Looking back six years…
I was just coming out of the bathroom, I’d finished my morning “getting ready” routine and was ready to start the day.
I came into the living room to find my then husband standing there, just staring at the TV as if in shock. I looked and at first thought I was watching a movie. It took a moment before it registered this was a news channel.
Time seemed to slow and details became incredibly sharp as I watched the smoke billowing from the first impact, then the second plane struck, hitting the South Tower. I still didn’t think it was real – shock had brought disbelief.
I drove to work listening to the radio reports, details trickling in and confused reports trying to make some sense out of a senseless situation. I listened as the news came – New York airports and bridges were being closed in fear of further attacks, then all domestic flights were grounded.
I rushed up to my office and found everyone who was already there had gathered in the conference room, the TV tuned to a news station. The look of shock, horror and dismay was universal. We watched as the news came that a plane had crashed into the Pentagon.
We watched as the South Tower collapsed. We were glued to the screen.
Some of the women cried, the men looked as if they were ready to throw up. We heard the news about the plane crashing into that Pennsylvania field.
All day long, very little work was done, the office was hushed, all we could talk about, think about were the attacks and the further details that came in throughout the day.
All day long, watching the people leaving New York, it seemed unreal. It looked like something out of a bad movie, or from another country – but not here, not in America.
I remember the silence in the air – there were no planes flying, the air was still, it was quiet. I remember the flags everywhere – we had a huge one hanging from the front of our house. I remember trying to explain it to my children, trying to tell them why some of their teachers were crying, why so many flags were flying…
I remember a nation’s outrage, its indignation, its vows to find those responsible and bring them to justice. I remember the promised wrath. I remember the renewed pride in our country. I remember the patriotism.
There was ugliness as well, war always brings out the ugliness. But as I look back, I prefer to focus on the good this brought out, not on the bad.
And there are images burned in my mind for life. Images of buildings on fire, of people – looking like rag dolls – jumping from windows to escape the conflagration within. Images of people covered in white dust, of fire fighters and police officers, and just average Joes pulling bodies from the wreckage – bodies that included those of children. Images of the saddened, soot and dust covered faces of emergency workers, all who had trained for this kind of thing, but never believed it could happen here.
And the two images that stand out the strongest for me… an image of tragedy and an image of hope. The first is still shocking to me, the second is one that, the moment I first saw it I said it would become a symbol of this event, it would be like the image of the soldiers at Iwo Jima and come to represent the hope, the pride and the perseverance of the American spirit. And that, no matter how screwed up the politicians are, that is what makes this country truly great and what has been etched into my mind thanks to 9-11.