Thursday, September 11, 2008

Remembering 9-11

I couldn’t allow for the day to end without remembering 7th anniversary of the most tragic day in modern history: 9-11-01.

Of course we all can recount where we were and what we were doing on that day. The awful images are etched on our minds. The days and months that followed passed slowly, and I just felt hollow.

For me, each day following 9-11 meant living in fear. The rumors of what would be targeted next—an extremist carrying on board the subway a backpack filed with explosives, tainting of our water supply, Anthrax, and who can forget the red bar that scrolled across the television screen reminding us that we’re in a heightened state of alert.

I was married only a few months prior to 9-11-01. We purchased our first home together that same year, we were beginning our lives together, and yet in an instant we suddenly had to start thinking of our mortality--Set up life insurance should something happen, arrange for a will, remember to say I love you, and see you soon should you never see one another again, remember to breathe each breath as if it was your last.

The day for me started as usual. I was in my high-rise office when I received an email from Andy. I wish I had kept it but something tells me I probably deleted it immediately after receiving. Why? Because the message read something like this, “a plane just hit the World Trade Center.” Moments later, after I brushed it off what I imagined to be a small-craft Cesena that veered off course, I received a second message. “do you think it’s terrorism…?”

That is when I got off my chair, walked to my boss’s office (we are both former reporters so you one would have thought I’d already be on this) and found he was dragging a television down the hall. We watched in horror as the second plane hit.

It was as if time stood still and I went deaf.

I worked in public relations so we quickly had to put together our crisis communications plans—though we had none. Working with human resources, and building management we decided it would be best to shut down the building. It was, after all, a high rise in the path between NYC and DC.

I, like most of the city, scurried to the train station only to find them all full and on a standstill. People lined major streets holding signs scribbled on lined paper with anything they could find—for me it was eyeliner—noting their destination hoping to hitch a ride home, or close to it. There were no strangers that day.

I eventually found a bus route home. Three hours later, and many attempts to reach Andy by phone with no luck—remember there was no cell service—I arrived a few miles from home where he found me wandering around twisting my head toward the sky for any signs of planes in the air. It was eerily silent.

For the hours following the attack I attempted to get it touch through downed phone lines with old co-workers in NYC and friends and family in Connecticut who could see the smoke billowing from the towers, and those who I knew were traveling that day, to hear their voices and calm my fear that something tragic may have happened to them.

These were not good times for anyone, me included. In the weeks following I missed the mortgage payment and spent most of my waking hours while not at work glued to the television for days on end watching over and over the planes hitting the towers. I was just flat out depressed.

Now seven years later I think we all can say we live our lives just a little differently. For me, 9-11 changed everything. It’s probably one of the biggest reasons why I left my job after having children. Traveling is no longer a longed-after activity for me. And the thought of one less day with my family is forever frightening.

Maybe 9-11 has shown us a lot of lessons. Lesson in love and life, and what to cherish and how not to sweat the small stuff.

For every replay of those planes hitting the Towers or Pentagon, I hear a whisper from God reminding us to slow down, be still and cherish every day, for you never know when it will be your last.

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