Sunday, September 11, 2011

9/11/01: Ten years later

How have I not written about 9/11?? The only blurb I can find is from a post about Jack:

"Then came 9/11. I was on night shift by then and had slept that whole day. I didn't find out until that afternoon when Jeff called to tell me to turn on the TV. I was in utter shock. I went through the motions of getting ready for work but I was in a complete daze. As I reached down to pick up my socks, the enormity of the situation hit me. As I crouched down, Jack pushed himself into my arms, put his paw on my arm and rested his head against my chest. He gave me comfort when I needed it the most. He always has. I just held him there, hugging him back, amazed at how in tune he was with my feelings."

I remember sitting on the couch in our little Durham apartment watching footage of the planes hitting, of the towers collapsing and was in a complete daze. It felt like days went by as I watched when it was more like an hour.  American Airlines flight 11 crashed into the north tower at  8:46 am. United Airlines flight 175 crashed into the south tower at 9:02am.  American Airlines flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon at 9:37am:184 victims.  United flight 93 crashed in a Shanksville, PA field at 10:03am: 40 victims.  There were 2,749 victims of the World Trade Towers, including the occupants of the planes. I was a newlywed, having just been married for 5 months and having just been to NY the previous January. I went in one of those towers. Granted, it was just to use the restroom..but still..I'd been there. How could it be gone? I knew people who worked in the Pentagon. Were they ok? And all those brave people who took back United 93 by rushing the cockpit and crashed it into PA to save the lives of how many others?? It wasn't just an act of terrorism, but it was a declaration of war against our country. 

After getting some solace from Jack and taking my shower..I left for work. I walked out the door and remember the silence. No cars, no planes..not even birds. Nothing. In the distance, I could barely hear some church bells.  There was hardly anyone on the road. Truth be told..I don't remember much of the days that followed. I remember research efforts trying to find people alive. I remember watching footage of people diving to their deaths from the towers rather than die in a fire. I remember the realization that there were still firefighters and police officers in that building. Lives of brave, courageous men and women...gone. Other firefighters and police trying rapidly to get to their fallen brothers...not knowing if they were alive and trapped or if they were just looking for a body.  

I also remember walking into work and seeing the concern on everyone's faces. I work in a 911 center, so the impact is a bit different when you're imagining what the NY and DC 911 centers were going through. I've worked some crazy, insane stuff..multiple car wrecks that were fully involved on the interstate, b&e in progress with shots fired, chemical storage facility fires..and many of those things were all going on at the same time, but I can't imagine how their centers were handling what was going on.  I remember a coworker who's sister lives in NY and works only 2 buildings down from where the towers once stood. She's still alive, but she suffered lung damage from breathing all that stuff in.

So what's changed in 10 years? A lot. The Department of Homeland Security was developed. The TSA really tightened down on who was allowed to fly, what you were allowed to take on the plane and really made it a complete pain to try to fly anywhere. They now have backscatter x-ray machines to take pictures of your body to make sure you're not hiding metal of any sort on you. Does it cause cancer? Maybe, but it's a LOT faster than having a full body pat down where they leave no crevice unexplored. 

We waged war on the Middle East. A war that still continues. Over oil, over religion, over foreign policy and a difference of life values.  We've killed Saddam Hussein and we've killed Osama Bin Laden as recently as 5 months ago. Someone's already taken Bin Laden's place and made threats to attack the US again on the 10th anniversary of 9/11. This country's economy is crippled due to the cost of this war. The cost of gas and oil has tripled. Before 9/11, gas was about $1.50 a gallon. Yesterday, I paid $3.52, which is actually down a bit. It's been as high as $4.35. There's an overall hatred of Muslims, despite the fact that many of them are just as against terrorists as the Christian next to them. Many in this country are ignorant though and stereotype horribly.  It's not as bad as it used to be though. The images of that horrible day haven't been seen much in the past 10 years. There's still even new footage coming out...different angles of the plane hitting, interviews with the people who survived, the journalists, the president, etc.  Even to this day, the footage is hard to watch. I still feel a sense of anger and dismay...a scream of," How dare they!?! How DARE they do this to us!! Attck the US!?! Who do they think they are?!"

Some of the hardest footage to watch is listening to the chirping of hundreds of firefighter locator beacons as they were trapped in the rubble of what used to be the towers. Everyone was just standing around helpless. Listening to the 911 stories was hard too. Phone lines jammed, endless radio traffic, trying to coordinate rescue efforts..then the 2nd tower came down and there was just silence. There was no more radio traffic because the people on the other end were gone. That lasted for about 2 minutes..then the phones started up again. 

I think many are just waiting on another attack. Every year it's expected..but that's exactly why it'll never come. They know we expect it and heighten security. I'm not arrogant enough to say it'll never happen again, but it won't happen on 9/11. Will we recover? Someday..but no time soon. Will we be attacked again? I think Al Qaeda will try, but they'll meet the same end as Bin Laden. Every time a new threat rises, we'll knock them down but not at a great sacrifice of our own. We all suffer because of what happened that day. The entire country changed that day. Our entire outlook of life changed..our way of living. Even 10 years later, I feel like we're still wounded...still bleeding. In the past, the war was always somewhere else. You can't compare Pearl Harbor to this.   We were already in war and Japan was trying to cripple the Navy. This was different. They were starting a war by killing 3,000 innocent people. 

Yes..even today the images of that day are hard to see. So much so, that even with all the 9/11 Anniversary footage on tv recapping that day and telling the untold stories, Jeff doesn't want to watch it. He left the room, but I think it's important to remember that day. To understand this was the greatest event in our history and know we lived through it. It was the first time such a huge event happened on live air. Even parts of the war were shown on live air..the bombing of Iraq and Afghanistan. This was the first time I realized that we weren't invincible..that we may not always be on top. It was a loss of innocence for the entire country. Our bubble was shattered and looking back, I barely remember what life was like before it. 

Life is described as "Pre and Post 9/11"..but the pre part is pretty hazy even though 23 of my 34 years were Pre 9/11. I just know I'll long for those days. The days of trust. Of innocence. I pray the next generation will know that innocence again, that they can overcome and keep us safe from this ever happening again. I have faith that's true. I have to, because I refuse to live in terror. Isn't that what terrorists want? Terror? Well, they won't get that from me. I believe in God and He gives me strength. I pray for the families of those who were lost that horrible Tuesday 10 years ago. I pray for our country's leaders who shoulder burdens that should never have existed.  I pray for world peace and an end to terrorism. I pray for the citizens of the USA and the children who can't have the happy go lucky childhood I had. I pray for God to protect us and I thank God for the blessings he has given me because the way I see it, In God We Trust. Always.