Monday, September 12, 2011

Remembering 9/11

Yesterday was the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. Like most people, it got me thinking. Where was I? What was I doing? What was I thinking?

I've repeated this before. One of the UT newspapers put out a call in 2002 for people to write what they remembered in 500 words or less. I got my submission in, and received the phone call that they wanted a photographer to come take my picture. It was all kind of surreal at the time, but this, essentially, is what was published in that paper:

We'd planned a family trip, and were leaving that morning--me, my husband, our three sons and infant daughter. Utah to OK is a long drive and we wanted an early start, but we weren't getting it. In fact, we were still getting ready when my brother (we were living with him at the time) came in to tell us he'd heard "unconfirmed reports" of an airplane striking the World Trade Center. I admit it, we laughed at that. What do they mean unconfirmed? Can't they just look and see? We were thinking it had to be a hoax, or some kind of advertising stunt. It wasn't until we heard about the second plane hitting, and also something going on at the Pentagon, that we started to wonder what was really going on.

We set out on the road, stopping one last time for snacks and gas. As we stood in line at Walmart, the lady in front of us was on the phone and had tears streaming down her face. She had someone, family, at the WTC. I felt for her, for her pain and anguish. We hurried to our car after making our purchases and turned on the news radio.

Our hearts sank lower and lower as the events unfolded. What had started out as an ordinary day hadn't stayed that way long. During the drive, we tuned in AM radio for any updates as we neared and passed through towns and cities. We watched the news that night at the hotel, and repeated the same procedure the second day of the trip.

Sadly, I don't remember much about the visit we had with my in-laws. I don't even remember what my kids did for that week. I do remember holding my baby in my arms, glued to the TV with all the other adults, and watching with horror and that awful helplessness the incredible suffering that had been inflicted upon countless families and individuals. I think, in those moments and days after, we all felt personally attacked to some degree. To attack America was to strike at each of us. That feeling has not left me.

Now, as we remember the events of that day, I prefer the stories of the brave--and how many there were--who sacrificed their safety and even their lives to help friends, colleagues and strangers. It warms my heart to think of the selfless ones who seemed to understand so much more, and do so much more. They are true heroes, all.