Sunday, September 11, 2011

I remember...

So I took a short break from my blog because of a vacation, and well, a needed break. Life just caught up with me. Too much work, too much to do. But I'm back.

And it is September 11th, ten years later. Initially, as the anniversary approached, I didn't think I would post anything on the subject as there is already so much out there -- what do I have to contribute? But, then I thought about how we talk about the major events in history, and how everyone who experiences those events remembers what they were doing at the time. And I thought my experience was worth writing down. Though -- after ten years -- I wonder how much of my memory has been shaded by the events that have taken place since? Human memories are not something locked away in time, frozen. They are part of our living experience, and can fade and change over time.

But this is September 11, 2001 as I remember today.

The morning of September 11th, I went to work at my technology company (not my current company) in Southfield, Michigan. I worked in a small hi-rise in a small cluster of hi-rises in downtown Southfield. My husband had also gone to work in Dearborn, Michigan. He had just returned on Sunday night from a trip hanging out with his college friends in New York City. One of his friends lived in Manhattan; most friends had left on Sunday, but one friend stayed for an extended vacation.

While sitting at my desk at work, I remember someone saying that a plane had struck a skyscraper in New York City. I remember loading up a news website, and having a hard time keeping it up. My coworkers and I commented that the news sites were getting pounded with user traffic, and could not keep up. (This was my techie hat). Shortly thereafter, several of the news websites changed the formatting of their front pages to allow faster load times. They removed all the ads, and all extraneous stories. I was impressed at how quickly several of the news sites responded to the increased user traffic.

I remember commenting to a coworker that there was no way they could "fix" that skyscraper. It was too damaged. I remember discussing with coworkers about this bizarre accident, and commenting "That was no accident. A plane can miss a skyscraper. That was done on purpose."

I remember hearing about the second plane hitting the World Trade Center, and stating to a coworker, "They gotta bring ALL the planes down. NOW." I thought about the logistics of getting down all the planes currenting in the U.S. I thought about how many more planes in the air could be flying bombs.

I remember that they announced all the planes in the U.S. were being told to land immediately, and there were a few planes not "listening."

I remember calling my husband. He wanted to find his friends who were still in New York. He had not heard from either of them yet.

I remember looking out the windows of our small hi-rise (we were probably on the 5th or 6th floor) and saying "Someone needs to make a decision to send us all home." Shortly thereafter, some of our leadership announced that we should all go home.

I remember seeing the images: those little specs outside the towers an debating if those were really people jumping or falling (I didn't believe it), the towers coming down, and the thousands of dusty people walking out of the city.

I remember hearing about the Pentagon being hit. I remember thinking "That it. We are at war. Now, who is attacking???"

I remember hearing about the plane crashing in Pennsylvania, and the media announcing that they did not know if it was related, and I thought "Yeah, right. Of course it is related. Would the Air Force really shoot down a commercial airliner?" After hearing this was really an uprising from the passengers, I was very reassured. I was proud that other Americans would take matters in their own hands when they realized the stakes.

I remember my husband trying for many hours to locate his friends in NYC, and make sure they were OK. Finally, we had confirmation of their whereabouts. His one friend was a trained EMT, and had volunteered his services at the hospital where he worked as a researcher; the hospital was in the "quarantine" zone of Manhattan. In the end, his services were not really needed as there were not the huge numbers of injured expected (since the towers fell). His other friend, the visitor in town, had talked about going to the financial district for some tourist stops that day; fortunately, he never got out of bed that morning, and missed the whole thing.

I remember that we had a planned trip to Washington, DC the week after 9/11.  We were going to a friend's engagement party.  Several people said we should not go.  We debated what to do.  In the end, we decided that terrorists would not be stopping us from living our lives;  not even now.  We drove to Washington, D.C. We could not get within several blocks of the Pentagon, but we had a wonderful time seeing friends, and seeing the Capitol.

Here is a picture I took of the Capitol building from our trip to DC in September 2001, with the Capitol's flag at half staff.

I remember how quiet the skies were without commercial aircraft in the sky. I remember one evening a couple days after 9/11, and hearing a jet, and being very startled. After realizing it was an Air Force jet from Selfridge Air Force base, I knew things had changed overnight.

I remember thinking "Who is THAT?" when the names Al Qaeda and Osama Bin Laden were announced as the likely masterminds of the attacks. When I understood this was a Muslim extremist group, I immediately felt protective and uneasy for my Muslim friends and Detroit-area Muslim community. I knew there would be small-minded people who would assume guilt by association, and want to take their pound of flesh. I wish I was wrong about that premonition.

I remember people saying that they didn't trust the world anymore, and didn't know what was worth pursuing. But this is not how I felt. I suddenly felt that we needed to pursue the important things, the good things. After years of people asking "when are you guys going to start having kids?" and me giving a standard answer of "5 years or so...", suddenly I was thinking "I wanna start having kids now." Our first child, our daughter, was born in 2003 (hey, these things still take time!).

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