Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Trying Hard to Forget to Remember 9-11 Attacks

This is how I remember...

This morning, while running with my friend Rachel, we discussed the fact that it was the 11 year anniversary of 9-11 – the worst terrorist attacks waged on the United States ever!

Unless you have been under a rock, everyone knows that on September 11, 2001, 19 al-Qaeda terrorist simultaneously orchestrated suicide attacks on the World Trade Center buildings, the Pentagon, and another plane that was headed to Washington D.C. as well which was overthrown by passengers and crashed in a field in Pennsylvania.

Nearly 3,000 people died in the attacks including 227 civilians and 19 hijackers.

Rachel said that it was one of those events that you would always remember where you were when it happened just like other momentous tragedies – such as John F. Kennedy’s assassination (in which we weren’t alive), the Space Shuttle Challenger explosion and, most recently, I saw the Japanese tsunami cause massive destruction live on television – among many others catastrophic events.

I actually wasn’t going to post about this today because I do recall where I was on that fateful day and I don’t want to remember what happened.  However, I keep seeing the quote, “Gone But Not Forgotten,” and I realized that this is so much larger than me. 

There are so many members of my family; people across the country who don’t have that luxury to just “forget” because they are missing someone they loved or their lives have changed forever due to that momentous day.  So I decided that it was important for me to pay homage to those victims of the 9-11 terrorist attacks and their loved ones whom were left behind to try and pick up the pieces of their shattered lives.

On the morning of Sept. 11, I know exactly where I was when the first plane hit. I was safe at home in Hermosa Beach, Calif. and getting ready for work.  I had just turned on the news after getting out of the shower around 6 a.m. PST.  I yelled for my husband Jason and we just sat there and stared at the drama unfolding on television – in shock – for what seemed like hours. 

In 2001, I worked in downtown Los Angeles.  Around the time I was supposed to head into work, United Airlines Flight# 93 was still unaccounted for and I had decided to stay at home from my job as an editor at a news wire.  However, I got a call from our bureau chief that we were still expected to come into the office to disseminate the news as well as cover for our New York bureau.

I carpooled into the office with a co-worker and Los Angeles was eerily silent and there was barely a car on the road.  The National Guard had our building – one of the tallest skyscrapers in downtown LA – evacuated and closed due to the threat; however, we took the elevator up to the 50th floor.  I would be lying if images of those planes crashing into the towers were not prominent in my head.

Although, little did I know that the fear of my own imagination would be a minor concern compared to what I was about to face.

The news wire that I worked for at the time was headquartered in New Jersey and our biggest bureau was in New York City.  No surprise there.

Our LA office had taken over its phone lines and it was with dismay that I started taking crises calls.  Person after person phoned our news wire: some were family members of colleagues asking if their loved ones, who commuted on the Path trains through World Trade Center station, had made it to work; others were just complete strangers concerned about missing loved ones whom they were unable to reach via cell phone; and most were individuals calling to see if we could tell them what was happening in the city and world.

My co-workers and I sat ensconced in our “safe” ivory tower – the unfortunate fate of those passengers on Flight # 93 had been discovered by then – and with the sun shining on a beautiful fall day in LA, every single one of us had tears running down our faces as we listened to the cries, pleas and anger of those New Yorkers on the phones. 

In those early hours – even days – when the information about the attacks was just beginning to trickle in and the reality of the situation slowly seeped into my logical brain; I just could not get the voices of those poor souls out of my mind. Also, the images that were showing up on television will be forever etched into all of our memories as well.

For me, I could not make sense of it all.

Being from New Jersey, I had worked and lived in New York City.  News started to come in from my family too:  My Aunt Barb’s best friend Roseanne, a mom who worked at Cantor Fitzgerald, had been a victim of the attacks; My best friend from childhood lost her father-in-law’s best friend; almost everyone I talked to from back home had been affected in one way or another.

My grandmother could see the smoke rising from the devastation in NYC from her apartment on the Jersey shore.

It hit me so close to home.

Not unlike many other Americans, I felt that I carried a part of the devastation from the attacks in New York, Pennsylvania and Washington within me for weeks afterward.  But I know that I was not alone.  My fellow Americans and the world were traumatized by the absolute mindless chaos that prevailed and we all suffered from losing our sense of safety -- not only those who had lost loved ones. 

Yet, we also stood up against those terrorist together. My former co-workers from the New York bureau walked across the Brooklyn Bridge to buy or get supplies in the other boroughs of New York, only to return right back into the City with food, water, blankets...anything they could do to offer help out at Ground Zero.  They would not be deterred.
As hard as it was, we all carried on and life continued to move forward.  I know it wasn’t easy – especially for those who had been affected so profoundly – but, if we didn’t, we would have stood still, frozen with terror, which is exactly what the terrorists want.  Today, I realize the importance of remembering.

"Memories is a way of holding onto the things you love, the things you are, the things you never want to lose."  The Wonder Years




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