Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Where Were You?

The following post is about the September 11th attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Before I continue, I must also warn you that I refuse to engage in a debate about the following:

  • who or what group was responsible for the attacks
  • if 9/11 is/was a conspiracy
  • what religion the terrorists follow
  • politics in general

If you comment with the hope of engaging me in such a discussion, I will delete your comment. I'm not dignifying such comments with a response. This isn't about my beliefs concerning what happened on September 11th it's about the fact that it did happen. None of the above subjects pertains to this particular post. I'm simply posting about September 11th, because I don't want anyone to forget about what happened that day thirteen years ago. It's so easy to get caught up in our lives, doing our own thing, and then something like this rocks the entire nation. I don't ever want to forget. When people forget, other people try to remove it from the history books, and our children never learn about it in school. (The holocaust isn't taught in schools any more. There was at least one war that my friend, who is thirteen years older than me, learned about in school that was never taught during my school career.)

I will also be sharing photographs that circulated in the media for weeks after the attacks. You may choose not to continue from this point on. Viewer discretion is advised.

(I'm fairly sure the night of September 10th looked something like this.)

It was a beautiful Tuesday morning.

The sky was a robin's egg blue, and clear.

(It seriously looked like this.)

I wasn't feeling well, (I had a sunburn) and I skipped my first class to sleep in a little longer. We didn't have a washer and dryer at that time, so Doug got up early to do some laundry. He witnessed most everything that happened. On his way to the laundromat, he heard on the radio about the first plane hitting the towers. 

When he got to the laundromat, he turned on the news and began to put the laundry into the washers. He saw the second plane hit. 

(I don't think anyone imagined this would happen.)

That's when he knew something was up. He rang his mother and told her not to wake me, that he would ring me and tell me what was happening.

He rang me when it was time for me to get up and get ready for class. I knew that I couldn't shower due to the sunburn, so I slept as late as possible. When I answered the phone, I never in my life would have guessed what he was going to say. 

The first thing Doug told me was, "Change the channel to the news." I always watched Cartoon Network. I still do to this day. So I dragged my exhausted and sunburned body out of bed, grabbed the remote, and turned it to the news. What I saw flipped me out, Ironically, it was just bad timing about what was being shared by the man who was on the news. He was running and crying. He said that an elementary school was being evacuated due to a bomb threat. It turned out that it was just a threat, probably made by an idiot who picked the wrong day to call in a bomb threat to an elementary school, but the school was evacuated, which later turned out to be a good thing due to the towers eventual collapse. I started freaking out. That was the only time I burst into tears that day. Who would want to harm elementary school students? (I reacted to the September 11th tragedies a few weeks later. I was in such shock that it took me that long to react. Everyone else had the luxury of giving in to their emotions at some point during the day. Even Conan O'Brien was crying on his show that night, and did so for at least the next two shows. I felt like an outsider looking in, a mere observer of events and happenings. I didn't feel like it was happening directly to me for a while.)

I calmed down and asked Doug to tell me everything. It was basically something like this: There's been a terrorist attack. Terrorists hijacked planes and flew two of them, one into each tower, and one into the pentagon. (We later found out about the plane that crashed into a field.) I couldn't believe it. Unfortunately, I had to get ready for class. University hadn't been cancelled, but it should have been, Why it wasn't is beyond me.

On my way to my second class, the car broke down, so I never made it. My father-in-law had to come and pick me up. I was at the halfway point between home and University. When I got back home, I emailed my professors and let them know what was going on. I had classes all day on Tuesdays and Thursdays. I liked that, instead of having to go to University every single day, Monday through Friday, and I always had my homework done. I emailed my homework and sat down in front of the television to watch in shock. That day was the first time in a long time that I ever watched the news.

I've never been a fan of the news. Bad things happen all of the time, and if I see a story about an animal or a child dying at the hands of abuse and neglect, I become inconsolable for hours. (The last newscast that I made the mistake of watching or reading about was in 2007 and was about a woman who killed her three young children, dressed them, put them in the car, drove to work, and left them in the car. I sobbed for three hours. I can't handle things like that.) I don't like sobbing hysterically for hours on end, therefore, I don't watch the news. I let Doug tell me the important things, because he knows what I need to know and what I don't need to know.

Images like this littered the television screen the entire day.

The above picture always gets to me. This picture is really worth 1,000 words. It says so much. To see Lady Liberty shrouded in darkness, it evokes such fear, and it looks as if all hope is lost, and it appears as if a nation has fallen. It's also a hauntingly beautiful and patriotic photograph. The juxtaposition of Lady Liberty standing tall in all of her glory and splendor whilst surrounded by darkness. It's also a picture of hope in the midst of fear.

The towers collapsed one by one.

People ran for their lives.

As I watched, eyes glued to the television and mouth agape in shock, I couldn't help but feel like this was a bad dream, or a blockbuster movie. I couldn't grasp the fact that what was happening was happening in real life. Nobody ever imagines these things...well almost nobody. 

OCD sufferers, like me, usually try to go to their worst fears and allow them to play on a loop in their head and prepare every possible plan and contingency plan for these scenarios. Most of the time, those worst fears we have prepared for never happen. And even a person with OCD has never went here. Not before September 11th anyway.

I was watching this on television, yet all I could think about was what the people living in New York saw right there in front of them.

The worst part about the entire day was that I never saw Doug once after he woke me to tell me he loved me and kissed me goodbye. (He still does this every single day, and we have been married for thirteen years.) I vaguely remember him kissing me goodbye, telling me he loved me, and leaving. I was heading to class while he was bringing the clean clothes home and getting ready for work. When I got home, he was at work. I wasn't alone. My mother-in-law was there, but it wasn't the same as having my husband by my side. It made me anxious not seeing him until after eight o'clock that evening even though I knew he was okay.

When he got home, he sat by my side and watched the scary images on the news with me.

The Pentagon seems to get lost in the midst of the destruction of the towers. Nobody seems to talk about that, but I haven't forgotten that it was hit, too.

(This is all that was left...)

It's amazing how quickly it takes to destroy something, but how slowly it takes to build something. Think about that for a moment. All of that hard work, and there's nothing left to show for it. It's sad. That's why it's important to build each other up instead of tear each other down.

Rumours about gas prices rising the next day, more attacks, and the like circulated about the internet. Doug rang his Aunt Jo and Uncle George to warn them about some of the more plausible rumours. They had seen things and knew what to expect, and most of what he warned them about turned out to be just that, rumours. It was easy sifting through the rumours and determining the dubious claims from the plausible ones. Conspiracy theories and the blaming of certain political figures may have been circulating the world wide web as early as nine o'clock that evening. We didn't pay much attention to those things. We were looking for the things that should have garnered our concern at that moment.

Where were you that day? Where were you when the planes hit the World Trade Center towers and the Pentagon? Were you getting ready for work, getting your children ready for school, taking care of a sick child, coming off of a midnight shift, or were you asleep like me? Where were you?

It's moments like these that remind me of what's important and what isn't. We really aren't guaranteed one more month, one more week, one more day, one more hour, one more minute, or one more second. That's why it's important to tell those people close to you that you love them, your parents, your spouse, and your children especially. Make amends, say you're sorry, make time for crying out loud. You never know when you're seeing someone for the last time. Believe me, I know. 

I never realized that one day my father-in-law wouldn't remember me. I never realized that June of 2013 would be the last time I would see my godson, Avery, or my friend, Aimee. I should have hugged Avery as long as possible. I should have told Aimee that I thought she was this amazing, strong person. The good news is that I know that both of them realized that I cared, and I'm thankful.

On September 11th, people had no idea that they were seeing their spouses and children for the last time. How did that morning go? Did they tell their families they loved them, or did they argue over things that didn't really and truly matter? That scares me. I'm so glad that I have a husband who won't go into a different aisle in a store without telling me he loves me. I know that might sound silly or even ridiculous, but I get it. I really do.

Tonight and tomorrow, as you spend time with your loved ones, hold them close. Tell them you love them. Take the opportunity to laugh with them, cry with them, and be real with them. Make that time for them. We live in a world filled with as many bad things (if not more bad than good) as there are good things, and one day, there will be another tragedy. We will wake up and go about our lives, and by the end of the day, we will have witnessed another day in history where lives were lost at the hands of a person or group of people over something stupid that doesn't really matter. We will have yet another memorial, and more tears will be shed, and we will come together as a nation briefly, and time will pass, and more anniversaries will come, and we will take that day to come together once more, put our differences aside, and remember.

I, however, will never forget. I couldn't if I tried.

Where were you?

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