Monday, September 11, 2006

remembering

Do you remember where you were and what you were doing when you got the news of 9/11? I was on the red line, on my way to work.

It was a crisp, clear morning, a perfect fall day. At least it looked like one. My train was pulling into Fullerton when cell phones started ringing all around me. The first plane had hit the World Trade Center, and people who already at their offices were calling friends and family who were in transit to tell them the news. A minute later the train went into the subway. Some people sat in stunned silence. Others were discussing the horrible news with seatmates.

I had no further news until I got to my office about 25 minutes later. A TV was on in the conference room. The second plane had hit the World Trade Center. The news was fragmented and confused. We were sent home later in the morning. At an hour when streets in the Loop would normally be full of pedestrians and cars, the place was eerily silent.

My brother's sister-in-law was a United flight attendant who was in the air that day. No one knew until the next day whether she was dead or alive.

A few days later, when things became clearer, I felt grateful that no one I knew had died in the attacks, but felt sadness for all those people who had simply been in the wrong place at the wrong time. A number of my friends lost friends and co-workers that day.

I visited a friend in New York two months later. The place had changed. Much of the brash attitude I'd always associated with Manhattan was gone, replaced by a combination of friendliness and vulnerability. I walked past a firehouse in Harlem one morning. The front of the building was plastered with Thank you cards and pictures, and pots of flowers had been placed in front. It didn't feel like the same New York I'd known before.

Somehow I hoped that a sense of unity would come out of this tragedy instead of the cultural fragmentation we've experienced in the last five years. Is American culture capable of unity and healing?

1 comment:

rogerspark60645 said...

I remember my son, age 10, was drying the breakfast dishes and I was headed down to the basement to get that last load of laundry started before hustling the kids off to school and getting to work. My son was watching "Good Morning America" in the kitchen and he yelled down the basement stairs, "Mom, Charlie Gibson said that a plane just hit the World Trade Center!" I said, "That doesn't sound like an accident." But I never suspected the magnitude of what would unfold. I put the kids in the car and ran to the bank to use the cash station. I left the kids in the car with the radio on and when I returned my son told me that the other tower had been hit. I was very reluctant to drop them at school that day. As I went into work I stopped at a Dunkin' Donuts in East Rogers Park. I mentioned what I had heard to the clerk. He hadn't heard the news. He turned on the radio and about half of the people stood silent and began to listen. I drove about a mile to work and the radio was telling us that all planes in the entire country had been grounded. The security guard at our parking deck still hadn't heard. I walked off the elevator and my whole department was gathered together around a T.V. with a makeshift antenna. I tried to call my children's school but there were no telephone lines working. I felt like the world was falling apart and I wanted to be with my family. My husband was working downtown near the Sears Tower. As time went on he did reach me and said that downtown Chicago was being evacuated. I got through to my children's school and they said all of the kids were fine and probably just as safe there. It is a Catholic school and they were praying. Our office never did close or cancel classes that day. In retrospect, I should have gone and gotten my kids. I don't know what I was thinking. My son said they watched the towers fall in school. My daughter, 5, didn't understand all of what was happening but she knew that people were scared. On my way home I stopped at the hardware store and bought the last flag. I had called the store ahead of time and asked them to dig out their 4th of July flags from the basement. They had two left so I placed one on hold. I stopped and filled up my car with gas because everyone was speculating that prices would soar by the next day. The line was long. I found my husband down at the beach on my way home. He was very upset and I was just happy to see him. When I picked my son up from his friend’s house after school he was talking about a guy named “Ben” Laden. He said, “Mom, don't you remember the F.B.I.’s most wanted list in Hannibal? He was on it. The news thinks that he blew up the towers”. I had never heard of this "Ben" guy. We went home and my neighbor helped me drill into the bricks and mortar of our home to hang the flag. It is still there. As I remember, we all watched the President that night.