Sunday, September 11, 2011

We All Have Memories. These are Mine.

I've spent the last 10 years trying to erase the mental image of bodies falling from the sky.

For most of my life, world events haven't had any profound effect on me or my person. I live in a blissful ignorance where the news is for adults and I can be carefree as long as I'm oblivious to what is happening "out there." However, for one day when I was 19 years old, the world stopped and I took notice.
Had I not, I would have been deemed inhuman. I hadn't intended to document here about that day, but documenting, well, that's just sorta what I do. I have pages and pages from journals throughout my life, but that purple spiral bound with the brightly colored pages is different. Pressed in the pages are printed copies of emails, speeches, articles, and photos. I was documenting something I would never want to remember, but could never, ever forget.

I believe it was a Tuesday, and instead of flipping on the Today Show as we normally would have, Kimhead was still sound asleep in our small Sims dorm room, so I showered in the dark and wrote in my journal a few pages before trudging off across campus to the BA for my 9am marketing class. By the time I got to class, at least one of the towers would have already been hit.

11 September 2001, Approximately 8:30am

No email from Mr. Smith yesterday. Breaks my heart. I'm totally thinking that I got the total and complete shaft and I just want to break down and cry, but can't because I have to suffer through my classes. I was talking to Bobby last night and he keeps trying to get me to come over. I'm just not interested because I'm not sure I trust him right now. But I just might go hang out with him for a lack of anything better to do. I also met this really cool, but super uncute, guy named Chris who works for a radio station. We talked forever and he is super cool. I wouldn't mind hanging out with him, but I'm not interested in dating him. Every single last piece of me just wants to be with Mr. Smith and that's no exaggeration. I was thinking that after I left work and there was a cute guy, David, there. I'd like to get to talk to him and hanging out with him would be awesome, but I only want to be with Mr. Smith. Todd sent me an email this morning saying "I love you." What do I say back? I sent him some bullshit about still loving him but not on the same level. I wish I knew what to do. It was nice to spend all weekend with him, but that's not going to lead to a renewed relationship. No matter how lonely and desperate I get, I just can't let that happen. I'm back to my freshman self of counting down weekends. There is nothing going on this weekend or next. Guess I can watch the game Saturday night. After these two weekends, I get to fly home. And hopefully I won't be disappointed and will get to see Mr. Smith.

See? I told you I was forced to take notice. Above? That was my worry. That was my concern. That was what 19 year old Gail had on her mind when she walked into a packed auditorium for class. My professor started the lecture by letting us know that the WTC had been hit by a plane, but that he didn't have much more information. The class was scheduled to run until 10:15am that morning, and I had a management class in the same lecture hall immediately following. However, the professor ended a few minutes early and told the collective class that we should probably get to a television. I tossed my giant textbook into my backpack, slung it over my shoulder, and walked with much urgency and purpose as I headed across campus. As I was walking, I noticed lots of people on their cell phones, standing and staring with blank, confused expressions on their face. "They fell down?!?!" I over-heard one person exclaim. I picked up the pace.

I turned my key and burst into the room to find Kimhead standing a foot away from the television, in front of my dresser, under a poster of Robbie Williams, not fully clothed. She turned to me and said, "I just watched the World Trade Center fall down." It was 10:29am. I had missed the live collapse of the North Tower by less than a minute. From there, I watched more news in the next 24 hours than I had ever seen before.

11 September 2001, Approximately 10:45am

OHMIGOD! I just got back from class and found out that our country was just hit by terrorists. Two planes flew into the towers of the WTC. They were both hijacked planes. The 2 WTC towers, both 110 stories high, just collapsed. Another plane crashed into the Pentagon and another plane crashed near Pittsburgh. They just showed the towers from earlier this morning after the planes had hit and how they were on fire and smoking and then I watched them collapse to the ground. My heart skipped. I am just so baffled and confused. They're not sure if there are other hijacked planes or not. Canada even shut down airports. The President is on his way back to Washington. Todd just called me and he's been called by the Marines and is "on call" to go to Charlotte if necessary. I'm not sure what he'd have to do, but he'd be in danger if he goes. The only count I've heard is 266 dead, and that's just on the flights. And they're saying up to 50,000 people will end up dead. It's so scary and I just hope it ends soon.

I found some striking images. You don't even see special effects quite like these. I'm just still in shock and I really think the entire nation is probably in the same mood. I did talk to Bobby and he says that we won't go to war because this won't be linked to just one country, but rather terrorists. So we'll do strategic bombing aimed at terrorists. It's all really confusing and scary and who knows what will happen with all of this. As long as they don't take my Todd or Bobby into war. I've been near the towers and the Pentagon. These are places that are symbols of America that are important to all of us. This is like Pearl Harbor of the 21st century. My children are going to ask me about this when I'm older and they talk about it in their history classes. I've been happy to have Bobby around today because he's been able to update me as to some of the stuff that's going on. He understands the military stuff. Did I ever mention there was a nationwide halt of all flights in the states for the first time in history?

I can't believe all of this is happening. Yet, in a way I always knew I would witness a historic moment in my lifetime. It's just a shame it had to be a historic tragedy that I got to witness. And I have been witnessing it over and over all day. I just watched people jump from the top stories of the building. I pray tonight for peace in this world. "The resolve of this nation is being tested and we will pass this test."

It wasn't until I watched a National Geographic remembrance special last night that I felt compelled to write today. There were images I never remember seeing. There were images I can never forget. There was new information. There was information I had tried not to hear. I listened to Rudy Giuliani tell his story of being trapped in an adjacent building when the first tower fell. I will have an opportunity to meet Mayor Giuliani and hear him speak very soon. Under normal circumstances, I wouldn't bother listening to a politician. But he is the public figure I remember from that fateful day, and a piece of my soul feels connected to him somehow.

I made lots of relevant memories in the days, months, and years following 9/11. I remember driving around looking for a copy of the NY Times, but never finding one. I remember flying home to my grandfather's funeral 2 1/2 weeks later and sitting across from a jerkface who made a joke about blowing up the plane. I remember hearing Billy Joel's "Miami 2017" for the first time and finding it so eerie. I remember driving to Atlanta for a memorial concert. I remember the first NFL games after the tragedy with flags that covered the entire fields. I remember saying "screw it" and going to Europe 8 months later, even though I was scared to death to fly. I remember hearing about a dear friend whose father had died on the 10th but was unable to get to NYC for the funeral because there were no flights. I remember getting a phone call in 2004 from Bobby as he returned from duty overseas, letting me know he was OK.

And, funny enough, it's that last memory that finally brought me to tears in writing this entry today. That personal connection just hit home.

Maybe I am human after all.

1 comment:

The Fischer Family said...

Great post! Thanks for sharing your memories!