Tackling the Tough Memories of 9/11
I’m not sure how travel related this post will end up being and please excuse me if I ramble. My friend over at Suitcases And Sippycups put out a challenge to post where you were on 9/11. This is a hard date for me. I don’t deal with tragedy and loss well. My dog has been gone 9 years now. I still think he is living on a farm somewhere in PA. It’s just easier for me to live in denial sometimes. Ironically my dad works in hospice.
I did not know anyone personally who was lost in 9/11. I had several friends living in New York at the time. I have grandparents, aunts and uncles in North Jersey. My cousins could have been in the city for a field trip. My uncles could have had to run downtown for work. Any number of factors could have changed the personal impact this event had on my family.
When the first plane crashed, I heard a cell phone ring. I was working in an insurance office in downtown Savannah while I was in college. One of my co-workers lived on the army base in town. Her husband was calling her to tell her what happened. We all logged onto CNN and watched in shock as the second plane hit tower 2.
Shortly after that my coworker’s phone rang again. Her husband was telling us that the Pentagon had just been hit, moments before the news was telling us the same thing. We couldn’t believe it. It was too surreal. We held our breath as the world watched to see what would happen with plane number 4. When the last plane crashed in Pennsylvania I looked up the sight on a map. I needed to see how close it was to my family in Philadelphia.
I was instantly on the phone trying to reach anyone in NYC and PA. I needed to know my friends and family were OK. I felt so powerless. I was 800 miles from everyone. I could do nothing. Cell phone lines were jammed. The rest of the world was trying to call their loved ones. Thanks to modern technology I was able to reconnect with everyone via instant messenger within hours.
My friend Wynne was NYU. She was OK. Her sister Meg had quickly moved into her dorm room with her though. Meg’s dorm was just down the street from Ground Zero and was quickly condemned. All students were relocated and given a stipend to get some clothes and new books for class. Another friend had been uptown so he was safe as well.
That night I watched in horror as they replayed footage on the news. I can still see people jumping out of the towers in my head. Images that horrific do not go away.
My mom was calling every 5 minutes. We didn’t know what would happen next. She gave me her emergency plan if they had to evacuate the city. She wanted to know that I could find her if I had to. I desperately needed this information as well. Never did I think I would need a back up plan in case terrorists hit my hometown.
The country changed that day. Friends in the military went off to war. The local Army base went into immediate lockdown. My coworker was picked up within the hour as the base closed and would not reopen for days.
People were afraid to fly. Airlines were crippled as no fly zones were put into place and passengers cancelled tickets. Fear had gripped a nation that was not used to war or chaos. My generation had not really grasped the Vietnam War since so many of us weren’t even born yet. Now a new generation, my son included, may never full understand what 9/11 did to the world.
As I look back now, I cannot tell you what I did the day after 9/11. I must have gone to class. I can’t tell you the next time I flew. I must have done it at some point that year as I was graduating and needed to go back up north. Maybe I drove. The only flight I remember after 9/11 was when I went to Lisbon in November 2003. Surely that can’t be the first plane ride since those tragic events. Maybe it was.
Either way, life has oddly moved on. We have all found reasons to be grateful. To pick up our lives no matter where they happened to be when 9/11 affected us.
This year I was able to celebrate one of my best friend’s birthdays on the beach. She was born on Sept. 11th. She will always have a joyful, and yet tragic, day of celebration. But she is alive. She loves life and is living it to the fullest. That’s the best some of us can do for those who did not survive. In their honor, we find reasons to be joyful, but we never forget.