The essay below was published in 2004. My 9/11 post for 2014 has been published at BlogHer.com at this link.
September 11, 2004
The following article was originally posted at AuthorsDen.com in 2004. I wrote about 9/11 in 2011 on the 10-year anniversary as well, a whole seven (7) years after my first reflection, and now 10 years since I wrote my first reflective piece about 9/11, here I am again contemplating another that should be up tomorrow. I decided to repost the first piece here at Whose Shoes Are These Anyway in preparation for reflecting on tomorrow's post.
|"September 11 Photo Montage" by UpstateNYer -|
Own work; derivative work of the following:
File:WTC smoking on 9-11.jpeg by Michael
Foran on FlickrFile:DN-SD-03-11451.JPEG
by the United State NavyFile:UA Flight 175
hits WTC south tower 9-11 edit.jpeg by
TheMachineStops on FlickrFile:WTC-Fireman
requests 10 more colleagesa.jpg by the
US GovernmentFile:Flight93Engine.jpg by
the US GovernmentFile:Video2 flight77
pentagon.png by the United States Department
of Defense. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0
via Wikimedia Commons.
I'd come in from doing what I do on most days to see hell on the news; I’d been chauffeuring a kid and had crazy phone messages on my voice mail. “Nordette, turn on the news. They say the people have flown a plane into those World Towers in New York. I can’t reach Ben.” That was my mother, who’d confused TV news before. So I frowned at the phone.
Next message. “Nordette, call Mom. I can’t get through. Tell her I didn’t go to work today. Remember the damned Macy people pissed me off yesterday and I called in. Tell her I’m okay. I wasn’t at The Towers.” That was my brother. He’d told me the night before he wasn’t going in. He’d been working lots of overtime and had been asked to check up on a security issue that a staff person could handle. But something must be going on. My brother didn’t mix up the news.
The first CNN image I saw remains embedded in my brain, a plane crushing a glass and concrete titan, driving through it like the tower was a block of cheap sheetrock ... then a burgeoning inferno. I remember thinking accident, but a second plane! I remember thinking war. I recall the gray cloud billowing downward, people bursting through it, fleeing toward the cameras, naked fear on dusty faces, and the first tower crumbling. Sometime later the second would also.
I reached my mother and father, assured them that my brother and I were okay. My husband and I connected. His company had cancelled meetings. We didn’t know what to think or do about our children, one in elementary school nearby and another 25 minutes south at Rutgers University. After that, the phone lines went dead. When the phones came on line again much later I would reach my brother and have a spooky conversation; he could no longer see The Towers from his Staten Island apartment. “Nordette, I look out and see them all the time. I’m looking out my window. They’re gone!”
The TV morphed: hypnotist, magnet. I watched most of the day and shed no tears. And then, late that night, reporters had footage from earlier in the day, something I’d missed, footage with a terrible sound, a swoosh and thud. People. People hurling themselves from the second tower to escape being burned alive—the swoosh, the sound of their bodies speeding toward earth, the thud, their bodies hitting. And they interviewed a woman who explained what was happening. She stood outside The Towers and in the background I could see the bodies falling. The splitting began in the pit of my gut. I broke down and went to bed.
Today, I also recall, the crash of United Airlines Flight 93 near Pittsburg. We can shout, "Let's roll!" when the going gets unbearable. We've heard the stories of heroes staring down death. And friends in DC have recounted the chaos around my old stomping grounds and the strike against the Pentagon. I used to live in DC's Maryland suburbs.
September 11 is kind of always with me, more so when I drive over the bridge to New York City. The hole in the skyline trips emotional land mines in memory. For a long time I dreamed it. I’d dream I was in The Towers, trying to save people, or that I walked by Ground Zero amidst ghosts powdered with gray ash.
People whose sympathies seemed to wane toward NYC used to annoy me. I barked at anyone, including my mother, who hinted that NYC might not need more help. I even felt warmer toward Giuliani, whom previously I could not stand, the arrogant, adulterous dog. (And he rubbed me the wrong way even before I found out about his domestic issues.)
Yet none of my empathy with the families who lost loved ones, my own sense of personal loss, or my patriotism stoked by 9/11 resulted in my hating Muslims or Arab nations. Remembering that we Christians have our own skeletons, impostors who claim to know Jesus yet who have committed monstrous acts and falsely ascribed their deeds to the name of God, I’m careful not to label groups of people. Furthermore, I think it’s better to dump the barrel, toss out the bad apples, and keep the good. I like good ole’ American apple pie, don’t you?
As Americans, as anyone who believes the shedding of blood is not the answer to what ails us, we must mark this day, 9/11, each year, if for no other reason than to remind terrorists that we're still here and their heinous acts neither demean nor destroy us. Our heartfelt gestures--writing poems, prose, our moments of introspection, pinning ribbons upon lapels, the gatherings of hearts at homes and town squares--are so much more meaningful than the capitalistic shams of fake memorial coins, pewter paperweights, and Twin Tower snow globes. The seconds we take to reflect humanizes us, sensitizing us again to the incomprehensible, inoculating us against the incredulous so that we will not be a people at risk like those Santayana spoke of saying, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” We are stronger because we remember.
© Copyright September 11, 2004 Nordette Adams