I was in a coffee shop having breakfast when I first heard, from a pilot friend of mine, that a plane had hit the WTC. I told him to stop joking around about crap like that and then realized he was serious.
Something impelled me to rush back to my condo and turn on the news. I knew something life changing was happening. I turned on MSNBC in fact. I watched in horror for the rest of the morning and into the afternoon hypnotized by the horror of the event and the heroic behavior I saw that day.
An MSNBC correspondent Ashleigh Banfield, later the first female reporter to enter Afghanistan, didn’t run away from the disaster. She ran toward it trying to get a fix on what was happening. She made her way to within a block of the Towers. I remember her, now with a camera crew, face whitened by the dust, fear etched into her posture but standing her ground and reporting as best she could. It was heroic.
She and others ran into the disaster rather than away. Lives were at risk and they went to help as best they could. As I watched with tears streaming down my face. I wanted so much to be in New York and, hopefully if my courage didn’t fail, to be one of those running to the disaster to help rather than running away from the disaster to save my skin. Each is acceptable depending on your way of life.
Then we heard of the plane flying into the Pentagon. Later we knew that Barbara Olson, a conservative commentator and reporter, called her husband at the very end to say goodbye and give an update. She was not only a courageous mother and wife but a reporter to the very end.
As if that weren’t enough there was one more unaccounted for airliner. Later we learned of the history of Flight 93 and the actions of the men and women on that plane that may have saved so many lives. My God.
I couldn’t stop watching even after I felt myself sinking into a deep depression. It was history and I had to watch it. My kind, loving ex-long time significant other called me and said, “Fuck’em, nuke the bastards”. This kind and gentle woman had been pushed to her breaking point.
In the days that followed the world rallied around the United States of America declaring, “Today, we are all Americans.” I remember stunning photos of the demonstrations of sorrow and solidarity with the declarations that this horror would not be allowed to stand. I can’t find them on the web today or I would show you cars parked all over Europe with their light’s on. I’d show you the wreaths and flowers laid to show the sorrow of an entire world. We had the entire world united behind a quest to find and punish the thug and murderers behind the attack. (Of course that unity was thrown away in the coming months. But that’s another story for another day.)
For myself, at that time pretty well fixed financially, I had an urge to go to NYC and help with the clean up and rescue. I could have simply thrown a sleeping bag and some clothes in the back of my truck and gone. At the time I talked myself out of it by thinking I’d just be getting in the way of the professionals. Later I learned of the hundreds that simply showed up and started working. I’ve regretted my decision ever since.
9/11 lives on for me in a very visceral way. Thanks to Keith Olberbmann for putting it on the line last night is his special comment. The Republicans have made it part of their election and they need to be chastised for it. Keith did the job.
I don’t know when I’ll be able to truly think of 9/11 in depth, as I am today, and not feel the impact all over again. I hope never.