9/11: A Very Personal Memoir

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.

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5 Responses to 9/11: A Very Personal Memoir

  1. ironxl84 says:

    Stuart,That was one moving and well written piece. On that morning, I was at work in Brooklyn just on the east side of the Bridge that bears it’s name. Shortly after the second tower was struck, an impromptu meeting was convened and everyone was notified that we should all go home.It was my intention to walk westerly across the bridge and once having entered Manhattan Island, I would find my way North to Grand Central Terminal in the hopes of catching a commuter train away from NYC. It took a few minutes to gather my things and start hoofing toward the flight of stairs which would put me on the bridge walkway where I would once again have a direct vista on that horrific scene.After climbing the stairs I could now see that an immense cloud of brownish dust had appeared and that there was only one tower standing now. The hordes of people walking toward me and away from Manhattan were all sobbing. They had obviously just witnessed the first collapse as they made their way across the bridge.At that moment, I could sense something tugging at my sanity as I gazed at this surreal scene before my eyes on an otherwise crisp and crystal clear late summer morning. And so my instinctive reaction was quite different from yours. I just wanted to get as far away from there, and as quickly as I possibly could. To this day, I abhor the notion of ever visiting Lower Manhattan again.I must state though that I have always admired all those that did make the effort to go there, either as first responders, or later as those who would clean up the resulting nightmarish landscape.In hindsight I now feel total disgust that Bush exploited our pain in order to rally folks to his own selfish ends.For me, 9/11 will never be behind me until a breath of fresh air finally hits Washington DC. He is Barack Obama.Tom  

  2. ironxl84 says:

    Stuart,

    That was one moving and well written piece. On that morning, I was at work in Brooklyn just on the east side of the Bridge that bears it’s name. Shortly after the second tower was struck, an impromptu meeting was convened and everyone was notified that we should all go home.

    It was my intention to walk westerly across the bridge and once having entered Manhattan Island, I would find my way North to Grand Central Terminal in the hopes of catching a commuter train away from NYC.

    It took a few minutes to gather my things and start hoofing toward the flight of stairs which would put me on the bridge walkway where I would once again have a direct vista on that horrific scene.

    After climbing the stairs I could now see that an immense cloud of brownish dust had appeared and that there was only one tower standing now. The hordes of people walking toward me and away from Manhattan were all sobbing. They had obviously just witnessed the first collapse as they made their way across the bridge.

    At that moment, I could sense something tugging at my sanity as I gazed at this surreal scene before my eyes on an otherwise crisp and crystal clear late summer morning.

    And so my instinctive reaction was quite different from yours. I just wanted to get as far away from there, and as quickly as I possibly could. To this day, I abhor the notion of ever visiting Lower Manhattan again.

    I must state though that I have always admired all those that did make the effort to go there, either as first responders, or later as those who would clean up the resulting nightmarish landscape.

    In hindsight I now feel total disgust that Bush exploited our pain in order to rally folks to his own selfish ends.

    For me, 9/11 will never be behind me until a breath of fresh air finally hits Washington DC.

    He is Barack Obama.

    Tom

  3. Salvation Army ! Galveston,Texas ! Bottled Water ! Loved ones to contact number is 1-800-588-9822 ! Sometmes ya just gotta put an American hat on !

  4. For me, what makes 9/11 even more tragic is the manner in which Bush reacted. ( or actually failed to)   When “The Decider’s” Presidential Library opens, the children’s book “My Pet Pig”  should have a position of prominence as you enter.  After all, he thought it more important to read with the kids for almost seven minutes instead of reacting.When he finally did react, he went after Iran, a country that DID NOT attack us–instead of Afganistan which did.  He squandered all of the universal good will heaped upon us by his dumb actions and words.  I hope people come to realize that McCain just represents more of the same when they vote in Nov.    Buzz

  5. Of course I meant to say Iraq and not Iran.  Iran is the one he is trying to find an excuse to invade before 1/20/09.   Buzz