Monday, September 11, 2006

My own memories of September 11, 2001

I remember that morning, when I first heard the report that a plane had struck one of the towers. Oddly enough, a plane hitting a skyscraper in New York actually happened before in the 1940s, and I thought that this was another such accident. However, when that second tower got hit, I knew that this was no accident. I actually saw that second plane hit as it happened on the news. The anchor, who was doing a voice-over as the news played live images of the smoking first tower, actually didn't notice the fireball of the second tower being hit, because he continued on as if nothing had happened. It must have been a good minute later before he finally said, "Oh! The second tower just got hit!"

The university where I worked had cancelled classes for that day, but the university stayed opened for the students, so that they'd have somewhere to go and something to do, rather than sit around restlessly. But of course, we could talk about nothing else, and any department that had a television had it on, and on the news. We were all just numb. What could we say? Then we heard about the Pentagon being hit by another plane, and then we heard about another plane going down in an empty field. At the time, there was no explanation as to what happened to the last plane. The FAA had grounded all planes after that.

The rest of the day was pretty much a blur, and all we did was to watch the news to see - essensially, the constant repeating of the same images of the towers being hit, and then collapsing. For the first time in my life, I felt that sense of anomie that was mostly likely felt during the Kennedy assassination in 1963. What a tragic and unreal day that was. And now, suddenly, it's 5 years later.

1 comment:

JB said...

I neglected to write my own experience in my blog, so I'll reply here quickly. I was in the DC area for my brother's marriage on the 8th, and I was to fly back to Seattle at noon on the 11th.

I was packing my bags when my mother said that a plane had hit the twin towers in New York. She suggested that I get to the airport as quickly as possible - before all flights were grounded. I was watching the news as the second airplane hit, which made it clear that I wasn't going anywhere.

I watched the news for the next four days, following everything. I was gratified to see that companies had the good sense not to advertise during a national tragedy.

Because I was in the DC area, we had regular overflights of F-16s that were on Combat Air Patrol. All the while, I was trying to figure out how to get back to Seattle, whether by car or train. Neither was particularly likely, though both were being used by people intent on getting home. I was with family, so it wasn't particularly difficult to stay where I was.

Ultimately, I flew back on a packed plane. The lines at the airport were insane, and when we got into the air, we found that the stewardesses had mostly called in sick, leaving us with stewards. Lastly, the metal knives for our meals had been replaced by plastic knives. I kept mine as a grim momento of the experience.

To this day, I think of how I was three hours removed from the experience of the people on the four planes. I wonder if I'd have had the guts of the people who fought for their lives on flight 93.