What did you see?
I saw a quiet September morning. A clear blue sky. A day like any other.
I heard the sounds of my husband showering upstairs. The cereal plinking in my bowl.
The guy on the radio, “This just in from the AP newswire. It appears a plane has crashed into the World Trade Center in New York.”
“Jeff,” I called. “They’re saying on the radio a plane crashed into the World Trade Center.”
“Turn on the TV!”
We sat together on the couch, the two of us cloistered in our little Midwestern living room. We stared at the screen. Saw smoke pouring out of the North Tower.
Then the explosion. We saw the South Tower hit in real-time live from New York.
Spent the rest of the day trying to find normal. All the while, horrifying news rolled in from the East Coast like some wayward hurricane making landfall.
I saw the early video of the people falling from the Towers. I saw it before the media decided the images were too disturbing for viewers like me.
“Do you think you should come home?” I said to my husband over the phone. “There may be more hijackers on a flight to St. Louis.”
“No,” he said. “We’re okay here. They’re not going to hit a low-rise office building in Clayton.”
“But there might be other cells with bombs,” I said. “Your office has an underground parking garage.”
He stayed put. I drove home. I heard Dan Rather on the car radio, his voice shrouded by the background noise of the South Tower falling. Crumbling, crashing, shattering, concrete, glass, dust and death.
Back at my post in the living room, I saw footage of smoke against grass. A plane crash in a farmer’s field in Pennsylvania.
Saw images of New Yorkers running for their lives. Saw the amateur video from Dr. Mark Heath who stayed at Ground Zero filming through the implosion of the South Tower. “I hope I live. I hope I live,” he said.
Could almost smell the ash and dust as it swirled and covered him. Heard the eerie whistling of the firefighters’ equipment in the black of that day.
Hung our flag and placed a candle in our yard. Tasted the tears.
Later that evening I went to my graduate school class. I listened in disbelief as my professor refused to call the attacks evil.
Came home to watch the media whitewash the footage. Pulling photos. Editing out the most startling video. Concluding only a few days into the crisis the public had seen enough. Running film from the attacks would only incite violence.
And now ten short years later, I am saddened when I search for facts to find the web replete with 9/11 conspiracy theories. When I look for comfort to read there is no prayer allowed at the commemoration service in New York.
But it’s too late. I saw what happened.
I am a witness to the attacks of September 11, 2001, along with millions of my countrymen and millions more people around the world. I want to forget, but I can’t. I want to go on as if it never happened, but that would be a lie.
So what does it mean being a witness?
Each of us must decide how to respond. And yet there is one responsibility we have in common, I think.
If you see something, say something. And keep saying it and saying it and saying it.
Earth, do not cover my blood;
may my cry never be laid to rest!
Even now my Witness is in heaven;
my Advocate is on high.
My Intercessor is my friend
as my eyes pour out tears to God;
on behalf of a man He pleads with God
as one pleads for a friend. Job 16:18-21 NIV
Remember the morning of September 11, 2001, with this 9.11 Tribute by Nathan Kress set to the haunting song so popular that year, Only Time by Enya.
This is the final post in a series commemorating the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks of 9.11.2001. The first post Somewhere in Pennsylvania was published August 24, 2011, and the second post The Angry American was published September 1, 2011.