What difference does September 11th, 2001 make on September 12th, 2012?
Category Archives: remembering 9/11
New York subways don’t faze me after living in Chicago. Alone I took the train to catch up with my friends.
They’d gone ahead to shop in SoHo. First time I’d been in New York since 1993. Or was it 1994? Didn’t matter. I was on the train now, rolling toward our rendezvous point. The destination we promised not to miss while in the city.
The digital map counted down the stops. Spring Street. Canal Street.
“Is this the new station?” a fellow tourist said as we arrived. “This must be the new station.”
“No,” said a New Yorker in earshot of the traveler. “This is the same station. The one under the buildings.”
So clean and empty now. Images of firemen covered in dust and wading through rubble flashed in my memory.
“We’re in line,” a text beeped through from my friends. “Meet us at the entrance. We have your ticket.”
The street narrowed as I made my way.
My friends and I passed through security, stood in line with crowds of people, and finally stepped inside the fences.
In New York, the 9/11 Memorial at the World Trade Center is a city park, flat concrete with trees placed about. A bustling stage set for the main event.
We were drawn to the sides of a massive square basin.
People of every size, shape, and color leaned close to the stone edges engraved with the names of the deceased. We peered over to see down into the water.
Thousands of gallons rushed along a run under the stone edges with the names. We could touch that stream. Visitors brought their wet fingers up to the names they knew. Like a drink in the sweltering sun.
The water from the run rested on a ledge then fell, plummeting straight down to another greater plateau. From there it was pulled across until it dropped out of sight into a deep shaft at the center of the fountain.
I turned to leave. “There are two of them?”
We walked across the concrete plaza to another fountain identical to the first, except engraved with different names. Nearly an acre each in size, these fountains are the largest manmade waterfalls in North America. They trace the footprints of the two World Trade Center towers.
I tried to imagine people running across the courtyard. Tried to see bits of shredded office paper midair.
A museum will open at the site to join the fountains. Reconstruction of new buildings has begun. We’re years away from that day, but we remember.
On location in New York, second by second, the water reenacts the motion of the debris, buildings, and people.
It rushes and swirls and falls and is gone.
For He knows how weak we are;
He remembers we are only dust.
Our days on earth are like grass;
like wildflowers, we bloom and die.
The wind blows, and we are gone—
as though we had never been here. Psalm 103:14-16 NLT
Other everyday epistle posts Remembering 9/11:
Somewhere in Pennsylvania,
The Angry American, and
If You See Something.
Had fun with Reader’s Choice 2011. Hope you did too. Thought it was all wrapped up until I received a comment from my friend Chef Nusy.
Nusy is a friend I would not know except for this blog. We’ve never met in person, but we converse in the comments and her story inspires me.
Nusy was born and raised in Hungary. She immigrated to the United States alone at the ripe old age of 20. Did it for love.
Nusy married and now lives with her husband in California. She coaches fencing, teaches bread making, studies, and writes a blog called And Cuisine For All.
What impresses me about Nusy is her heart of freedom.
Communism anticlimactically fell in her homeland, but not much has changed for her people. So Nusy embraces life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness we Yankee Doodle Dandies sometimes take for granted.
When Nusy’s request reached me, I was moved. Here’s what she wrote:
The impact of history on a generation of people… and the lack of impact on those born after the tragedy. As Tolkien would put it, “the sorrow of the Firstborn.” That we have seen and experienced something that no words can ever describe to those who weren’t there to see it; we stand monument to the greatest tragedy of modern times.
Chef Nusy’s Reader’s Choice is:
Christel Oliphant is what we call an LLF. Lifelong friend.
It’s hard to remember when I didn’t know her. Miles separate us now. Still Christel proves the saying true: Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver and the other gold.
Christel’s favorite post was an emotional one to write. Had to relive the shock and sadness I first felt the day the story unfolded, then try to convey it with words.
Christel’s Reader’s Choice is:
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.
This past June, we took our son on his first trip to Washington, D.C.
Showed him the city in grand style. The museums, the monuments, the zoo. Even the U.S. Capitol thanks to my husband’s college friend Rep. Vicky Hartzler.
Previously I’d spent a good deal of time in D.C. I knew the ropes. But this trip would be my first visit to the Pentagon. Don’t know why I hadn’t gone before.
My husband had work commitments that day, so my little boy and I were on our own. We rode the yellow line out to the Pentagon stop. Emerged from the Metro tunnel into hot, blinding sunlight. Passed through security. Beheld the military headquarters of the free world.
The Pentagon is massive.
We walked two long sides girded by concrete barriers. Crossed paths with dozens of strong men and women. Upright, built, neat as pins in their uniforms, marching to their cars or the train. It was late afternoon. Time for some to go home.
Then we came to the place we’d come to see.
It was seamless and silent. Completely ordered. Respectful. Logical. Such a stark contrast to what must have been the moment the plane torpedoed the southwest side of the building.
And it was beautiful. The pools of water. The trees and pebbles. The paths and benches.
The benches stood in trajectories arched toward the building for the 59 passengers on the plane who died and arched away for the 125 people in the Pentagon who died. Engravings held the victims’ names.
Another mother walked among the benches and the names with her son.
“How do I explain this to him?” she said to me.
I shrugged. Nodded. Tried to connect with her eyes, “I know. I know.”
My son and I walked on through the memorial. The strange peacefulness that sometimes inhabits a graveyard hung in the air. I wondered if he felt it too.
I let it be. Didn’t try to explain it.
There is no explaining it.
If there is pain, fear, sadness, anger—that’s part of grief. Part of a process that can’t be circumvented, reasoned or negotiated.
The only way through it is through it.
But you, God, see the trouble of the afflicted;
You consider their grief and take it in hand.
The victims commit themselves to You;
You are the helper of the fatherless. Psalm 10:14 NIV
Courtesy of The Red , White and Blue (The Angry American) by Toby Keith expresses the anger and resolve many Americans felt in the wake of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.
This is the second of three posts commemorating the 10th anniversary of 9.11.2001. The first post Somewhere in Pennsylvania was published on August 24, 2011. The final post If You See Something was published on September 10, 2011.