I stepped from Plank to Plank
A slow and cautious way
The Stars about my Head I felt
About my feet the Sea.

I knew not but the next
Would be my final inch -
This gave me that precarious Gait
Some call Experience.

Emily Dickinson, c. 1864

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Nine eleven

Nine years later. Yesterday I woke and used the Reader to see what blogs had been posted since the night before, and every one of them had written something about the Nine Eleven's anniversary. Then I read the news of the day, and everything was focused on the event that happened nine years ago, and reminded me how unhealed and unsettled we in America are, nine years later. It made me reflective, wondering where I've come in those years. Nine years is a long time in the life of a person, but it's not so long in the life of a country, or a planet.

I remember waking up that day, getting ready for work the same way I always did: first a cup of tea and the paper in bed before starting the day. I put on the kettle and went back to wait for the whistle. Somehow I fell asleep and the whistle never came. When I woke, I walked toward the kitchen, and I felt the heat from the stove: the kettle had been destroyed by the electric heat and the whistle had fallen off. Once I had cleaned up the mess, I wondered how I could have been so careless.

The division where I worked was beginning a three-day evaluation of its scientific curriculum; it was mandatory that everyone be present. We had scientists on the panel coming from both coasts, staying in local hotels. Although we usually didn't dress up and men didn't wear ties or suits, I knew that we would all want to look our best, our usual jeans and T-shirts left at home. Choosing a nice pair of slacks and a silk shirt, I was ready to go to work.

Our director began his presentation to a room of about thirty people. I remember noticing the date on his slides, little knowing at that time how infamous the date of September 11, 2001, would become. About the time we took our first coffee break in mid-morning, news of a plane having hit one of the towers in the World Trade Center was buzzing through the conversation.

We were all called out of the session once the second plane hit. One of our administrators had a small black-and-white TV in her office, and we crowded around it and watched in horror as we saw the images on the screen. It was deadly quiet and then I heard a sob. My heart was breaking as I watched what seemed absolute impossibility as first one tower collapsed, then the other. We were sent home, nobody could concentrate on a presentation, everyone was horrified by what was happening to our country. Then the Pentagon.

Our scientific staff could not fly home. All airlines were grounded. After waiting a few days, most of our visitors rented cars and drove home. That night I went home and sat with Smart Guy, holding hands as we watched the destruction over and over on our own TV, listened to the commentary, and felt the impact. Even going to the store for supplies, I could see the shock and fear on every face.

And now nine years have passed. We have gone to war with the Taliban and Afghanistan where the hijackers trained with Bin Laden. That name and the name "Al Qaida" are now everywhere, but on that day nine years ago, only a few had heard them. Our country went to war with Iraq for reasons I still don't understand, and our country is hated by many around the world. I am filled with unease; I feel the sadness of today's hard economic times, as so many qualified and deserving people have lost their jobs, their homes, their hopes for the future.

Every country has its ups and downs, as every person does too. Events happen, time passes, and we move from where we are today to other circumstances. I am hoping that next year, the tenth anniversary, will hold some sense of the healing of these wounds.

If you feel so moved, I wonder what happened in your life on that day, and ask if you would be willing to share it. And your sense of the direction of our country: do you see any light at the end of this long tunnel?

16 comments:

Linda said...

I had just sent my hubs out the door to work. ABC broke in with 'breaking news'. I tried to call my hubs back in, but he'd already left. The next thing I saw was Charlie Gibson saying with a 'chuckle' that another plane just crashed into the 2nd tower. I'm sure it was a nervous chuckle.

I called my sister at her work. They didn't have TV in her office, but they turned on the radios.

I don't think I accomplished anything that day as the reports kept coming in. I saw the towers as they began to collapse. I saw the disparate looks on people's faces.

I think our country may have begun to heal, but I also think we have let the terrorists walk all over us. They have crippled the airline business. They are taking over our country, and our leaders are afraid of them. I think most of us are afraid of them. I wonder where the heroes of our country are? We send our brave young men and women to war, and keep the 'riff-raff' here.

I don't know what the answers are, but surely, there are some people left in our great country that can lead with power and dignity,and not bow down to the enemy.

TechnoBabe said...

I wrote a very long post that I intended to post on 9/11 but the night before I deleted it and instead posted one picture. No words. I have such strong feelings about that day and all the days since then. I can't even write clearly what I actually feel about what has been going on in this country since 9/11. For me, I do not say our country went to war with Iraq; I say our country invaded Iraq and killed so many people and caused those people to have to leave their country to try to find a safe place to live. Since that day there has been hate to the extreme festering in this country and also hate for this country by millions of people. This is not good. This is so frightening.

DJan said...

I received the following from an anonymous source, and it was too good not to share:

to me the real horror is
what america did afterwards
how it acted
what it became

the trade center
the twin towers
a couple buildings
a few thousand people

not that much
in the scale of the daily
horror that goes on around
the world

some even call that just
collateral damage

but how america reacted
what it did
what it became

that's the real horror of 9-11
to me

gigihawaii said...

I saw the towers collapse on TV, like everyone else. I read about the U.S. invasions in the Middle East and the continuing destruction of human life there.

But, how has all this affected me personally? I have friends who live in NYC (Manhattan), but their own lives continue as if nothing happened. Everything I know comes second hand.

My life goes on. I am still retired and married, going about my daily chores.

I read, hear, and see the news -- but that all happens to other people, not me.

We should all focus on our own little lives -- what we can control, and not worry about what we cannot control.

Mel said...

Oh my. that poem sums up succintly what I feel in my heart. The greatest tragedy is what we have become. Maybe I'm wrong to expect sadness and diversity to bring out the best, not the worst in people. I believe we have been boorish and ignorant to our impact on the world, and it's perception of us, and worst of all, divided, afraid and angry.

When my mother was diagnosed with cancer, I found myself angry that she did not rise above the small things that diminish her life, and embrace the life she still has with joy and purpose, pared down to the basics. Instead, she fell deeper into her weaknesses, her compulsions and her defensive justifications for living mostly in the past, for not becoming her best self. America after 9/11 angers me in much the same way. I expected more, I think all of us here did.

The terrorists took so much more than lives and real estate and and our false sense of security from us. The gave us the crazed impetus to trample our own rights and freedoms. And now, voices of reason are a small drop in a huge sea of Glen Becks, Sarah Palins, tea partiers, presidential birthright deniers, religious reactionaryism, anti-intellectual, unhumanitarian, unconstitutional rhetoric, fear and greed. The terrorists must be tickled to see us try to destroy ourselves from the inside, with our cancer of character.

I cried and held my babies as I watched the news that day. I held my family tighter that night and I pondered the hubris and failed strategies that led the world to hate us so. I now ponder the hate we have for each other in this divided country. I could not have forseen this future. I believe America is forever changed by 9/11, and I am both sad and angry that we became less, not more, and even more afraid for the world my children will inherit.

thanks for giving me a spot to vent. I could not muster the will to post about it on my own.

Donna B said...

I wrote something, but it was more than 4,096 characters...guess I got carried away...I have saved it and will use it for a post...

Suffice it to say, I do not have the answers. I can only keep myself in check and do my best to be a positive force of energy and enfluence on those around me, and whom I come in contact with in our world.

Blissed-Out Grandma said...

I remember (momentarily) agreeing that we needed to respond to the 9/11 attacks by moving against Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, in what the government was calling surgical precision. Within a day or two, it was clear that such precision does not exist; many innocent lives were being lost. I then realized that invading other countries does not make us safer at home.

gayle said...

I was teaching my first grade class when my daughter call to tell me what had happened. I thought it was an accident. We couldn't say anything of course and none of us were able to find out very much until we got home. It was a very scary time. I remember thinking that I was grateful my husband wasn't traveling at the time.

Norma Jean said...

Wow...Mel said it all. I feel the same way. Anyone can see the terrorists got what they were after. We are destroying ourselves from within.

Star said...

I remember that day very well. I was at work and for me it was early afternoon. I had the BBC news on on my computer so I saw it happen instantly. I was so shocked. I shouted out to the two men in the office and we all watched in horror as the events unfolded. I was glued to the screen. My middle son, Ed, was living in Paris at the time. My first thoughts were for him. I sent him a text: 'I love you Ed'. I did that because I thought other capital cities would be next. He was in Paris. The horror of it was not lost on me. I then texted the rest of my family. I didn't know what to expect would happen next.
As the days went by, the horror stayed with me and I became very wary. I live in a place where there are many people of different ethnicity and you have to be careful what you say in public.
The events of that day and what followed made a big difference to my community. People became very suspicious of other people who looked 'different'.
What I do know is that two wrongs don't make a right.

I also noticed that it was easier to see the beautiful sky once the towers were gone!

I try to see the whole picture.

I try to love my family more.

I am very changed since that day.

Blessings, Star

SquirrelQueen said...

I remember the day well. At that time we were living in Vancouver and I worked as a sales rep for General Mills with the Portland area as my territory. My husband had just been transferred to Walla Walla and was living over here in our motorhome while I stayed behind to close out the house and continue working for another month.

My routine was to get a cup of coffee and check the internet news before getting ready for work. I turned on the computer and went back to get coffee. As I walked back into the room the headlines said a plane had hit the trade center. I turned on the tv just as the second plane hit.

By then everyone had figured out it was a terrorist attack and I was on the phone to my hubby. He works for a large power company and everyone was of course worried about it being a target of an attack.

I will never forget that day or the days that followed.

Nancy said...

And there was my dear husband, one of the thousands being evacuated. He was one of the lucky ones. Thanks for remembering.

Jo said...

the trade center
the twin towers
a couple buildings
a few thousand people

not that much
in the scale of the daily
horror that goes on around
the world

I have to disagree with anonymous. Think of all the loved ones left behind, and that couple thousand grows exponentially to a much larger number. And then of course there was the Pentagon, and who knows what else if that other plane had not crashed. You country was under attack that day.

I was sitting eating my breakfast that morning, and my daughter phoned me and said, "Turn on the TV." I had to flush my breakfast down the toilet. I couldn't eat anymore.

I don't think you should be ashamed of what your country has become. Your country has been placed in an awful situation, and more attacks will happen -- make no mistake. But for the most part, Americans are generous, big-hearted people, and they are always the first to respond when there is a disaster anywhere in the world.

I feel very bad for the untenable situation America is in right now. They struggle so hard to do the right thing, but sometimes it's not always easy, and the solutions are not always just black or white.

Whitney Lee said...

I was a college student at the time. I remember my dad calling and waking me up, telling me to turn on the news. I sat in front of the television, watching the horror.

I was only 20, young enough to question but still not old enough to be sure of my beliefs. I didn't have a clear idea about how I thought it all should be handled. If I'm completely honest, I'm still not sure I have a clear belief about what should be done. Obviously, the actions taken haven't accomplished anything good. Playground bully tactics have gotten us nowhere.

I feel there's a shift in consciousness now, perhaps set in motion somewhat by 9/11. There is a feeling, at times, of hope. It's like a shaft of sunlight on a dreary day. It allows me to believe that the world I leave my children will be better than it is now.

Gigi said...

I had just recently started a job with a company that had relocated their headquarters from New York City.

I remember the shock and horror. That is one day that is seared into my memory as no other.

It is easy to sit back, nine years later, and say "we should have done this and not that." as a response. Hindsight is twenty-twenty. Is war the answer? No, it never is, but at the same time - what were our options at that time with the information that we had? There weren't many. Whether or not going to war was the right thing to do or not - isn't a question I ask as a result of 9/11. The result of 9/11 for me is to love my family and friends just a bit more and keep them close to me and I continue to be the best person I can possibly be - because you never know what is coming next.

Sorry, I'm late to the discussion - I've been wanting to answer this since you posted it - but life has been conspiring against me lately.

Far Side of Fifty said...

I was holding my six day old grandson in my arms..I felt so sad for him and for me and for everyone..just sadness..I just wanted to get home to Far Guy and make our world a safe cuccoon just like before..but that was impossible. Things were changed forever:(