As we come upon the 10th anniversary of September 11, sometimes it seems as if it was last week; other times it seems as if it was a lifetime ago.
People remember exactly where they were when they heard the news. I not only remember the morning perfectly, I also remember the whole day. The smell of coffee in the kitchen watching the today show. Sitting around the dinner table trying to figure out what had actually happened. Watching a sober US Congress sing "God Bless America" on the front steps of the Capitol. The phone call that came alerting me to a high school mate who hadn't been heard from...and would never be heard from because she was one of the many who worked for Cantor Fitzgerald on the 101st floor of the North Tower. The conversation with my father, a retired firefighter, who gently tried to explain why people were jumping out windows. I think about that image more than I should admit. In fact, I think about that day more than I should admit. Driving past the pentagon everyday keeps the memory fresh, as did working in the Capitol.
Flight 93 is over looked sometimes. They disappeared into a field in PA. But what they represent shouldn't be over looked. They were brave. They fought. And because of their fight, their plane, whose rumored target was the Capitol, saved thousands of lives. I didn't start working in DC until the summer of 2002. Security had been beefed up and the restricted air zone around DC more defined. I've written a couple of times about memories of evacuations...having to run from the senate office because of planes which had breached the restricted zone...all of which were small, private planes. The cops, holding machine guns, would scream "2 minutes! Incoming plane! Take off your shoes and run for your lives!" I did this on two separate occasions, both scaring me death...to tears....taking years off my life probably. But the thought of a 747 breaching the airspace is almost too much to think about, even now. Three times as large; three times the amount of fuel. Would they have scrambled f-16s to shoot it down that September morning? Maybe. I'd like to think so. It helped me sleep better at night thinking so. Thought in DC, where do you bring it down without killing people on the ground?
On my recent trip to NYC, my friend Steve convinced me to take a trip down to Ground Zero. I dragged my feet a bit, but in the end surrendered. Steve was actually part of my 9/11 as father to the children I was a nanny for at the time. He was in NY staying at a hotel near the WTC. He had called around 8am to check in regarding his family, including his wife, Amy, who had just given birth 14 days before. Neither Amy, Steve's mom who was at the house, or myself connected his hotel with the images we were seeing on tv an hour later. It wasn't until Amy picked up the phone and saw the caller ID that read "WTC Sheraton" the pieces started to form. As you know, cell service was nil. It wasn't until a couple hours later that Steve, who walked 70 blocks to the Plaza where his brother in law was staying, checked in. It seems that he was in a conference room blocks away and no one knew what had happened outside.
Steve and I took a long taxi ride down the West Side Highway, he looking out the window while I on my cell phone frantically tried to get us train tickets back to DC before the hurricane. He wanted to see how the new buildings were progressing. We came upon a museum across the street - which at $15 a head was highway robbery. But he wanted to see it, so we went in. I made it about 10 feet inside the door and immediately knew it was a mistake. The entrance way was filled with people - none of them making a sound. It's was almost reverent. The first room was filled with pictures of the building over the years and quotes on the wall from people who worked there and people who survived. I quickly made my way to the next room not looking at artifacts or the cell phones that went unanswered. I silently moved into the next room which was filled with pictures...fliers...desperate pleas of wanting to know something. Anything. And the memories started to flood back and it was too much. I grabbed a half dozen tissues and out into the sun I ran. The sights, sounds, smells of that day were too overwhelming, even 10 years later, to endure much more.
I know you all will remember in your own special way, whether it's seeing the new exhibit at the Newseum (which is free on Sept. 10th), watching the numerous tv specials or staying in bed all day, please also take a moment to think of the heroes, the firefighters and the "what if" of Flight 93.
Twin Tower Cameos from Dan Meth on Vimeo.