If You See Something

front porch flag

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.

Then I heard the Pentagon was attacked.

“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.

groundzerospirit.org, ©2001 The Record, Bergen County NJ

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.

if you see something

if you see something say something

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.

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13 Comments

Filed under America, remembering 9/11

13 Responses to If You See Something

  1. Hey Aimee, I posted on 9/11 as well. I have a very dear friend who’s apartment has a bird’s eye view of ground zero. He did a video on his neighborhood then and now so it drove my post this year. You can find it at http://jplovescotton.com/2011/09/09/personal-account-of-911-september-11-2001-10-years-later/ My personal recollections of what i saw are posted at http://jplovescotton.com/2010/09/11/memories-of-911-new-york-washington-dc-mississippi-and-south-texas-came-together/ as a person who had lived in New York metro…. Living in Mississippi was tough… But I was glad to be working part of the day because I needed distractions.

    • JP, thank you, thank you for the links! Your friend Drew’s video piece is incredible! I was touched by the entire video, but especially moved by Teardrop Park, Poet’s House (that’s now on my list of places to visit), and the bronze sphere. As Drew said it stands as a “testament to the resiliency of New Yorkers, the nation and the human spirit.” I also appreciated your willingness to share your account of 9/11 from the vantage point of Texas. No matter where we were on that day, no American was left unscathed. We were all impacted. It is imperative to tell the stories, not only for healing, but also for the sake of future generations of Americans.

  2. Christel

    Yet another amazing post. Watched all the links, some of the footage I had never seen before. Very touching. I will never forget, America will never forget! Good job Aimee!

    • Thanks, Christel. I poured over footage on the internet to select a few links to include here. It was intense and depressing work, but worth it. In the process of reviewing footage, I remembered just how big an impact 9/11 had on our lives. It was a jolting paradigm shift we’d be foolish not to remember…

  3. Krista

    Well written, Aimee. Wyatt is in 5th grade, and this year in social studies their focus in on the United States. Part of his homework last week was talking to both of us about where we were and what we felt on that day. It’s tough chosing words to describe that scene to an 11-year-old. It’s also tough to describe it without the emotions just rolling over you again. I could not talk about the plane crashing in Pennsylvania without tears. Even though they will not say a prayer at the service at ground zero, millions will be praying tomorrow at their own places of worship. My hope is that by remembering in this way, we’ll give our children who were too young to remember or understand a way to understand how this has impacted us and in turn, them as well.

    • Krista, well said, my friend. What a great project for Wyatt. Sounds like he’s got good teachers. I hadn’t even thought about how so many Americans will be in church tomorrow for the anniversary. People will be praying tomorrow even if it’s not allowed at Ground Zero. That’s Providence, not coincidence. Thanks for pointing it out to me.

  4. Brad

    Very, very moving – thank you.

  5. If someone who believes that killing individuals, based on where they live or the country that are apart of, is not evil then I truly hope I am never exposed to true evil.
    I still feel anger for the individuals involved and those that believe it was justified. I hope one day I will be strong and wise enough to pity them.

  6. I was sitting in a college class that morning. I specifically remember doodling a drawing of one or both of the towers in my notebook – I don’t recall if I also drew smoke and plane(s).

    Looking back, it seems rather odd, a bit morbid actually. I think part of me thought, “not surprising really”. There was also the aspect of how nonchalantly our class went about its business. The professor announced it before class and then proceeded to teach. But, it was an 8am class – thus 9am in NYC, and absolutely none of us knew the exact horror that had and was occurring until after the class was over less than an hour later.

    I was living in NY when the WTC was bombed in 93. Living in NY, you learn to take accept a lot of bad things because so many bad things happen. But of course, this was far different.

    I think I skipped a couple of classes as many fellow students hung out at the Baptist “student union” where I was a “member” to watch the TV that had been rolled out and plugged in.

    As information continued to sift in and it was made known that Al-Qaeda and Islamists were behind it, unlike so many for whom this was a rude awakening, I remember thinking… you’ve been prepared for this. I had just spent the summer learning about Islam and often talking face to face with Islamists, to the point that on a few occasions, I feared for my personal safety. So that, on that day, while I was shocked like everyone else, I wasn’t surprised nor fazed. I felt rather oddly calm about the whole thing and never felt any grief or anger that so many expressed. I can only chalk that up to my faith, the preparation God gave me and my outlook on life – along with interests.

    Ten years on, what does shock me is coming across people who profess to be Christians yet show absolutely zero compassion or love for those who lost their lives or their survivors, or even for the more prominent people who had their own roles in cleaning up and moving forward.

    Just because I did not outwardly grieve or mourn, doesn’t mean I’m heartless or loveless. But saying that those who died deserved it or that it was inevitable against them because most were bankers. How vile. How saddening.

    I discussed some of this in two posts of my own, which you’ve seen. For ten years I’ve been wondering if I’m “broken” because I’ve seen things concerning 9-11 as if from a backseat, and I can only figure it’s because I’m too much of a head person and I had no “skin” in the game.

    • WA, people process the events differently and that’s okay–even normal. You sound like you’re a thinker, so it makes sense the way you described dealing with 9/11 “from a backseat.” And your experiences studying Islam help explain why you weren’t as surprised as many of us were. Todd Beamer’s widow Lisa wrote in her book Let’s Roll: Ordinary People, Extraordinary Courage about how God prepared her with past experiences to deal with 9/11 and the loss of her husband. Your sentiments echo hers in a way.

      As for those who think the people who died “deserved it or that it was inevitable against them because most were bankers,” that turns my stomach. On a theological level, we all “deserve” death and are saved from it only through the grace of Christ. However, that’s not the idea behind such hateful comments. Those who think what happened was somehow deserved are confusing the issues I think…

      Here’s a link to Lisa Beamer’s book if you or others are interested: http://www.amazon.com/Lets-Roll-Ordinary-Extraordinary-Courage/dp/0842373195

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