I debated about writing a blog article about 9/11. And after all that debate, this is a long post.
On the one hand, there's no denying it was a pivotal point in the world's history.
On the other hand, it's still raw to me and my husband and I doubt I will ever, ever be able to watch a television program about it for as long as I live. In fact the events of that fateful day are still so horrifying I can't bring myself to watch any of the shows about 9/11.
I think I've shared my story with you before, but I will again for those who may not have heard it. Lots of us have stories, and I do believe that our stories do need to be heard -- so history won't repeat itself, so we remember what's important, so we don't make snap judgments, and so our verbal history might make looking at terrifying photos not so necessary.
So here's my family's story.
I was working in the field of high tech in September of 2001. I had just started a new job, convincing large companies they needed this huge software to run their entire business. I integrated a team of ten to twenty programmers and systems analysts to make all this work. Needless to say, each job often took six months to sell, a year and a half to complete, and cost easily a million dollars upon completion. My new job's challenge was to take this brand new company no one had ever heard of into a brand new territory -- government entities.
My start date -- September 10th.
My husband and I lived in Frederick, MD at the time and commuted over an hour together over to our jobs. Rick dropped me off at work with a kiss and headed to his new job, working as a contractor for national security. Just two weeks prior he had decided against a job that would have had him working at the Pentagon.
September 11th was orientation day at the new company. Myself and two other new employees sat in the conference room learning about our health insurance and 401K plans. Nice boring stuff.
Then came a knock at the door.
The company president's secretary poked her head through the door. "I think you need to see this," she whispered.
She dragged the television cart into the conference room and through lousy, fuzzy reception, we watched CNN. The first plane had already hit a tower, but no one knew what kind of plane. All of us were concerned, of course, but the company president was more than a little distraught, as he used to work in the Towers and still had friends there.
Then the second plane hit.
"Get the TV in my office," he barked. "We'll get better reception." The company was in a tall building and his corner office was completely surrounded with windows. It also overlooked Washington, DC and the basin where the Pentagon lay.
As everyone watched the television, I looked out the windows. I saw a plane. One plane. I idly watched it -- anything was better than watching those other planes decimating lives over and over and over. The plane lowered below sight and somewhere in my brain I supposed it was landing at Reagan National Airport.
A BOOM. Black smoke erupting, billowing, into the sky. We actually felt the building shake. Everyone's head jerked up to look outside, but all I could think was "Where is my husband?"
"Get the hell out of here!" shouted the company president and an immediate silent scramble started. The silence was so strange -- silent except for me, trying desperately to get my husband on his cell phone. Nothing, for the longest time. Cell lines were down or busy, but finally I reached him. He was on his way to pick me up and head home.
The ride home was surreal. Cars were all headed away from downtown -- nothing was headed southward to Washington. People stood on overpasses, already waving American flags. "ALREADY", I thought. Already.
On the way home, we continued to worry. Our hearts went out to those in New York and Pennsylvania, but Rick's brother was a DC firefighter, stationed at the China Town fire station, close to both the White House and the Capitol. We later learned that all the firefighters in the area reported to certain areas within DC, not knowing what would be hit next, but certain the nation's capitol would be a certain target. At one point, Rick's brother looked at his captain and said, "I think we're took close [to where they were parked waiting] and they moved a few blocks down.
Rick's brother got called to report to the Pentagon. I'm positive it's scarred him for life. His story is gruesome. I'm not going to talk about it here. But Rick and I met him in our driveway early that next morning to meet him on his way home, and we just stood there for a while, looking at each other. What could anyone say?
In Frederick, we lived in the direct flight pattern from Washington, DC to Camp David. We routinely saw Marine One fly overhead with the First Family on its way to weekend retreats in the mountains north of Frederick leading up to 9/11. For months afterward, our windows rattled as F-16's flew Defensive Air Patrols over the capitol area and when the First Family was in residence at Camp David.
A month after 9/11, I lost my job at that company for failure to bring in a client. After the initial shock and humiliation, I realized I couldn't have done a single thing differently. How could I sell something in a month (that takes six months to sell in a normal climate) to someone who'd never heard of us, to the GOVERNMENT, no less, when all they cared about now was trying to heal a country?
Yet, there were many things I was grateful for that day.
I was grateful my husband didn't take the job at the Pentagon.
I was grateful my brother-in-law was able to do his duty
without, at least, physical harm.
I was grateful I didn't have a child at the time.
And I was grateful I owned an American flag.
Both my husband and I are prior military -- me, four years, and my husband, retired after 26 years, both US Air Force. We're patriotic. My husband still works in defense of our country. We don't always agree with the choices made by The Powers That Be, but we won't soon forget how long those flags flew from overpasses and were plastered to cars and shop windows.
So this is why I can't ever watch the television programs. I have my own program running in my head of that day. I'm certain we ALL have that day emblazoned in our heads. As much as I hate it, and as much as I'd like to forget it, it does need to be remembered. There were heroes made in many ways that day. May they never be forgotten.
My heart goes out to all of you who were affected, each and every day.
Because 9/11 doesn't just stop at midnight.
Lori Anderson creates jewelry for her web site, Lori Anderson Designs, and wrote the blog An Artist's Year Off. She's also a contributor to Art Bead Scene and is the creator of the Bead Soup Blog Party.