you expect? And then there are the "nostalgia" experts who profit from the tragedy. There are the lawsuits, the criticism of the evacuation misjudgments. But how could anyone have known the true ultimate horrific consequence of these terrorists?

I don't truly believe we know yet.

Life as we know it began to resume. St. Louisans flew their mighty flags and painted them on their cars. Baseball, which was put on quite a hiatus, recommenced. Brian and I had tickets with some of Brian's friends to that evening's Cardinal's game. We sang "America the Beautiful." Jack Buck read a poem.

At Creve Coeur Park, the flag hung half mast for a full month - at work as well. In October, at the St. Louis Blues' opening game, Lee Greenwood sang "God Bless the USA." We attacked Afghanistan; we triumphed. Time passed. We attacked Iraq and deposed its dictator. We slew his evil sons.

The future spreads its threads day by day. The course of American history was irrevocably altered on September 11, 2001. I pray there will be nothing to replace it as the most shocking, course-changing day in American history. I also pray that none of you forgets what this country offers us, as individuals, and that freedom, sadly comes with a price.

We are free.


Posted by hln at September 1, 2003 10:18 PM | Blogspot Blog