It feels like just yesterday

September 11, 2012 § Leave a comment

That’s not a lie. It honestly feels like just yesterday that the planes hit the World Trade CEnter, the Pentagon, and went down in that field in Pennsylvania. It feels like just yesterday that the nation realized that the world we knew, was no longer. It feels like just yesterday that so many innocent lives were taken in such a senseless act. And yet, here we are today recognizing the 11th anniversary of the event that changed so much.

I’ve spent time today thinking of each of the past 11 years and what I did each year to honor those who were taken. Most importantly I took time to remember the raw emotion experienced on 09/11/01.  I was in my last semester of college and hadn’t yet woken for classes. When the phone rang my first though was of the lost sleep thanks to this interruption.  Who knew there would be so many more lost hours of sleep in the days to come. I woke up in time to turn the TV on, shake the cobwebs and realize what was happening and watched the plane crash into the second tower. I was also glued to the TV when Jim Miklaszewski reported that the Pentagon was being evacuated and they believe it had just been hit.  I couldn’t tear myself away from the coverage and sobbed as I watched the buildings collapse, realizing how many innocent firefighters, police officers, and citizens had been crushed.  I spoke with my aunt who had survived the first attack on the World Trade Center and found that she had safely gotten out on the last subway train.

In the hours to come I would drive to my university, located in a major military area. I would sit in front of the TV on campus, holding hands and watching the events unfold. I also remember calling my office, where I had just begun working in Emergency Management and being told: “Come in, NOW!”. I told my professors I didn’t know when I’d be back and drove towards Richmond. My then boyfriend, now husband was at school in Kentucky and I called him.  I was scared because I didn’t know where I was going or when I would be back. We made sure we said our “I love yous” and “be safe” because I also knew that he and other guys in the Fire Science program were trying to get to New York.

For three days we worked and waited. As the efforts at the Pentagon moved from rescue to recovery I remember the phone calls. I distinctly remember telling a staff member of the Governor’s Office that I couldn’t give him the names of the Virginians who had died in the attacks.  You know it’s the little things. At a certain point it became obvious to me that I would soon be headed to the Pentagon to support our deployed personnel.  That Friday I headed to Arlington. As we drove towards the Pentagon you map the approach of the plane to the Pentagon from the light poles that were knocked down. You could see the structure still smoking, knowing that there were people who would never make it home from work.

I remember everything from my 24 hours at the site. I remember the Arlington Fire Chief telling us that within our first four hours on site they had exploded multiple suspicious packages, arrested a man with a gun, and finally initiated security features. I remember getting credentialed by a man with an M-16. I remember being told that if I was seen taking pictures that my camera would be confiscated by a different man with an M-16. I remember the people: the people who offered help, food, comfort, hugs, clothing, anything. I remember the bus pulling onto the hill overlooking the Pentagon. As I watched, a large number of people got off the buses. I realized they were family members. Family members of those lost when the plane hit the Pentagon were holding a memorial service within view of the recovery team working. WHen the realization hit me that is what I was watching I had to turn away. Until then I’d been able to robot my way through. I had been given a task and was doing it. Those family members became the brothers, sisters, husbands, wives, mothers, and fathers of those lost and the reality was another smack in the face.

After my 24 hours I went home. We continued to support the events following the attack, but I didn’t go back. I sent more people, but never went back myself. In the past 11 years I’ve shed many tears over the events of 9/11. I become emotional when I think of the world my kids will never know. I become emotional when I think about the people who were lost. It took five years before I was able to drive past the Pentagon without seeing the images that I encountered while I was there. I read something today that made me agree. If you never forget, you never have to remember.  I can say that I will never forget 9/11 or the days that followed. I will never forget those emergency personnel and unsung heroes that saved countless lives. I have promised myself that unless physically unable to, I will participate in a memorial stair climb each year in honor of those firefighters who began the 110 story climb so many years ago and never came down.

So that’s my 9/11 story. Thank you for reading it and letting me share it (this is the first time I’ve ever put it in written word).  What’s your story?

 

Until next time…stay safe

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