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 11, 2011

Ten years ago

Another anniversary that brings back memories of the day ten years ago that the Twin Towers were destroyed. I have read many remembrances from that day, but the ones that have moved me the most are first-hand accounts of what each person was doing at the time.

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.


Rita said...

I know. It feels like the country has been lost in a sea of fear and anger. Breaks my heart.

Anonymous said...

I was in the bedroom, making the bed, when David shouted, "What?! What?! What?!"

I rushed into the family room and saw on TV the plane ramming into one of the towers, and then the 2nd plane doing the same thing to the other tower.

Horrible! I don't think any of us will ever forget that day or what we were doing at that moment.

It's like the murder of JFK: I was in Latin class when the vice-principal announced it over the PA system. I put my head on my desk and wept.

Grandmother Mary said...

I was living in CA and my husband came to wake me up. He's from NYC. "There's something terrible happening but it can't be what they say, that a plane hit the twin towers." Then the two of us watched the towers fall. Our response to that in Iraq- unforgivable!

#1Nana said...

I also was in NYC when the memorial lights were shining skyward. I viewed them from a boat in the harbor. It's still hard to comprehend the magnitude of this tragedy. That it continues to this day with our instigation of the wars in Afganistan and Iraq is also a tragedy. If I dwell on this for too long I begin to feel helpless and hopeless.

Sally Wessely said...

Your last paragraph says it all. I am in such agreement with you DJan. Thanks for so articulately stating what I have been feeling. I cannot, no matter what I read or see, justify our actions of going into war because of what happened on that fateful day in September of 2001. We have lost so many that did not need to be lost. In many ways, I think much of our nation has lost its soul by seeking revenge.

Linda Myers said...

I can only make a difference in my corner of the world. I try to do that. I know you do too.

CrazyCris said...

The shockwaves from that day crossed the world within minutes of the first plane hitting the tower. I spent all afternoon in Belgium glued to my small TV screen, unable to grasp the enormity of it all. Mesmerised. Scared. In shock. In tears.

I understood the need for immediate retaliation, and Afghanistan were protecting Al Qaeda. But how on earth did Bush manage to convince a country to go to war with Irak that never had anything to do with this tragedy? (Saddam and Bin Laden hated each other!) One tragedy does not cure another. Two negatives don't make a positive. How much longer must this pain be kept alive?

"I can only hope that the world's wounds will heal once we stop blowing things up in the name of revenge."

Very well put DJan.

Anonymous said...

The attack that day not only horribly tore into the heart of America but like you said, the wars that one action has spawned damaged countless of lives in many countries.
Man has a pretty ugly side.
Arkansas Patti

Nancy/BLissed-Out Grandma said...

I believe that we invaded Iraq not for revenge but for profit. The government's strings were being pulled by people who made huge fortunes in oil and in the business of war (e.g. Halliburton getting big no-bid contracts to build things, operate services, etc., all over the country). Okay, that sounds like conspiracy theory...because it is.

Linda Reeder said...

Ten years ago today I had to put any reaction on hold, and as a result I have never really dealt with it emotionally. I woke up to the news of the planes hitting the towers. Before I got to school, I knew the first building had collapsed. All I could think was "Oh, the humanity" Sometime during the morning I heard the second tower had fallen. But it was the first day of our reading program instruction, and the 20 most needy first graders were due in my classroom at 8:45. Another struggle to teach another crop of at risk littie ones was beginning. There was no time or place to talk about what was going on across the country. Since most didn't ever follow news anyway, they probably didn't even know. Since they were not my home room kids, I never did talk about it with them. Then the next group, the at trsk 4th-5th graders came. We got going and never mentioned what was being covered on the news.I was also in charge of the reading program as the literacy coach, so it was a busy day of trouble shooting. By the time I got home, I was exhausted, and watched very little coverage.
I guess that's why I have always taken the attitude that life must go on. and why I am so angry about the lost decade that has followed. We were attacked as a nation. We suffered terible loss. We compounded that loss by responding with war.

red said...

You've tackled a very difficult topic and looked at it honestly. The attack was unbelievable. Actions taken since that time have been debatable. Have those actions helped the situation or made it worse.
But today it's important to stop and remember those we lost in the tragedy.

Trish said...

War is rarely justified. 9-11 was a horrible tragedy, but most of the hijackers were Saudis, not Iraquis or Afghans. Bush's invasion of Iraq was like a two-year-old's tantrum: I'm gonna get even with you for how you treated my daddy.

No one has ever conquered Afghanistan. No one. We've wasted trillions in Bush's wars, which Obama hasn't ended. Even Gitmo - the torture capital in this hemisphere - is still open for business. And this is America?

I don't think so.

Far Side of Fifty said...

Hi DJan, I am sure we are not and may never be privy to the information that has been available to President Bush..who knows what might have happened without the war in Iraq or Afghanistan. What terrorist was stopped..or slowed down??
I want everyone to come home and for there to be an end to the War too...when the mission has been completed.
I think it could have been worse. The terrorists could have gotten a foothold into our country..they hate us..and they are ruthless and don't fight fair either using women and children. War is hell..I do pray that it is all over soon..but I am not holding my breath:(

Sandi said...

You tackled an enormously life changing day, with passion. Thank you for voicing what many of us are feeling and thinking. It was a painful day, leaving us at a loss. I remember the haunted looks on my colleagues faces; the brimming eyes. I had no words for my second graders that day. This year, it was a shock to realize that most of my 5th graders were not born ten years ago. Life does go on . . . but the cost is dear.

CiCi said...

I have SUCH a hard time discussing Iraq. That is why I cried so hard when I watched the video on my post that is up right now. I felt so responsible for the young man and his brother, they were living in Iraq and our country called it war but it was our country invading Iraq. Killing, maiming, forcing Iraqi people to leave their country and start over somewhere else.

Dee said...

Your posting on this 10th anniversary is so powerful, DJan. From the majority of the comments, It's clear that many of us feel exactly as you do. That we went to war in both Afghanistan, and Iraq for revenge. Or, as "Blissed Out Grandma" has said--for profit. And yet it was Saudi Arabia that most of the terrorists called home.

"Retired English Teacher" said, "In many ways, I think much of our nation has lost its soul by seeking revenge." And I agree with her. We seem to have lost our way and our honor. I find myself feeling afraid for our future.

Thank you for sharing the depth of your own grief over all this.
Peace in our time.

Friko said...

So many of my American friends are searching for answers to questions which cannot be solved. And so many of you are sad about what is happening to your country and the need to wage war, in one part of the world or another.

I have no answer, I am just sad. So many dead, so many lives destroyed.

Robert the Skeptic said...

I am not hopeful, there are strong vested interests in keeping the flame of hatred and distrust burning. We stopped looking for answers and focus instead on blind patriotism. It saddens me because the consequences of doing so are so grave.

Stella Jones said...

I spent most of Sunday in tears as I watched and shared with the families who had lost loved ones ten years ago. The day before 9/11 my son David had received his graduation as a Graphic Designer at university and it had been a wonderful day for all of our family. The next day! well who could have predicted that! I watched and I thought that maybe more capital cities would be targeted so I phoned my other son, who was in Paris at the time. It was awful and it is still awful and I cannot forgive what those bombers did - not now or ever.

Heidrun Khokhar, KleinsteMotte said...

We sat in the Boston hotel lounge along with people from around the world eating Sunday breakfast hushed as we had our eyes fixed to the large TV screen that sent out scenes of the past. Not only was the US hurt, many others as well.
War seems to be caused by a few raging idealists who suck into their cause so many innocent and often weak people. Those leaders seem to understand how to get followers. There ought to be more work done to prevent such happenings but when I see reality shows and how viewers are pulled in I wonder. There is even viewer encouragement participation by voting for acts they like best. I wonder about the real value of that (besides ratings) .
The men who pulled off the tower and other operations were carefully groomed. They were taught (groomed) to believe in the event. It is so sad that someone can pray on weaker people and tell them to do such violent acts by making them believe they are doing good.And they had to die doing it. That just shows how powerless they were. They were sadly misused by a power hungry idiot. Though he is now dead too some of his ideas have yet to be undone. His evil ideas still lurk about and that evil seems hard to quelch.
What I have never been able to grasp is why we can't find a way to educate all people to be the loving caring types all around the world. In fact I believe we are creating an environment where fear is causing people to act irrationally. While we worry about airport safety we are not focusing on gang wars and road carnage which is very high. Organized crime runs ramped around us. The money generated is tax free. And that's a HUGE loss!

That your son died the same way as his dad was really sad. May he rest in peace.