Everyone I know remembers where they were on September 11, 2001. It was not only a defining moment for our country, but one for my generation. It was the JFK assassination of my era. The shock that rocked us as no other had before. It’s the topic that still comes up at dinner parties. Everyone can relate to it. And, in that, it is a binding event. Each person remembers with pristine clarity the space he or she occupied when the planes hit the Twin Towers, the Pentagon, the field in Pennsylvania. When the Towers fell. And the dismal, disbelieving hours and days that followed.
For me, it was a Tuesday blissfully void of radio or TV reports during the morning prep for work, and even on the drive to the office. I remember walking into my employer’s small office building at around 9 a.m. The air had a palpable tension. Then I heard one of the assistants call out, “Can anyone get CNN online? It just went down.” Later we would discover they were suffering from overload from too many people trying to access it. I stuck my head into my boss’s office to say good morning. She looked stricken. “What?” I asked. “What do you mean, ‘What’?” she said. “Haven’t you heard?” I sat with her over the next hour listening to the radio on her desk. Except for a few gasps and “Oh, my God’s” I don’t think we said much as we sat transfixed.
The rest of that week is not a blur. Aaron and I were supposed to travel to NJ to visit my folks on the 14th. No planes were flying. Subsequent visits to the Newark airport still bring a tear when I happen to be on the side of the airplane with views out to where the Towers used to be. Family visits to the South Tower’s observation deck and dinner at the North Tower’s Windows on the World are vivid memories of my childhood.
Since Aaron and I both had our vacation days reserved, we drove to Savannah instead. The radio was on the entire time in the car. I remember hopeful reports that people might still be found alive in the Towers’ debris. I remember not seeing a single airplane in the sky during the drive. I remember rain the whole time we were in Savannah. And I remember wherever we went for our few days there TV’s were tuned to the news about the attacks — including in our hotel room. I couldn’t not watch … and cry. I also remember leaving a day earlier than we had planned because the situation and weather being what they were, it was a pretty miserable vacation.
These days I don’t start a day without listening to the news. I still have the American flag decal on my rear window — a Lowe’s giveaway in the weeks that followed the attack. It’s faded now, but it’s still there. Much as I suspect sentiment about that day is now.
Tonight, I was thumbing through a book published in 1852 that once belonged to my great-great grandmother — my namesake — searching for images to scan for my Freebies4U section of this blog. Amazingly, I found a giant four-leaf clover pressed between the pages of the back of the book. Ever the optimist, I take that as one of those cosmic messages of hope on this 9-11 day.