This is a difficult post, because I don’t think I have words to adequately convey the feelings I have about this particular day in our collective history, but I don’t want this day to pass without saying something about it. I did not lose anyone in the horrible events of 9/11, but like all Americans who were old enough at the time to understand the significance and terrible consequences of what happened, I, too, lost a certain sense of self and “home” and safety. I am, after all, an American and 9/11 was an attack on me and my fellow Americans on American soil.
I was camping in northern California on that day 10 years ago. The man at the campsite next to mine had his radio on, loud. My camping companion walked past his campsite and came running back and told me to put the radio on in the truck, because something terrible had happened. I did, and after about 15 minutes, I tried to call my parents on my cell phone because they were supposed to fly that day, from Denver to Portland, Oregon. I couldn’t get through on my cell phone. I found a pay phone near the campground bathrooms and fortunately, I had an old calling card that I carried for emergencies, and I tried there, but it took a couple of times.
I reached my mom. They hadn’t flown after all, because all flights across the country were grounded. All I knew was that a jet had hit the World Trade Center and my mom told me that one of the towers had already collapsed, that there were two jets, and each one had hit a tower. She said there was a plane that hit the Pentagon, and another that went down in Pennsylvania and she was barely holding it together at that point. I hung up, and cried, and weirdly, I thought about the Trade Center bombing in 1993, and I thought that this was an act of war, yes, but also an act of terrorism, and then I thought about all the people I imagined were in the buildings the planes that hit, about the people who were on the planes, and the plane that had gone down in Pennsylvania, and I grieved for them, and for us as a collective nation.
We continued up the coast into Oregon, uneasy and scared, and completely uncertain how to react or what we could or should do. We stopped to give blood in a California town, thinking we needed to do SOMETHING, ANYTHING that would make us feel connected to all the people suffering in NYC and DC and Pennsylvania, that would make us feel like we were helping somehow, as absolutely trivial as that act was, and as absolutely helpless and insignificant as we felt. I didn’t see the films of what happened until about 3 days later, when we opted to stay in a motel one night. We cut the vacation short after that, and started driving back to New Mexico the next morning, finding NPR all the way home, saying nothing to each other, really, just listening all day and all night to the reports as we drove.
Ten years later, I still greet this day with unease and grief. I went to Ground Zero two years ago, and visited the church nearby that served as a response point for rescue workers and volunteers, and that still harbors photos and notes from relatives and friends and clothing of the ones who didn’t come back from the Towers, and I almost knew what it must have been like to be in New York that day, and how profoundly this event had altered not only the physical landscape, but the emotional as well.
I’m never able to truly sort through that day. I can’t even imagine how hard it is for those who lost loved ones or who were directly affected in some way by the events. And now, 10 years later, we all have our own way of grieving and remembering. Whatever it is you decide to do today — however you decide to commemorate this day — I hope it brings you some comfort and a bit of peace, something we could all use, ten years later.
Make History, a collective telling of the events of 9/11, through the eyes of those who experienced it all around the world. You can add your own stories, and upload photos.
The 9/11 Memorial is opening today. Here’s the website. If you can, at some point in your life, I think it’s important to visit places like this.
YouTube and the New York Times collaborated to bring you a channel on YouTube to provide videos and photos to tell your stories about that day.
Here’s the 9/11 Memorial YouTube channel, again, where you can share your own stories or hear and see the stories of others.