Sunday, September 11, 2011

September 11th

I wasn't near lower Manhattan that day, like Meg Cabot was. I didn't lose anyone I knew. Like everyone else around the world, however, I was still effected. This is my quite ordinary story.

When Flights 11, 77, and 93 took off, around 8:14 AM EDT, I was probably sleeping, safe in the mountain time zone. My husband headed off to work at about that time, and my 5-month old son may or may not have woken me up early. I can't remember.

I probably woke up sometime around 8:46 AM EDT, when Flight 11 hit Tower 1. I was a first year law student and had a class to get to that morning. At 8:59 AM EDT, while passengers on Flight 175 made final calls to loved ones on their way to their 9:03 appointment with Tower 2, I was probably feeding and cooing at my son. What with dressing myself and getting the baby ready for the sitter, I didn't have time for the morning news.

At around 9:37 AM EDT, when Flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon, I would have left my apartment and crossed the quad of the married student housing to drop my son off at the babysitter's apartment. My husband had totaled my car just a few days prior, so I had to walk to school, about ten minutes away.

My babysitter had been watching the news, and told me what had happened. Though I certainly didn't doubt her, it still wasn't real. I didn't know anyone who might have been in danger. The immediate impact on my life was abstract enough that I spent the walk to school being grateful that my worst problem was the lack of a vehicle--and wondering what they'd call the tragedy. "September 11th" was the obvious choice.

Class was scheduled to start at about 8:00 am MDT, as Tower 2 was collapsing. I remember standing in the hallway with other law students, watching one of the monitors in the corner of the ceiling, as professors rushed around. I don't remember being aware of the towers falling in real-time, so perhaps class started later, or it took me a while to wander  through the building to see the monitor. About that same time, Flight 93 crashed in Pennsylvania, though we didn't know about that for a while.

Eventually, the professors told us that they'd decided to cancel class. Mainly in the interests of national solidarity, since it seemed unconscionable to go on with our normal lives, pretending everything was fine, just because no one had destroyed one of OUR buildings.

Tower 1 fell at 10:28 AM EST, so by the time I picked up my baby and got home, most of the tragedy was over. I spent the day holding my son, staring at the television, and counting my blessings.

A few years later, I learned that a surgeon I knew had been in New York for a conference that day. As might be expected, they went to area hospitals to help out with what they expected to be a huge influx of wounded. He says that there were no wounded to help. They waited and waited, but no one came needing their skills.

In the patriotic furor that followed that day, my husband and I put a fast-food restaurant window cling in the back window of our new-to-us vehicle. Above the image of the American flag, it says "God Bless America" and underneath it says "September 11, 2001". It's still there today--we've never found an appropriate time to remove it.

All three of my sons have grown up knowing about 9/11. We haven't shielded them from it. Today, while exploring the 9/11 interactive timeline available through the National 9/11 Memorial, I had to remind my 8-year-old that what happened that day is not good fodder for jokes. They understand most of what happened, but not why or what it means for them. They have no nightmares.

Over the last few weeks, my husband and I have been watching the series "Rising: Rebuilding Ground Zero" on the Discovery Channel. I highly recommend it--and not just because it turns out it was directed by Steven Spielberg. The series doesn't focus on the tragedy, but on the hopeful future. On the way America is rising from the ashes of tragedy to come back bigger and better than we were before.

The saying goes that whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger. I heard a woman with terminal brain cancer joke once that even things that DO kill you can make you stronger. I pray that the deaths--of people, of ideals, and of some measure of hope--of September 11, 2001, can indeed continue to strengthen us as a nation. We need to get beyond sorrow, hate, and revenge and focus instead on the future, on the triumph of the human spirit. On using our hard-earned strength for good. That's what the heroes of that day did. We can do no less.


  1. Great sentiments...and remembering the very ordinary days that most of us were having so sharply contrasts with what was happening in NY, DC, and PA.

  2. Lovely, Robin. I was getting ready for work when NBC announced that a plane had struck the WTC. It wasn't until, just before I had to leave for work, that word came about the second plane hitting the other Tower. I headed for work knowing we were under attack. I had the local talk radio on all day at work, and we had access periodically to go to a conference room where a TV was located.

  3. Lovely Robin :) I was feeding a baby and watching the morning news when the first plane hit. Shock is to minor a word for how I felt. I still can't believe it has been 10 years.

  4. i was similarly occupied with babies, 1 & 2 yr olds. it didnt seem real or possible.
    thanks for your words.

  5. I was 17 years old and in my second period class when I found out, and I didn't get the full details until I got home for lunch that day. I count myself so incredibly lucky that, while I experienced a lot of fear on that day and all through that week, I lost no-one, nor do I know anyone who lost someone in that tragedy. I can only imagine what it must be like for those that did, and my heart goes out to them today for sure.

  6. Jenny--no kidding. I feel sort of embarrassed to post about my ordinary day when so many are reliving nightmares.


    Donna--I'm guessing government offices couldn't shut down that day, huh?

    Angie--I almost feel like I dodged a bullet, having missed the actual moment-of, you know? The shock was stale by the time I felt it.

    Tara--Scary bringing kids into this world--but the alternative is worse.

    Crystal--so true. There were so many people everywhere directly effected, losing friends and family. How'd we luck out?

  7. I watched this too. It is so nice to see them rebuilding and enduring through it all.
    I mentioned this post in my post about 9/11 too Robin. Thanks for pointing us to Meg CAbots post. So gutwrenching.
    As for me, I was already at work in Atlanta, GA. I worked in a downtown high rise so when we realized it was an attack they closed the building down because no one knew what was next.

  8. I think it is important to remember these details and keep talking about them. Never forget.

  9. Powerful post, Robin. I think we all remember exactly what WE were doing when it happened, but the important thing is to never forget what happened to us as a nation.

    (And now, for me, this day is even sadder as I lost my muse yesterday when he died of cancer. I guess I have another reason to remember.)

  10. Great post. I loved the memorials they made for the people who lost their lives that horrible day. I still remember everything about that day as well.