The morning began its usual routine. My baby slept while I showered, my wasband drove to work. When I got out of the shower, my phone was ringing. It was my friend Sharon and I chuckled that 6am was even early for her. I barely said “Hello” when she in her excitement asked “Did you see a plane hit the World Trade Center? Turn on the TV!” I was curious and planned to keep it on while getting ready. On the TV, the cameras were fixed on the towers, the north tower in flames, and were treating it as an unfortunate, yet ordinary, plane crash.
As I turned to get dressed, out of the corner of my eye the fireball erupted from the south tower. I turned back believing my eyes must be mistaken. I didn’t even yet know the full extent of what happened, but knew it was neither normal nor good. My mind raced searching for any explanations and immediately took sides. Logic and fear battled it out in my head while my eyes remained glued to the TV and its stream of horrific images. In a valiant effort to regain control, my head became overloaded, all of the energy left my body and I fell into the chair. On the opposite side of my being, I knew I was not dreaming because I felt the rock in my stomach and felt strange comfort from the ratty rough texture of the chair holding me. Immediately people said it, too, was a plane. I remember some group discussing the odds of 2 plane crashes originating from the same airport in the same day. They, nor I, “got” what was playing out in front of us.
When the Pentagon was wounded, in the heart of our country, my world and security unraveled. Nothing was impossible now as I witnessed America under surprise attack. I believed this could spread like a virus and dreaded the possibilities. I grieved for the world that I’d been so eager to experience through my son’s eyes as it seemed to be sucked into something sinister. I contacted my wasband who expressed concern for a co-worker returning from D.C. that morning and they didn’t know if not hearing from him was good or bad. Sharing other’s concerns, for what we hoped was an unrelated issue, allowed me to take a step back and hold onto a string of hope. My body slowly unclenched each muscle and I thankfully channeled my thoughts towards prayers for Yen.
I called my mom desperate for her to “fix things” as only moms can. She tuned in right as the south tower billowed new, grayer smoke that we assumed was another explosion. When the smoke parted revealing that the tower was gone, my eyes and emotions could not agree that it disappeared before our eyes. Shocked, my mother and I clung to each other through the line praying that everyone was evacuated safely but knowing they weren’t. The chirping of the many downed firemen’s jackets still chokes me up to this day. I hung up the phone, desperate to check on my still sleeping son, to catch a glimpse of the beauty still in this world. I feared that by opening his bedroom door, I’d unleash the wrath of this monstrous morning onto him that, thus far, I’d been able to contain to the living room. As reports of the next plane crash began, my mind instantly mapped it as related.
Through the TV screen, my eyes braced the north tower to keep it upright. My heart, saturated by pain, embraced those people who chose their best option of leaping from the floors 100 stories up. As the north tower fell, chaos and emotion blew through me as this tragic, ironic, heartfelt, twisted, yet strangely elegant, moving death closed a chapter of history. There was no turning back now, no helping, no fixing. It was done, they were gone.
Foolishly attempting to follow the logic of a terrorist, I knew they were coming to L.A. next and I did not feel right going to work, separated from my child. I never wanted to entertain the thought, but considered that if we would die today, I’d want us to be together. I was also extremely anxious at the idea of going to work in the high-rise building – the only building in the world to have Mickey Mouse on it, with his hands up inviting LAX or Burbank flights to “Come and Get Me!” Reports speculated that the enemies were targeting defining American icons such as Wall Street, the entertainment industry, Disney, baseball and apple pie. I decided that my home wasn’t even far enough away. No place offered security. I felt guilty thinking my emotions caused me to be a chicken shit but relaxed some when my boss called and said that the company announced we should stay home with family.
Many people say that west coasters didn’t feel it as much, but I know so many people who worked with, were related to, or knew people that were lost – we were not untouched. As the details spilled out, the nation-wide moments of silence and the local memorial for my ex’s co-worker Yen came and went, my mind and body constantly battled over how much I should be to feel or how much more I could possibly ache over. My mind controlled my emotions as tightly as it could, but my heart felt that it owed it to every last person that was lost, especially the heroes, and the victims’ families, to know their stories and feel the loss. Eventually I was able to survey the emotional grounds trusting my body would dictate what I could handle at one time. Each year the heartache comes rushing back.
My “best friend that I’ve met once in person” said it the best. We need to remember the unity we all felt. “We need to pull together & remember we are one. America. Not a country divided, or they have “succeeded”. Never, never, never give up. My heart will be with all that lost their lives that day & to the families still suffering their losses. Bless our country – however you choose to do so.”
Share your stories (or links) about that day or ways you’re honoring the fallen.
I try to hold onto the beauty that came as a result of this tragedy – the heroes, the humanity, the dreams that will be continued by family and friends. While this may not have been Yen’s exact plan for how to provide improved medical technology to his home country of Ethiopia, the people who were loved and touched by him will carry out his dream.