9/11: Reflections On The 10th Anniversary
Sometimes it seems as if everyone you talk to knows someone who was killed or injured in the attacks and I too could play that game; a brother-in-law of a co-worker who was a co-pilot on one of the planes, a woman who grew up in my hometown who was in the towers, but I never met them and it would be disrespectful to their memories for me to pretend that I had. The fact is that day affected all of us in different ways, regardless of where we lived and who we knew.
As for me, I was working in Boston at the time and had just gotten to work when the first plane hit. I heard about it, but envisioned it was an accident involving a single-engine plane. Until the news about 15 minutes later that the second tower had been hit. Then my first thought was “we’re at war.”
There was an eerie silence in the office, punctured only by the occasional “oh my God” or “did you hear.” We lived on the Internet and when websites went down, we managed to muster up a radio. Rumors swirled and it was difficult to know what was really going on outside 175 Berkeley Street. I called my best friend who lived in the Washington, DC area after I read a report of the National Mall being on fire – he promptly put that rumor to rest. Another friend who lived outside New York City called me hysterical and traumatized by the repeated image of the towers coming down. I told her to turn off her television and listen to the radio instead.
I also remember the ride home from work that day. I took public transportation to and from work and this meant getting on a commuter train only a few hours after the attacks began. At this time we knew one of the planes had come from Boston and no one knew what, if anything, would happen next. The train went painfully slow and it was packed. There was a Sikh man in my car and you could feel the stares from our fellow passengers. His turban was a warning beacon to many of them. I remember thinking “I’m glad I’m not him.”
As soon as I got off the train I headed straight to my boyfriend’s apartment, I did not pass go; I did not collect $200. September 11th was not a day you wanted to spend alone. It was a day to call friends and family members, especially ones you hadn’t talked to in a while. It was a day when Congress came together on the steps of the Capitol and broke into song (by the way, we could use a little of that unity today).
But my memories of 9/11 extend beyond that day. When I think of the 11th I think of that particular day and the month that followed. Not to sound melodramatic or anything but I knew life would never be the same – think about it, we refer to the world now as pre- or post-9/11 – but I had no idea how drastically my life would be altered.
Almost four weeks after the attacks the U.S. began bombing Afghanistan. This made me want to call my father. Seems weird I know, but my dad had an interesting theory about something that happened on 9/11 (not a strange conspiracy theory or anything) and I knew he would have something to say about our military response. I called my parents’ house but the line was busy (these were the days of dial-up and someone in the house was online). I would never hear my father’s reaction. The next day, October 8th, I was the one who received a phone call, this one telling me that my father was at the hospital. He had suffered a major heart attack and died. So I guess my recollection of 9/11 is of loss after all, it just came 4 weeks later and had nothing to do with terrorists.
It’s been 10 years since the attacks, and my father’s death; sometimes, it feels like yesterday, other times a lifetime ago. There is a hole in my heart just like the hearts of the family members of the more than 3,000 people killed in New York City, Arlington, Va. and Shanksville, Pa. On Sunday we can dwell on the loss or instead we can celebrate the lives of our loved ones gone too soon. I know what my choice will be.
Reach Christine Detz here.