Sunday, September 11, 2011

My 9-11-01 Recollections

I will be avoiding TV, radio, and live online coverage of the 10th anniversary of 9-11-01. The memories and anger I feel are still too raw and unsettling for me to watch rerun video footage of the events and listen to discussion and analysis.

I don't even have to close my eyes to be able to see the events and hear the comments from that day, now ten years in the past.

That day started like most school days do when you have young children. Our son was 11 and our daughter was 8. I was doing some consulting work for Compaq Computers developing online process certification testing and was blessed to be able to do most of my work from home. My wife and I were watching the national news on TV when the first report of something hitting one of the WTC towers was shown on TV. We loaded up the kids in my wife's car, and she was off to drop them at their schools and head to work.

Not long after they left and I got back into the house, I watched the second plane strike the second tower live on TV. That memory and image will be seared into my memory for the rest of my life. It was clear to me in that instant that this was not just a tragic accident. I think that was the first taste of true fear for me.

My thoughts raced. My immediate concern was the safety of my family. I called my wife, who had just dropped our kids off at their schools. She was traveling a lot for work at the time, and I was so thankful that she was in town. She was traveling back from another part of Oklahoma the day that the Oklahoma City bombing occurred, and I remember the panic I felt that day until I knew that she was OK.

I called my parents. They were up at my grandfather's house butchering chickens and had no clue of what was going on.

I watched the TV coverage for about an hour. I don't have any memories of any specific thoughts. I was just riveted to the news coverage and the speculation.

I started to think about the awful possibilities. If this was a wide-spread event, there could be disruptions of banking and food distribution. I immediately went to the bank and withdrew $1000 in cash, came home, and hid the money in one of my favorite novels in my office. Looking back, I'm almost embarrassed to admit that I did this, but at the time, it seemed like a smart thing to do. I kept that money in that book for months afterward.

I had done some online work and consulting with two companies based in NYC, and I have vivid memories being in a car and being driven right past the WTC in the summer of 2000. I spent much of the rest of the day trying to contact my friends there. Email was "the thing" back then, and servers were down, email service spotty. I don't remember the exact time frame, but I do recall how relieved I was when I finally heard from both companies. One friend who had offices just a few blocks east of the WTC and who lived in Brooklyn told a sad story of being stuck across the river at home and watching the whole thing live while trying to locate his employees by phone and email.

I remember trying to sleep that night and hearing jets flying high overhead. It was eerie knowing that they were military jets and that no commercials flights were in the air.

A Delta pilot friend of mine was forced to land in Florida and was not able to get back home until Friday of that week.

I guess I had my fill of the constant media coverage that week. It became very difficult for me to watch any of the news reports after that week, and I still cannot bring myself to watch historical accounts.

So, today I will be doing my best to avoid any direct reminders of that day and week. But, rest assured, I will be thinking about it a lot as I have morning coffee with my wife, read my analog newspaper, write my lesson plans for the next week, grade students' papers, go to the grocery store, see my daughter off to her third week of college, and do all of those normal, every-day things that some misguided madmen tried to take away from me ten years ago.