Sunday, September 11, 2011
Ten years ago
My day started with me getting ready to go into the office for a two-day-long evaluation of our department's work during the previous five years and the direction we were planning to follow for the next five years. At the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), each section would go through this on a rotating basis and it was our turn. Scientists who made up several panels had arrived during the previous weekend from both coasts. NCAR is located in Boulder, Colorado. We had prepared for this day for months.
It was during the first break that we heard, and one of our administrators had a small television on her desk. We all came in and crowded around while we watched in horror as they played, over and over, the planes hitting the Twin Towers. Although it was difficult, we tried to carry on with the planned events until the first Tower fell, and then it was all canceled. At home that afternoon, I remember so well the tears flowing as Smart Guy and I held hands in silence watching the events of the day. None of our visiting scientific staff were able to return home since all air traffic had been shut down. Everything was in disarray.
Tragedy sometimes sucks me in and I try to absorb it a little at a time, but these events were so huge and all-encompassing that I spent the next days in mourning, along with the rest of the world. I didn't feel scared for my own safety but filled with sadness for all those who had lost their lives in the event, and the terrible wreckage left behind. I remember hoping that they would find survivors in the wreckage, which they didn't. Not even one person. When they showed a special filled with images of those people who jumped off the Towers, it hit me hard. I can still see those images in my mind's eye, and to this day I cannot shut them out.
A few months later, I traveled to New York for a conference and saw the lights shining in the darkness where the Twin Towers had stood. It was impossible to get close to Ground Zero, I didn't even try, but everywhere we went in the evenings, we could see those lights shining up to heaven. The world had changed, but we didn't really know how or why.
My son Chris was stationed in Germany and he was involved in protecting his Army base from possible attack. I heard much later, when I visited the base for his funeral, that he had stayed up all night and performed magnificently in stressful circumstances. Then we went to war with the Taliban in Afghanistan. I was filled with worry for his safety. He told me not to worry, someone had to sort the mail. However, less than a year later, Chris would be gone, and not long after that, the United States would be at war with Iraq. I had a hard time trying to understand why we were going after that country.
And today we are still at war, ten years later. Can anybody tell me why? All those people dead and more every day. I still remember the awful feeling in the pit of my stomach when I heard we were starting another war in Iraq. Oh, the country I love: what has happened to us? Have we lost our way in the fog of war?
I can only hope that the world's wounds will heal once we stop blowing things up in the name of revenge. Or something. I am too small a person to understand the sweep of history during the passage of events, but I do hope I live long enough to see peace and prosperity return to my little corner of the world. Today I will be thinking of that event ten years ago that started us down this long journey and seeking solace in friendship. It is all I know how to do.