September 3, 2010

Routine and Ordinary No More


As anyone would probably tell you, September 11, 2001 started out as any other day for me. It was a Tuesday and just two days after my son’s fourth birthday. My daughter, born on May 1, 2001, was only slightly over 4 months old, and fussing for her morning bottle. Working nights, I was always tired, but woke up like any other day to get the day rolling. My routine in those days was to get my daughter’s bottle ready first, then go to her room and change her diaper, then settle down to feed her while I watched the morning news on Fox. At the push of a button, that day was no longer “routine” or “ordinary.”

Timing seemed to be everything. At the point I had turned on the news, they weren’t showing images of the planes, but just the explosions. I immediately got a feeling of extreme doom in my heart. My first thought? We were being attacked by missiles or something similar. My second was of complete distress…what kind of world will my kids grow up in if we are, indeed, being invaded? About that time, my husband burst through the front door and all I could muster was “What the HELL is happening?!?!?!?” …a moment etched in both of our minds forever.

As the day unfolded, there were many tears shed and as many moments of sheer anger. And grief. I had to go find the pictures of the World Trade Center - I felt so fortunate that I had a chance to see those amazing buildings during a trip to New York. I felt that I had to look at them just to let the whole idea that they were gone sink into my heart and my head.

Before I knew it, the time had come for me to go to work. It was so hard to peel away from my family, and from the news, but I thought that work could bring just a bit of “normalcy” to my day. Of course, I was wrong.

Getting to work was a challenge. We shared an office building with a local radio station and the parking lot, as well as the roads in, were clogged with cars. People were donating money to aid the victims and their survivors. I had *no* issue with being late that day because of this. Once I got into the office, you could feel the distinct change in atmosphere. A place normally abuzz as hundreds of employees talk with customers on the phone, an eerie quiet was in the air. We barely were getting phone calls, which makes complete sense. Those that did call in felt guilty, and said as much. Then there were those who called in because they just needed to talk with someone. Those were the hard calls, because America’s people were grieving whether the knew anyone affected by the events at the WTC, the Pentagon, or in Shanksville. A wonderful lady who reported to me was at work, even though a very close cousin of hers was missing, working in the Pentagon. She asked me if it would be okay if she kept her cell phone on, which is usually not something we allowed on the production floor. Of course I told her okay, but also encouraged her to be home with her family. She came to work, she said, because she had worried all day and wanted something to take her mind off of it. I cried for her. I didn’t know what else to do but offer her support and prayers. Finally a moment of sheer joy hit our production floor when she got that cell phone call. Her cousin, while seriously injured, was found and okay. It didn’t matter if a customer was on the phone, the whole room burst out in cheers, clapping and tears.

We were all still focused on the news. Everyone had the Internet up, checking on the news. We made sure the break room had a television on. I had been very used to eating at my desk over lunch and taking breaks at my desk, but decided in those days to eat and break in the break room. I remember the speeches by GWB and how everyone, no matter their political affiliation or background, was inspired and touched by Bush’s words, and more importantly, his actions.

In the days that followed, when there was no air traffic, I tended to get spooked out. Late at night, for about an hour, I was the only person in the building I worked in. It was so quiet, you could hear every noise, every rattle, every creak. And a few nights, you could hear the jets taking off from Offutt AFB (we were in the midst of their flight path). Imagine yourself, already spooked, sitting alone in a huge building late at night, knowing planes aren’t supposed to be flying. At that most panicky moment, that’s when the large jet managed to zoom past the building. The first night that happened, I swear I was under my cubicle, thinking I was about to die. Then when I ran and looked out the window, I did the whole “DUH” thing (slap on forehead included), but proceeded to pack up my stuff and got the hell out of there. My heart was still racing - even when I pulled into my driveway. That’s when I realized, that for such a “distant” attack, it had even changed *my* life forever.

I remember the day that Bush declared we were at war with Afghanistan. I remember thinking “Hell, yeah….those bastards deserve everything we’ve got!” …and got it, they did. I remember watching the footage each night and day, an eerie green-hued Steve Harrigan etched into my mind. I would stay up until 3-4am, just to watch the footage, only to start it up the next day. I remember my 4-year-old son asking if Osama bin Laden was going to kill us. My son, I will say, is brilliant. At the age of four, he was asking me about the news, and the mastermind behind a major terrorist plot - but at the same time, my very sensitive son had fear on his face - he was genuinely concerned. I explained to him that the army guys were “beating him up” and he’d never be able to hurt us. From that day on, “Army guys” were my son’s heroes.

Each year, there have been vigils and memorial services to remember those lost in the 9/11 attacks. They have served, for me, as a reminder of what we have lost.

They have also served to keep my beliefs and ideals firmly in place, especially when I watch my young children participate in these services. This is a world they are inheriting - not by anything they have done, but at the hands of extremists who hate our country.

There was a unity for some time in this country. Flags flying, people crossing the aisle to say “let’s work together and support this cause.” We don’t see that anymore - at least on the outside (i.e. the media). We have the Michael Moores and Cindy Sheehans of the world who will tell you that GWB and anyone who believes in his leadership is putting soldiers in harms way for no reason. However, most “every day Americans” have faith that the Bush Administration is leading us in the right direction in the War on Terror. President Bush has never said that road would be easy, and he never said the war would be swift, no matter where the war took us. He did let us know these efforts will preserve our freedoms and that soldiers would die for this cause. That’s what war is - freedom has a price. 3000+ Americans paid a heavy price on 9/11 and I believe in assuring their deaths were not in vain.

Merri S.

Never Forget. Where were You on 9.11.2001 and what were you doing? What were you thinking? How has 9.11.2001 impacted your life?

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