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9/11: Do You Remember?

World Trade Center


SLIGHTLY OFF THE MARK




I have this recurring nightmare. I wake up one September morning, look around the neighborhood and check the news, then realize I’m the only person who remembers what happened on September 11, 2001.

Maybe it’s not such a terribly unrealistic thing to worry about.

Where were you on that morning? I headed home from work with no particular plan other than getting some sleep, and turned on the TV for background noise while I got ready for bed.

A shell shocked newscaster was reporting that an airplane had just hit one of the
World Trade Center towers, and that the other was on fire.

“Wow,” I thought, “what a horrible coincidence.”

Then I realized it couldn’t be a coincidence. The only logical answer was that an airborne news crew had been dispatched to cover the fire, and accidentally flew into one tower while filming the other one.

It didn’t take long to realize something even more horrible was going on.

Where were you that moment? The moment the world changed forever? Do you remember?

My then-girlfriend was a 911 call taker for the New York City Fire Department. Having a similar job myself, I knew she was having a really, really bad shift. Still, although I couldn’t remember which part of the city her dispatcher center was in, at least whatever was happening seemed to be limited to the Towers.

Then a newsman at the Pentagon in Washington reported hearing the building shudder, as if something huge had hit it.

The United States was at war, as surely as the moment bombs started falling on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. As I shoved a videotape into the VCR and pushed “record”, I remember thinking that September 11, 2001 would be one of those dates remembered forever, just like Pearl Harbor Day.

Will it be, though? Forever is a long time – how many school kids today can tell you the date of the Pearl Harbor attack, or the date when Kennedy was shot? Who remembers the date the Confederacy bombed Fort Sumter?

I had my scanner on, but there was an odd silence at first. Everyone was glued to the TV, if they weren’t actually on TV. I watched a reporter, standing in a Manhattan building with the burning Towers behind him, as he repeated what we knew, and what we didn’t. Suddenly, just behind him, one side of a Tower seemed to slide away. A wall is collapsing, I thought. A lot of people just died.

It wasn’t just a wall.

High rise buildings have burned before. The Empire State Building was also hit by an airplane, and survived – but it wasn’t made with truss construction. Other burning high rises didn’t suffer the immediate destruction of their fire protection systems, the explosive heat of a jet fuel fire, and an impact that blasted off critical insulation material, all at once.

Engineers and firefighters alike later realized the collapse was inevitable. Trusses are only as strong as their weakest member, and without any form of protection they fail early when attacked by extreme heat. There was never a chance to save those buildings.

I stood – apparently I’d never sat down to begin with – frozen in place as I realize what happened. A lot more people just died than I’d thought. A lot more.

Which Borough was my girlfriend’s dispatch center in?

By now the scanner was becoming active again, as word went out across the country. In an extraordinary first, every emergency service was being placed on standby. The military was mobilizing; every single airplane in the sky was being grounded. No one knew what was going to be hit next, or how many of the enemy were out there.

I hurried to the firehouse, picturing what would happen if someone flew a plane into downtown Fort Wayne, or rammed a gasoline tanker into a building, or detonated an ammonium nitrate bomb. At the very least we’d be moved up for standby; we might even end up on the scene. Rumors whirled, but one thing we did know was that anyone who could organize four hijackings could coordinate a dozen attacks, or three dozen, or a hundred. We’d been caught flat footed, and the possibilities were endless.

I wonder if anyone remembers the fear of that day, the stress of not knowing who had attacked, or what could come next. I wonder if anyone even remembers that, while we’ve killed or captured many of these extremists since, the remnants of their organization is still out there. Planning.

My department didn’t get called out that day. Like everyone, the Albion volunteers who could get away from work stayed near a TV. After awhile the repetition became too much and many of them wandered to other parts of the station, or just stood by the doors, looking outside at a brilliantly sunny world that was no longer so bright.

I made increasingly desperate attempts to reach my girlfriend. Surely, even in this, she’d get a break sooner or later? I didn’t realize how much critical communications equipment that had once stood at the top of a Trade Center Tower.

The dispatch center, it turns out, was across the river. She spent the morning talking on the phone to people who were about to die.

Oh, but that was a long time ago.

The economy has taken everyone’s attention away from the events of eight long years ago. Generally, Americans are homebodies; they concern themselves first with their economy, health care, taxes. That’s why, despite years of extremist attacks and killing of Americans and American allies, it wasn’t until 9/11 that we really had it knocked into us that we were at war with another ideology. Once things settled down and the economy soured, our thoughts went elsewhere again.

But that doesn’t change a thing. Thousands of people are still dead. 343 firefighters were still murdered trying to save others. We could pull every soldier out of every country in the world and bring them home right now, and we’d still be the Great Satan that those crazed terrorists have dedicated themselves to bringing down.

For the sake of all those who died, and all those who may die in the future, please: Remember.

Comments

( 34 comments — Leave a comment )
(Anonymous)
Sep. 11th, 2009 05:24 am (UTC)
fucking eyesore
Sorry to the dead, but those buildings where an eyesore.
get over it.
(Deleted comment)
Re: fucking eyesore - ozma914 - Sep. 11th, 2009 07:22 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: fucking eyesore - ozma914 - Sep. 11th, 2009 07:21 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: fucking eyesore - gillo - Sep. 11th, 2009 06:49 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: fucking eyesore - ozma914 - Sep. 12th, 2009 06:41 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: fucking eyesore - gillo - Sep. 11th, 2009 06:48 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: fucking eyesore - ozma914 - Sep. 12th, 2009 06:42 am (UTC) - Expand
xenaclone
Sep. 11th, 2009 07:03 am (UTC)
It was my daughter's 16th birthday. We won't - we can't - forget. Also a friend in Manhatten just missed being caught up in 9/11 and I knew the pastor Martin Hauser who had a church right by the Twin Towers and was one of those taking people in and helping them as best he could.

The world is smaller than you think. We are connected.
ozma914
Sep. 11th, 2009 07:23 am (UTC)
It's a horrible thing to happen anytime, but especially horrible for someone to have to go through on their 16th birthday. And yes, the world gets amazingly smaller every day.
(Deleted comment)
ozma914
Sep. 11th, 2009 07:23 am (UTC)
If it wasn't for the dickheads, we would understand how wonderful the good people are.
keith5by5
Sep. 11th, 2009 07:31 am (UTC)
yeah, I remember turning on my TV at 2:30 in the afternoon, thinking that it was a movie premiere, then realising with a dawning horror that I watching real life.

Unfortunately for reasons political, there hasn't really been the world shift that I thought this terrible act would bring.
ozma914
Sep. 11th, 2009 10:15 am (UTC)
You're absolutely right -- I also thought it would bring huge changes, but for all too many people it's gone on as business as usual.

Edited at 2009-09-11 10:18 am (UTC)
(no subject) - keith5by5 - Sep. 11th, 2009 11:02 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - ozma914 - Sep. 12th, 2009 06:43 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - keith5by5 - Sep. 12th, 2009 07:22 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - ozma914 - Sep. 12th, 2009 07:53 am (UTC) - Expand
kassto
Sep. 11th, 2009 08:39 am (UTC)
I remember it distinctly, from the other side of the world. I was pregnant, and asleep. The phone woke me about 2am — it was a colleague of my then husband's, calling him into work, as he was a newspaper news editor. The colleague had insomnia and had been up in the small hours watching CNN. I stayed up all the rest of the night watching it unfold on TV while my husband raced into work. I took my 2-year-old into meet him at work at the end of his shift when they had put out a special edition of the paper with the twin towers all over the front, and he got very tearful when he saw us.
ozma914
Sep. 11th, 2009 10:17 am (UTC)
I have a collection of newspapers and magazines from the time -- I was impressed at how well the print media handled the unfolding story, and I don't know a person who wasn't impacted by it. I gave my kids an extra big hug next time I saw them.
(no subject) - kassto - Sep. 11th, 2009 10:28 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - ozma914 - Sep. 11th, 2009 10:51 am (UTC) - Expand
enigmaticblues
Sep. 11th, 2009 01:01 pm (UTC)
I remember where I was, what I was doing. On my way to my Parapsychology class, I heard people muttering about a plane running into a building, but in my Women's Lit class, the teacher had the television on. Her brother lived in Manhattan, and she canceled class for the day. I went back to my dorm room and was glued to the TV with xphilehb until I couldn't stand it anymore.

I also remember where I was and what I was doing the day of the Columbine massacre, and not being able to get my parents on the phone for three hours to make sure my brother was okay. Things like this...I think they're burned on your memory if you have an ounce of compassion.
ozma914
Sep. 12th, 2009 06:44 am (UTC)
There are some who *don't* have an ounce of compassion ... but the rest of us will never forget those moments.
winsomeone
Sep. 11th, 2009 01:45 pm (UTC)
I'm glad you did a reminder today, Mark. It's amazing how many people are starting to forget those events already. We, as a people, do have very short memories.

We need to stop for a moment today and pray for everyone affected then and still affected today by such senseless tragedy and evil.
ozma914
Sep. 12th, 2009 06:45 am (UTC)
Yes, we do, don't we? *sigh* I stopped a lot all day. From time to time I still do it all year long.
aadler
Sep. 11th, 2009 03:20 pm (UTC)
My first impressions are here.

Other information, thoughts, and responses can be found here, here, and here.
ozma914
Sep. 12th, 2009 07:06 am (UTC)
I read them all ... you should be writing a column of your own, man.
gillo
Sep. 11th, 2009 07:14 pm (UTC)
I do remember where I was when Kennedy was assassinated - it was a Friday evening and my little brother and I were bathed and ready for bed, but allowed to stay up to watch one of our favourite sitcoms. There was a delay, and a news announcer told us he'd been shot - and then answered the phone on-screen. I can remember his face changed, then he said "I'm sorry to have to tell you that President Kennedy is dead." I was only 7 and only really grasped that something momentous had happened. My parents sat in utter, silent, shock. My little brother, 5, whine for half an hour because his show was delayed. My parents barely noticed him. Theye eventually showed the sitcom and we watched it, because the world had twisted so much that we were allowed to stay up
that late
. It might even have been at late as 9.30!

I remember where I was when I heard Lennon had been shot, when the Challenger went down, when Diana died (a friend in Atlanta telephoned me
at a quarter to friggin five in the morning
!)

But 9/11, now that was different. For us it happened early afternoon, and I was in work. A whole bunch of our older kids were sitting a test in the hall and I'd been invigilating (watching) them. I came out at the end of the lesson and my relief said that her son had just texted her to say that a plane had flown into one of the Towers. I raced to one of the few rooms with an outside TV lead, with a modern languages teacher. We watched, bouche bée (open-mouthed), unable to process it for a few seconds, then he raced off into all the other language-teaching classrooms to put their TVs on - in French, because that's how those TVs were tuned. A couple of hundred kids first saw it with a French commentary.

I'm British. We had thirty years of terrorism, part-funded by Americans, remember, so the fact of the attack wasn't such a shock as the scale. Hundreds of Brits died in those towers, too - it was a truly global target. And it ushered in huge changes. In some ways I feel the terrorists succeeded in their aims, driving a huge wedge between Islam and the west. And more people have died since as a result of their actions than they killed that day, including manny innocent people in their "own" countries.

I can only begin to imagine how it felt for a firefighter as the day unrolled and so many of your comrades died. They were true heroes and it will be a greater tragedy still if we ever forget their sacrifice.

{{hugs}}

And I really wish we could hunt the Anonymous Jerk down and do painful things to his reproductive organs...
ozma914
Sep. 12th, 2009 07:13 am (UTC)
Hm ... I do have that little thingy turned on that's supposed to log IP addresses ... I suppose we *could* make Anonymous Jerk a gelding ...

Those extremists over there have been killing their own and other people for decades before and all the years since 9/11, and have no intention to stop killing -- that's one of the reasons why I think it's so important to remember this, and all the other terrorist attacks they've carried out before and since. We can't afford to just let it go and hope they play nice. We also need to make the rest of the Muslim world understand that they need to put more effort into this to, or those few maniacs will sooner or later take over their entire religion.
ubiquirk
Sep. 13th, 2009 04:04 pm (UTC)
I was in the car when the first one hit, but in front of a TV by the time the second one did. When the collapse came, I was numb with shock. "How could this get worse?" had just happened.

You're right. We need to remember the people who died that day, and especially the people who helped others, including those who've put their own health at permanent risk.
ozma914
Sep. 14th, 2009 03:32 am (UTC)
Well said. We do tend to forget all the people who breathed that crap in for so many days at Ground Zero ... it reminds me of firefighters in general, who right up through the time I started were breathing in all sorts of toxins on a daily basis ... and nobody thinks about it until they get sick years later.
(Deleted comment)
ozma914
Sep. 17th, 2009 06:11 am (UTC)
Sometimes I think I was fortunate in a way, to be in the comfort of my own home when the first reports came in. On the other hand I was home alone, which was not a good thing at a time like that. Anyway, I think it's safe to assume that very few people got any regular business done that day.
( 34 comments — Leave a comment )

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