Respectful Insolence

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Today is the sixth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. A couple of years ago, I wrote an extended take on the attacks and what I thought about them. I encourage you to read it, either for the first time or again. Two years later, I don’t have much to add other than to note that I’ve seen several stories in the press expressing concern that Americans are forgetting the the attacks or not paying sufficient reverence to the fallen anymore.

This story, for example, appeared in a New Jersey newspaper over the weekend:

In Westfield, weeds have taken over the brick walkways around the 9/11 memorial and heavy traffic exhaust has left its mark on the obelisk.

In Morris County — where fundraising to expand the 9/11 county memorial is stalled for lack of interest — visitors can no longer throw coins into the pool around the existing monument, custodians said, because the homeless went wading for change and “we were afraid somebody would drown.”

n Middletown, where an estimated 2,000 people attended the 9/11 ceremony last year, Mayor Gerry Scharfenberger said events have been scaled “way back” because “nobody really wanted something that big again.”

Six years. 2,191 days since that worst morning imaginable.

No one can forget what happened on Sept. 11, 2001, but now in the second half of the decade since it happened, no one is quite sure how to remember it.

While year five was commemorated with speeches, bands, bagpipes, choirs and even heads of state, year six in New Jersey — 691 state residents lost their lives on 9/11 — is arriving with a sigh.

There are, of course, dozens of memorial services throughout the state, including — in Bayonne — a long overdue dedication of a memorial to William Macko, the one New Jerseyan who lost his life in the first terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in 1993.

There will be a major event at, or at least near, Ground Zero in Manhattan. There will be controversy in Jersey City as the names of living politicos are added to the Circle of Honor on the memorial there. And there will be speeches, prayers and a color guard, followed by a string quartet, at the state’s most widely visited 9/11 site, the Essex County memorial in Eagle Rock Reservation in West Orange.

But equally notable are the number of New Jersey municipalities that quietly abandoned any organized 9/11 services this year.

Many of the relatives of the victims said they were dismayed. But not surprised.

Although I can understand why families might be dismayed, I can also understand why this has happened. It may be a cliche, but it’s a true cliche. Time does heal all wounds–at least for most people. It was always inevitable that the shock, pain, and horror of the worst terrorist attack on American soil, an attack that caused even more loss of life than Pearl Harbor, would begin to fade. It’s also not surprising that it would fade this year compared to last year. After all, last year was the fifth anniversary, a major milestone that won’t be reached again until the tenth anniversary.

Although it understandably pains those who suffered direct losses in the attacks, this inevitable lessening of the intensity of memory is not necessarily a completely bad thing. It’s a human trait that allows us to get on with our lives. Moreover, in the case of the 9/11 attacks, the further away from the horror of that Tuesday morning we get, the less power it has over us in terms of politicians manipulating it for their own ends. It does not take a lot of political savvy to understand that President Bush would have been highly unlikely to have persuaded the nation to go to war with Iraq if the 9/11 attacks hadn’t occurred 18 months before, nor would it have been possible to have passed legislation such as the PATRIOT ACT. In that, perspective is not such a bad thing.

On the other hand, forgetting too much would be bad as well. For me at least, the 9/11 attacks were the single worst incident that I can recall in my lifetime, and the recent reappearance of Osama bin Laden reminds us that it (or something even worse) could happen again if we relax our gaurd too much. We must never forget that.

In the interest of not forgetting, feel free to post your memories of what happened on 9/11 in the comments of this post. Were you actually there? Did you actually see it? Even if you didn’t, where where were you when you heard about it, and how did you react?

Comments

  1. #1 Kev
    September 11, 2007

    It was just after 2pm for the UK and my wife PM’d me at work to say a plane had crashed into the WTC. I turned to BBC and got my first clue as to how big this was as the site was totally non-responsive due to the sheer amount of visitors.

    Our boss came into the design studio with a portable TV and we tuned in just to see the second plane hit. We thought at first that it was a rerun of the first plane hitting.

    All I can remember really was a growing sense of unreality. People jumping from the towers, the thickness of the smoke, the great gouges in the two towers themselves and then the utterly unbelievable site of both towers simply collapsing. The rest of the afternoon and evening was spent trying to find out about friends and family who either lived in or were visiting New York.

    Whilst it wasn’t the worst incident I can recall (I think the realisation of the events in Rwanda was worse for sheer horror) this was indisputably the event I will always remember as knowing that the world would never be the same again after.

    Time does heal all wounds. On a similar around-the-world style event, it was the 10th anniversary of the death of Diana and I was dreading the faux-grief that took over the UK 10 years ago when people like me, who really didn’t care who she was, were viewed as heretics. Thankfully, the UK seems to have gained a semblance of perspective over this single death of a not very important person. What happened in New York was a far greater magnitude and importance but even this must take its place as the backdrop of current events. Remember the dead, then stick your middle fingers up to the death dealers too cowardly to take you on face to face.

  2. #2 Dawn
    September 11, 2007

    A director went through my work area and blurted out that a plane had crashed into the WTC. We went over to the windows, (19th floor of a building in Newark, NJ) and saw smoke from the crash and the building. We remarked how weird it was for a plane to have been flying that low in NYC. We went into the director’s office, he was on the internet and announced that it was felt to be a terrorist attack. No one paid much attention to that; we all felt that was just a rumor. Then, as we stood by the windows in his office, we saw a second plane flying low and watched in horror as it flew into the other tower. Screams and shouts went through the floor, and everyone ran to the windows..work stopped at that moment. We all just stood there in shock, then watched the buildings fall. I think everyone started to cry at that point. Basically, work for the day ended, and we were sent home by noon. When I got home, my neighbor across the street was also home, and we spoke…his wife worked in the towers and he hadn’t heard from her. She never did come home and never was found.

    Can’t say any more; the remembrance still makes me cry, and I WON’T be watching any TV or having any radio news on today. I can’t handle it.

  3. #3 Jeremy Cherfas
    September 11, 2007

    Kev

    It most certainly was not just after 2pm in the UK. time erases detailed memories too.

  4. #4 Antigonos
    September 11, 2007

    I had just turned on the TV, and thought I’d picked up a movie review program which was showing a scene from a new “disaster” movie, when I saw the plane hit the second building. My husband was downstairs changing a lightbulb and I called to him (in Hebrew)”Y. come here–a plane has crashed into the Twin Towers”. He didn’t understand immediately and thought I was telling him that a plane had crashed into the Azrieli Tower in Tel Aviv. It seemed so incredible that it was happening in the US–(the scenario seemed much more likely in Tel Aviv). We watched the buildings come down, in real time, together, sitting in our living room in Jerusalem, and the attack on the Pentagon, and heard about the plane crashing in Pennsylvania.
    Living as we do on a knife edge here all the time, it was the last thing we expected.

  5. #5 SteveF
    September 11, 2007

    I was in Greece at the time, doing some fieldwork. I was swimming in the sea when a friend came and blurted out that the twin towers had fallen. Quite frankly I couldn’t grasp what he was talking about, until I ran back to the hotel and saw the footage in the bar. It was utterly surreal viewing, like something from Salvador Dali painting. Even now the footage has an unreal quality.

    On a related note and I hope people don’t mind me posting this in a rememberence thread, here is a BBC article on some new research causing conspiracy theories to further bite the dust:

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/6987965.stm

  6. #6 fusilier
    September 11, 2007

    Same as today, I was giving an exam on concepts, cells and tissues. When people told me they were too upset to go on, I said OK.

    When they demanded to get an accommodation, and take their exams later, or get points adjusted, the Dean of Academic Instruction told them that she had been on the phone with the Governor of Indiana to draft plans for all our allied health faculty and senior students to handle emergency arrivals of wounded – so would they please shut up and bother someone else.

    We cried when we had the time.

    fusilier
    James 2:24

  7. #7 Kev
    September 11, 2007

    Jeremy, the first plane hit the WTC at 08:46 New York time which is 13:46 UK time.

    As I mentioned my wife contacted me some time after the first plane hitting and before the second plane hitting at 09:03/14:03.

    I fully accept I may be a few minutes out but I’m not sure that’s really the big picture here.

  8. #8 John Ashby
    September 11, 2007

    Jeremy Cherfas said:

    It most certainly was not just after 2pm in the UK. time erases detailed memories too.

    ————

    Don’t be obnoxious. The planes hit at 8:46 and 9:02. Add 5 to that. 2 PM is just about right. You are aware that you could have fact-checked this, right?

  9. #9 Charlie B.
    September 11, 2007

    Well there’s a bizarre case of “Never meet your heroes, you’ll be disappointed” – Jeremy Cherfas’ “Zoo 2000″ programme in the 80′s was one of the things that pushed me towards zoology. Ah well.

    I read “It was just after 2pm” as the time when Kev received the SMS…

    I was sitting talking to my penpal Claire over ICQ, and sharing the horror as it unfolded on BBC World. 6 years on, Claire and I are married and living in Oz, and it took me ’til mid-afternoon today to remember why 11th September was significant. Weird.

  10. #10 Chemgeek
    September 11, 2007

    I caught a late flight out of Seattle on September 10th (I still have the boarding pass). I got to lab late the next day to find a crowd of people in the lobby gathered around a TV. I only became aware of what happened hours after it started. It’s weird, but I feel guilty for my several hours of ignorance. I feel like by not being aware of what was going on and watching it, I wasn’t being respectful of those directly involved in this horrific event.

    I went through the typical stages of grief. I was shocked for a while, I was confused, I started hating indiscriminately, I became sad. Eventually though, I became very, very proud to be an American. What makes this country great is the people. The people run this country, not ideology, theology or hate.

  11. #11 L'Americaine
    September 11, 2007

    I was living in Edmonton, Alberta at the time. I was driving to the gym when I heard that a plane had crashed into the WTC. My first thought was small plane, incompetent pilot. By the time I changed and started to work out, the radio made it clear that something was very wrong in New York. I can still remember the sickening feeling. My brother lives and works in Manhattan–nowhere near the WTC, but I just was not sure where he was. In fact, he had been at jury duty right across the street from the WTC the day before. Thankfully, he was fine if frazzled.

    I was the only American at my job and I was very impressed by the warmth and support I received both that day and in the weeks and months after. But I lived in Western Canada, which is much more sympathetic to the US than Eastern Canada.

    I was horrified to see a “town hall meeting” broadcast from Toronto on CBC that featured all sorts of people asserting that the US was simply getting what it deserved. I was actually in tears watching it–this was maybe 3 days after the attacks. They were still looking for survivors!

    There were thousands of complaints and an actual investigation after it was revealed that CBC recruited its audience from the extreme, extreme left and that the average Canadian viewpoint was not expressed. My husband is in the Canadian military, which has been an incredible force in Afghanistan. I know there is support there, both philosphically and practically. I just wish I hadn’t seen such vitriol displayed for the world. I will never forgive or forget it.

  12. #12 Abel Pharmboy
    September 11, 2007

    …this inevitable lessening of the intensity of memory is not necessarily a completely bad thing. It’s a human trait that allows us to get on with our lives.

    Your comment is a very wise one, especially since you stare down the barrel of death every day as an oncologist. I have not seen this analysis in any of the “9/11 fatigue” articles so thanks for posting it here.

    I remember asking a friend who lost a child to leukemia how one ever gets over such a loss. Her response was that she learned that you never get over it…you never forget, it just takes up less of your time.

  13. #13 Rebecca
    September 11, 2007

    I was in the library at George Mason University, studying Digital Electronics or Computer Science with my classmate, Kalpana. I got a call on my cell phone from my mother and, in an almost hysterical voice, she asked me, “Do you know what’s happening in the world!? Somebody flew a jet into the World Trade Center tower in New York! Or maybe it was two jets! They’re not sure! It’s all confused!”

    I thought it was probably just a horrible accident of some kind. But I figured I’d go to an authoritative source and check it out so I wandered around the library looking for a functioning ethernet plug for my laptop. When I finally got connected to the Washington Post web site it was a mess-not at all their usual format. They’d done a rush job of putting up a big photo of the first first jet slamming into the tower. The huge explosion. The second tower had been hit, too. It appeared to have been intentional, they said.

    I took my computer back to where I’d been sitting with Kalpana to show her the picture. This is really serious, I told her. They’re saying there’s been some kind of big explosion at the Pentagon, too. I think we might be under attack. Oddly, Kalpana seemed uninterested. She kept studying. I’ve always wondered about that. Why did she seem so unconcerned? Is it a cultural thing? Was it because most of her family lived in another country? Maybe it was just a part of her individual personality.

    The library was weirdly quiet. It turned out that most people already knew about the attacks and were downstairs in the student center watching the televisions. After about an hour, they announced over the campus-wide speaker system that classes were cancelled for the rest of the day.

    It was so strange walking out to my car in the school parking lot. Most of the people had apparently already left but the ones I saw were all so quiet. It was so quiet outside. I listened to the radio while I was driving home. Other drivers must have been doing the same. Everyone drove slowly-carefully-shocked expressions on their faces.

    At that time, in the early afternoon, it was looking like at least ten thousand people had been killed in the attacks. We didn’t know if it was over. We didn’t know where the next attack might occur but we were told that only military air traffic was allowed. Occasionally a military helicopter would go over our house or I could hear-up high-the sound of a military jet. Living near Washington DC, we felt particularly vulnerable. Would they attack the universities, too? Or just the government buildings?

    I couldn’t tear myself away from the television. The images were horrible. The explosions. The fires. People jumping from the windows. Yes, they showed that, too. I wanted to cry for the thousands of people who were dead and dying but I couldn’t. It was just too big.

    It was difficult going to sleep that night. I felt safer knowing the military was patrolling the airspace around DC but there was no way of knowing whether it was really all over.

    The next day I had to take my cat, Roy, in for scheduled surgery. He had been losing weight and had a suspicious lump on his side. I’d told the vet that if it looked like cancer and if it couldn’t be removed, it would be better if Roy didn’t wake up.

    Well, that’s how it turned out.

    My good cat, Roy, died the day after the attacks.

  14. #14 Warren
    September 11, 2007

    10 September 2001 was a day of intense personal tragedy or me. The 11th was, to some extent, a bit of an anticlimax.

    I wasn’t in NYC; I was in Milwaukee. What I remember most poignantly from that day was a colleague asking me if I thought she was being silly for wanting to go and collect her young daughter from daycare. (Of course she wasn’t.)

    What I’m faced with today is “commemorative” bulletin boards that are done up in red-white-blue with messages such as “United We Stand” and “Let Freedom Ring” — like an obsessive picking, picking, picking at a wound so it won’t scab, won’t scar over and heal; but instead become infected, septic and a systemic poison.

    I made it past my own personal disaster. How is it that so many simply refuse to allow their lives to proceed? Why is it that so many seem to want to remain stuck forever in that titanic moment more than half a decade passed now?

  15. #15 Dave S.
    September 11, 2007

    I was the only American at my job and I was very impressed by the warmth and support I received both that day and in the weeks and months after. But I lived in Western Canada, which is much more sympathetic to the US than Eastern Canada.

    I was horrified to see a “town hall meeting” broadcast from Toronto on CBC that featured all sorts of people asserting that the US was simply getting what it deserved.

    Maybe you need to look further east.

  16. #16 Interrobang
    September 11, 2007

    There were thousands of complaints and an actual investigation after it was revealed that CBC recruited its audience from the extreme, extreme left and that the average Canadian viewpoint was not expressed.

    Not even close. If you factor in the militia-nut nitwit Bible-thumper fringe in Alberta, it brings the mean back right, but there are still more people here in Ontario than out there, thank goodness.

    The Bush Administration alone has burnt through whatever reserves of sympathy I might’ve once had. Individually, Americans are great people, but your government sucks, and you collectively need to get over that “American exceptionalism” thing.

    I remember being at home, dazed from being sick, and thinking, “Oh, god, they’re going to start another war,” and then being the least surprised person in the world when they hit first Afghanistan and then Iraq. I knew it from the instant Orrin Hatch said, “This was an act of war,” at about 9:30 in the morning Eastern Time, on CNN, and I said, “No, you moron, this was an international crime!”

    You think maybe if the US government had gone in for a more law-enforcement-oriented approach, instead of “kicking ass” all over the world using its overinflated military, they’d have caught Osama Bin Laden by now? “Kicking ass,” as Bush said. Christ, what a boor that man is.

    Incidentally, Canada needs to get the hell out of Afghanistan, unless they seriously change the mission objectives. We should be doing peacekeeping, not choosing sides in a civil war, or “counterinsurgency” as they’re calling it these days.

  17. #17 David D.G.
    September 11, 2007

    I lived in Dallas in 2001, as I do now, and I was on my way to work in the morning on 9/11, driving half-asleep as usual (I am not a morning person) and listening to a rock station that prided itself back then on broadcasting pure music in the mornings.

    So when the DJ broke in with a news bulletin, I figured it must be something pretty serious. Heck, it was well beyond “serious” — it was horrifying. At that point, all that was known was that a plane had flown into one of the World Trade Center towers; no cause was yet determined, but it seemed unlikely for such a thing to be completely accidental. (Going back to the music after that news seemed almost disrespectful, but I had to remind myself that there might be plenty of people who wanted to get away from the stations covering nothing but that news.)

    Shortly after I got to work (where news of this was already buzzing), someone came around to pass the word that a second plane had hit the other tower, and all thoughts of accident were banished. Several people in my workplace had friends or family in New York. Those people with radios or Internet at their desks tried to keep up with developments, and productivity that day was negligible.

    A rumor of a plane hitting the Pentagon also came around, but it was a day or two before I actually heard more about that one. (To tell the truth, I still have never heard or read even a tenth as much about that one as I have about the Twin Towers. Also, I did not know it yet at the time, but my ex-wife’s sister worked in the Pentagon. She still does — fortunately, she was not in that particular section at the time, so my son’s aunt is still around.) The fourth plane, which went down nowhere near any targets, I did not find out about until much later.

    I spent 9/11/01 in a fog of surrealism that such a thing was happening in my world. I wanted to just wake up from what was surely just a bad dream, or else be told it was a monstrous hoax in bad taste. Despite having tragedies of a more personal nature in the time since then, the memory of this one still manages to elicit heartache and anger. I never even knew any of the attack victims or their families personally, but I felt related to them as one who has been burglarized feels a kinship with other victims of crime. Our collective home had been invaded and violated, our false security shattered. While we should not continue to just wring our hands, a certain amount of continued mourning for our loss is appropriate — including our loss of innocence.

    ~David D.G.

  18. #18 akibare
    September 11, 2007

    I had the morning off from work that day so woke up later than usual, at 7:45ish. In fact I woke up to the NPR news broadcast announcing the first plane had hit the towers (I live in Illinois). At first I thought I was dreaming. While brushing my teeth, I noticed the news was actually still on the story, so I turned up the volume and ran to my computer. Some point right around then they announced the second plane hitting, and I realized it must be a crime rather than an accident, although I still thought it was small planes.

    I was able to load the New York Times only once, and like the Washington Post mentioned in a previous comment, it was not the usual layout, they had slapped a red unformatted header on the top announcing the news. For the rest of the day I only read Japanese news sites, simply because Japan is further away and it was night there, so the sites weren’t overloaded.

    I kept listening to the radio, reading the news and discussing it on a mud with some old friends of mine.

    It was only when the buildings fell and they started mentioning seeing it that I remembered I own a TV set, so I got it out and saw the replay of the first building fall, and then the second. After that I turned it off and went back to radio only.

    I don’t know anyone who died on 9/11, and so for me, while it’s a very momentous event in history, and I do think it’s changed the atmosphere in the US quite a bit, I’ve never really felt the deep need for all the memorializing, it seems appropriate for others directly involved, but not so much for me.

    I do remember my town had a gathering for people to simply talk about the news, and a neighbor of mine predicted “we’ll be a war within the month” and it seemed so unreal.

    The loss of innocence bit though sort of surprised me, I hadn’t realized the depth to which people really did feel invulnerable or protected. But, there hadn’t been a war anywhere locally for quite some time, or a terrible natural disaster for that matter.

  19. #19 Justin Moretti
    September 11, 2007

    My then-fiancee had just woken up and she was getting ready to go to work, I to a flying lesson. I figured that if the US did NOT go ballistic after this, then something was weird with the world.

    If anything, I’m surprised that the US’s response was not infinitely more violent. Not involving nukes, by any means, but I expected it to be much less restrained than it actually was. i.e. I’d have expected them to go after Iraq sometime mid-2002 (to remove Saddam’s potential support and succour for terrorists), and Iran around 2003-04.

    What we have to bear in mind, is that when our soldiers kill civilians, their response is sick horror, or at least regret. When their so-called soldiers kill civilians, they celebrate. That encapsulates for me which side deserves to win.

  20. #20 Michael Suttkus, II
    September 11, 2007

    I had just moved to Jacksonville, getting used to a new apartment for the first time in my life, looking for a job in an unproductive market, and generally being out of place. I woke up to the phone ringing, but didn’t get to it in time. Got up, took a shower. During the shower the phone rang again. I ignored it.

    Got out, got dressed, phone rang again. I was beginning to get worried now. I’d been here a week and the phone had rung maybe twice before today. I answered it and my sister started talking.

    I couldn’t understand her. It was word soup, a random jumble of buildings, planes, terrorists, and states, all fired at machine gun speed. I tried calming her down, get her to focus, but there wasn’t much point. The last thing she said before hanging up was, “We’ll be at war before sundown.”

    I turned on the television.

    I remember thinking, “Please let it be an accident.”

    But there were two buildings. And another plane crashed in a field somewhere. And the Pentagon…

    The idiot reporter said something stupid, I no longer remember what, and I turned the TV off angrily and went online. Five people had already sent emails speculating on who might have done it, Osama was already a popular target and was being attacked.

    I buried myself in the irreleventia of the Internet and ignored anything serious for the rest of the day, mostly catching up on webcomics.

    My sister turned the TV on when she got home that night, just in time for the news to announce that pain and anger were following their predictable path. A group of them decided to “get the Arabs back” for the attacks and… beat up a family of Greeks and vandalized a synagogue.

    The irony of the last is enough to choke a horse. We grow them stupid down here.

  21. #21 medrecgal
    September 11, 2007

    We were still living in the old house at the time. I was eating a bowl of cereal and watching TV, in the process of getting ready to go to my college classes later in the day when the news cut in. When I finally did get to school, there were televisions all over campus blaring continuous coverage. That went on for a few weeks afterward as well. I thought about a cousin who works in NYC, and called his mother to make sure he was OK. He was within visual distance of the WTC; fortunately he was at his mother’s at the time, far upstate, since he had come home for his birthday (which happens to be 9/11).

  22. #22 Rebecca
    September 11, 2007

    I still get a bit depressed in the days coming up to 9/11. For the first few years I felt very uneasy if early September was marked by beautiful sunny days – since it was a beautiful sunny day with a completely clear blue sky when the planes hit the towers. (Today was grey and rainy). I was still in bed when the first tower was hit – I got up and turned on the radio to the local news, and there was a weird report of the first plane hitting the first tower. Then nothing. I got up and tried the NPR station. Also nothing. Then downstairs to turn on the internet and CNN. By that time the second plane had hit the second tower, and it was clear it wasn’t an accident, but an act of terrorism. As I was watching the news came that the Pentagon had been hit by a plane. That was the really scary point for me – what other targets were there going to be? It was quite a bit later that the news came that the fourth plane had crashed in Pennsylvania. I felt immediately that the world had changed forever, and I was right. Like one of the commenters above, this was the worst horror that I can remember in my life.

  23. #23 Sid Schwab
    September 12, 2007

    In an ironic way, I think George Bush’s response to 9/11 is part of the reason why the event itself is so much less in our consciousness now: the invasion of Iraq — which he tried to link to 9/11 — is by far the most important thing going on, and it has shoved the supposed reason into near non-existence. It’s even more ironic, in that immediately after 9/11 the world was on our side, and shocked to see the depths to which religious fanatics could sink. In invading Afghanistan, the world saw how powerless the Taliban and al Queda really were. And then, Iraq. Now, the world has turned against us, al Queda has been given a gift that keeps on giving, and we are exhausted. 9/11 is the least of our worries. The war in Iraq threatens to ruin us; and it didn’t have to be. We were in the right in Afghanistan; now, we’re mired in misery and surely Osama — if he’s really alive — is delighted beyond his wildest fantasies. To me, that’s why 9/11 is fading. By our president’s response to it, it’s become a much worst disaster than it ever could have been; and who wants to be reminded of that?

  24. #24 Dave S.
    September 12, 2007

    I remember distinctly where I was. I was riding on the Number 10 bus, going to my scheduled dental appaointment in the afternoon. I left for work before the events happened, and since I had no radio or TV there I carried on like any other day. While on the bus I turned on my Walkman to my favorite radio station and the facts came flowing out. I recall feeling shock, and looking around at the faces of my fellow passengers and wondering if they knew about this, and why aren’t they reacting? On closer inspection, the dead stare in their eyes told me that they already knew. I went to the mall where my dentists office was and looked at the horrific images on the display televisions of the electronics store. Then I went to my appointment and while the dentist silently cleaned my teeth I stared at the TV mounted in the ceiling, watching replay after terrible replay. The worst images for me were the people jumping.

  25. #25 Jyotsana
    September 12, 2007

    I was six months pregnant and had a doctor’s appointment that day. We live on the west coast, so we were still asleep when the planes hit. My husband got up to get ready for work and went down to watch the news while he ate breakfast. As soon as he saw what was happening he came and woke me up, telling me that I should come downstairs and watch the news. I groggily asked him why. “Terrorists have attacked in New York and at the Pentagon,” he told me, “they hit the World Trade Center and now it’s gone.” “What do you mean ‘gone’,” I asked him, “It can’t be _gone_.” That was when he told me about the planes. Walking downstairs to get to the television I figured, okay, they must have used empty cargo planes. I don’t know how much time passed before I understood that they were passenger planes with actual passengers on them. It wasn’t until I came to that realization that I finally understood just how truly horrible the events were that were unfolding onscreen. I never cried, though. I was too numb. I’ll cry now when I think about that day, but at the time I simply couldn’t. Instead I just hugged my belly and apologized to my baby about the state of the world he would be born in to. My husband still went in to work (although he admits they didn’t get much done), and I kept my doctor’s appointment, but for the next four days I was glued to the tv. When I was unable to be near a tv for whatever reason I turned on the radio. I remember I would take a radio into the bathroom with me and crank it up so I could hear it over the sound of my shower. After four days of solid television and radio coverage I had reached my limit and through sheer force of will I turned off all media. But then I had nightmares for the next several days. I live three thousand miles away from where the events took place; I know no one directly involved with the events, yet I still had horrifyingly vivid nightmares where I was a passenger on one of those planes and I could see the building looming large and feel the impact. I wouldn’t wake up until I was engulfed in a giant fireball. Now each time 9/11 rolls around I avoid the news for the most part. It’s not that I want to forget, because I don’t, and I really don’t think I could if I wanted to…I just had my fill, if that makes any sense.

  26. #26 Jeremy Cherfas
    September 13, 2007

    I didn’t intend to be obnoxious, and I obviously misinterpreted Kev’s post. I saw it as when the plane hit, not when he received the SMS. I apologise.

  27. #27 Dianne
    September 13, 2007

    that worst morning imaginable.

    Ok, so I’m both two days late AND about to annoy people, but that’s the way it goes.

    On 9/11/01 I lived in the East Village, about 2 miles from the WTC and worked at Bellevue. Since I was on a research rotation, I had planned a leisurely day of running PCRs and seeing if I could find any new candidates for my protocol. Needless to say, that plan changed. I ran to the ER and helped there until it was clear that I was not needed then went to the other nearby hospitals to make sure that they were adequately supplied with doctors and then went to the blood bank and helped deal with the overwhelming number of donors who appeared. I left my name as someone who could be called if more personnel were needed overnight, but was not called.

    So, here’s my impression of the day. It was bad. It was horrid. I hate the smell of smoke now, having smelled too much of it for too log then. Even worse were the people who were screaming, crying, or just looking completely stunned as they were being treated for their injuries. As it happened, all the friends that I was worried about were safe, but I didn’t know that for days in some cases. Nearly everyone in NYC had someone they were worried about and didn’t know the fate of for days or longer. And not everyone who waited anxiously for news got happy news at the end. But here’s what it was not: the worst morning imaginable.

    Hiroshima 8/6/45 was the worst day imaginable. Or Nagasaki 8/9/45 or Dresden 2/13/45. New York 9/11/01 was bad, but not that bad. The hospitals were not only open and fully equipped, they weren’t even especially overwhelmed*. The fire department took horrible losses, but the city didn’t burn down for lack of firefighters (or because of follow-up attacks). In a real tribute to New Yorkers, few if any people were injured in the evacuation of downtown, despite rumors of more attacks, lack of organization, and general chaos. Phone service went out and circuits were overwhelmed, but water and electricity were preserved to most of the city. Those who had to evacuate because of being too near the danger zone had places to go with shelter, food, and sympathy. Scarred, horrified, and angry as people were, there were few, if any, attacks on Islamic or Arabic people in NYC. In short, the city stayed strong, functional, and rational. It wasn’t the worst day imaginable and, for me, the hyperbole takes away from the reality. But if two buildings being destroyed is the “worst imaginable”, how much moreso is the destruction of many buildings, of whole cities, of hundreds of thousands of people instead of thousands, not tragic beyond imagining? And yet my country decided to use the tragedy of the 9/11 attacks to visit this tragedy on people who had nothing to do with the attacks. I’ve seen what bombs can do and I’m not impressed by their ability to improve a situation. It is past time to stop it.

    *For reasons both good and bad. Good because there weren’t a lot of secondary injuries from people being trampled in panicked attempts to evacuate. Bad because so few people who were trapped or injured were rescued from the collapsing buildings.

  28. #28 ksmaybe
    September 13, 2007

    I’m not a New Yorker, but a Chicagoan. I was late heading into the lab that day, killing time before a vet appt, watching the news. I had tuned in before the 2nd plane hit and called into the lab to alert them to open up browser feeds. I watched the 2nd hit in horror, occurring in the live feed behind the news anchors. The hit to the pentagon occurred while I was at the vet. I’ve never seen the streets of our city as quiet as they were that morning. People were congregating on corners, around parked cars, and discussing the events. I remember digging out an old walkman for the radio and heading into lab for the day. The hardest thing I’ve ever done, was to turn my back to the Chicago skyline-with my husband at work in the Sears Tower, and walk to campus that day. I knew instantly when the second tower was hit that this was no accident. As surreal as my memories of that day are, they pale in comparison to those who were emotionally and geographically closer to the tragedies that unfolded. My heart aches for those who lost so much that day.

    Given the my age, the memories of this day are the worst I’ve known-definitely the most personal having occurred on our own turf. However, my years (1974-now) have not seen the tragedy that many have over their lifetimes. I can only hope that this tragedy (including the political climate and wars that have followed) remains the worst I see.

  29. #29 Opiwan
    September 14, 2007

    I was sitting in my cubicle when one of the ham radio junkies got word through his hand-held that something was up. We clicked over to CNN on my computer, saw an at-the-time unbelievable headline, and then proceeded to head to our lab, where we had a normal radio and tuned into NPR. My job site is attached the Baltimore/Washington airport, and when the Pentagon got hit, I distinctly remember fearing that our plant might be a target, since it had national-security implications. Needless to say, the entire plant was empty by 11:00, but traffic was so horrible that I didn’t even get out of the parking lot before noon. I got home around 2 PM (traffic again), and then had to wait until almost 9 PM for my wife to get home, because she’s a school teacher and had to wait for every child in her class to get picked up by their parents (I don’t remember why the buses weren’t running, probably because of the traffic) and then fight traffic home. I distinctly remember sitting on our couch in our apartment and seeing the video replays for the first time after I got home (we didn’t have TV access at work), and proceeding to cry for about 20 minutes thereafter. I think I can happily live without doing that again…