Thursday, September 11, 2008

Remembering Through Stories

I spent a lot of time feeling sad about the events surrounding September 11th. Now, I think I just feel angry.

I was very newly married and beginning a new school year teaching in a school that seemed so far from the career I'd started at that great little school in the Bronx. My friends and family were back in New York, but my new life was in New Jersey.

I was teaching a group of unassuming ninth graders when another teacher frantically came to my door. She waved me to her and I begrudgingly obliged, assuming the snack machine was down again the faculty lounge. I was so clueless.

The news of a plane hitting a tower seemed to rush out of her as some other apprehensive teachers watched my reaction from a distance. I remember trying to remember which building Tony (my husband's best friend) was in, and if this was another case of my 18th birthday.

When I was 18, I lived on Governors Island (next to the Statue of Liberty) and the first World Trade Center bombing occurred, prohibiting anyone from leaving the island since the ferry slip was located right in Battery Park. Like a truly narcissistic teenager, I was so angry at the inconvenience.

Anyway, the gravity of the situation had yet to sink in.

Minutes later the same frantic teacher appeared in my door to announce that the second tower had been struck....and the bottom kind of fell out of me.

The rule of teaching is, no matter what, you need to be the calming port in the storm for your students. No matter what situation might present itself, your children (yes, 15 year olds are still children) need to feel safe. They look to you for guidance, for security.

And then the Pentagon was hit.

I made it through fourth period, though I have no idea what or how I did.

When the kids bounced off to lunch, I broke down. They sent the New Yorker home early to try to make contact with a long list of people who may or may not be lost.

Friends and family at both towers.
My brother was supposed to be at the Pentagon.
My best friend was flying out of Logan for a business trip.

And the worst part was, I couldn't stop watching the television. Horrible images, unbelievable stories, and a sense that I should have been in New York.

Now, years removed, I still have a hard to reconciling all that happened...but I guess that's the point, there has been no reconciliation. When will there be?

****I know we all have our "Where were you when...." stories. Feel free to share them in the Comments. In particular, a request to my friend Sutty to share the "wedding table" story involving the Cantor Fitzgerald people.


Samantha said...

I was just over two weeks from the due date of the birth of our first child that day, and I remember being struck by the beauty of that clear, crisp September morning outside of Washington DC. It wasn't long before my morning of routine paperwork became anything but routine. I recall being drawn out of my office to try to make sense of the faint chatter I began to hear on NPR, which I kept on in my office for background noise. Most of us couldn't turn our eyes away from the television in the conference room... as the second plane hit the towers, as the Pentagon was hit, as rumors abuzz around DC told of yet another plane headed for the Capitol, as the towers fell. I remember thinking that nothing was safe, and wondering what was next. As the phone lines were tied up in our area, I couldn't reach my husband at his office, my sister-in-law whose Naval officer husband was in DC, or my parents in NY. The feelings of fear and helplessness were overwhelming, as were the images, which I also couldn't tear myself away from. And in the days that followed, there was the eery silence from the air over our home, which was situated a handful of miles from Dulles International Airport, as air traffic in our area ceased. And though time passed, the reminders persist, even in the smallest of things... the news crawl at the bottom of the 24-hour cable new networks. The disaster planning at offices and county facilities. The security at airports. And now, as my children are getting older, the explanations and recollections of that terrible day. It was an unfathomable time which we cannot afford to forget.

Abbie, Paul, Drew and Charlotte's Web said...

I want to start out by saying that I am a Jersey girl, I grew up on the "other side" of the river, viewing the towers as part of the NYC skyline on a daily basis. I was always in awe of the gigantic edifices. As a typical NYC suburbanite, I never made it to the top of the WTC, I walked passed it a million times, taking them for granted.

9/11 was my very first day of RN clinicals. We were living in Yuma, AZ at the time, far removed from anything NY. I had been nervous and distracted preparing for school. Paul and I had made arrangements for carpooling our two kids, and swapping cars at the end of the day. I had to be at the nursing home at 6:15 a.m. and had been messing around with the radio, trying to find a "good" channel on the drive there. I heard a blip about a plane crashing into a building and for some reason I thought it was some small private plane that lost his way and crashed into something insignificant. I should mention that there was 2 hour time difference from the east.

As my morning went on, I passed the multi-purpose room where the TV had been on and to my horror I saw what was happening. I felt so completely removed from the entire situation. I was frozen. Slowly, other nursing students filtered in and saw me with tears streaming down my face and wondered if I was OK. I was alone in my thoughts thinking how can they even fathom what this means, they weren't from the NYC area, it can't mean the same to them. They've never even been there.

My class eventually gathered in the conference room glued to the TV and we watched people jump, heard 911 calls and watched the towers fall. We were dismissed early.

I had to drive to the Marine base to get the car my husband had used to drop off the kids. I was met at the gate with resistance. Two MPs with ready weapons searched my car and after an explanation of what I was doing on base, escorted me to Paul's squadron where I could make the vehicle exchange, and then they escorted me back to make sure I left the air station.

After picking up the kids from school and daycare, I went home and remained glued to the tv for the rest of the afternoon. I remember listening to a woman's telephone message to her family saying that she was "stuck in this building". Her voice is clear in my mind to this day.

My husband is getting ready for another deployment to fight the war on terror. He's currently scheduled to be away from us for a year. Reflecting on 9/11/01 puts it all into perspective, especially for our older 2 children. We will never forget.