Where were you on 9/11?

14 years have passed…my life has changed quite a bit since I posted this last, but my memories of that day have not.  I still look at planes differently. I still think differently when I cross the street, wondering if the worst will happen. I’ve ditched most of the news addiction…and for me and my anxiety, it works out much better that way.

I still cry when I see the images and when I hear the stories of the people who survived that day.

I still cry when I hear of the heroes and the ordinary folks whose lives, in an instant, became extraordinary. I probably always will. I haven’t been to Ground Zero in nearly 13 years, but I know I will go again – at some point to explain to my children what was taken from us that day – and what we gained.  I am heartened by the resilience of the country and hope that this anniversary reminds us all of what could be, and what could have been.

This is a repost what I wrote on the 10th anniversary, with just a few edits – in remembrance of that day.

REPOST FROM 9/11/10

I was working at STA Travel and living with my Mom and stepfather in the Santa Clarita Valley.  I worked the 6:30 AM-2:30 PM shift and picked up a co-worker on the way in to the Wilshire/Fairfax area so I was on the road pretty early. It was chilly, so I wore a maroon sweatshirt and running pants to keep warm.  The beauty of working in a high-rise and not with the public was that I could look shlubby and it didn’t matter. The morning radio often kept me awake, and that morning was no different in that respect.  However, what I heard on the radio that morning did more than keep me awake. I usually listened to 98.7 and at the time, the DJs announced that a plane had flown into one of the WTC buildings.  At first, they said it was a small plane and an accident.  I immediately called my Mom on my cell phone to tell them to turn on the TV if they hadn’t already. Unfortunately, they already had and were aware of the most recent developments. It was a passenger jet. And it wasn’t really looking like an accident.

I really enjoyed the company of my co-worker in the morning as driving in LA is always better in pairs.  But that morning I truly was happy to see her.  We listened to the radio all the way in to work and the news didn’t get any better.  A second plane crashed into the other  tower. This is definitely not an accident. How in the hell could this happen? On our soil?  We arrived at work and people (including us) were looking pretty shell-shocked.  Some have gathered in a room to watch for updates on a TV but it doesn’t seem to work, so we turn on the radio. A literally unbelievable situation slowly became even more nightmarish.  I sat at a desk and listened to talk of a fire at the Pentagon.  A fire likely caused by yet a third passenger jet – hijacked.  HOW is this happening? We were supposed to be the most amazing superpower so how exactly was this all happening?

National_Park_Service_9-11_Statue_of_Liberty_and_WTC_fire

Just before 7 AM, the radio announcer tells us in an incredibly grave tone that the South Tower of the WTC has collapsed.  This is where I lost my marbles.  Having been born in NYC, and having spent so many summers as a child there, loving the beauty of the city skyline and the Golden Glow at sundown, feeling truly a New Yorker at heart – the realization that one of those towers had actually collapsed completely slayed me.  I got up from my chair saying, “No! Noooo!” and walked in between some file cabinets that were behind me. Both hands went to my head and down the back of my neck and if I could have come out of my skin at that very moment I would have.  Sobbing, I dialed my Mom.

“Mom, the Tower collapsed!” I cried.

She replied that she knew…and anyway, I wasn’t really calling to tell her as somewhere in my crazed brain, I knew she was sitting watching the whole thing unfold on television.  I just wanted to commiserate and be soothed by her voice. As the 2nd tower fell, we discovered that 2 more planes had been hijacked – and one had done its job by crashing into the Pentagon.

Reality as I had known it was OVAH.  Only later would I think about how this event would affect my livelihood (4 hijackings of airplanes by terrorists + several thousand deaths in  + travel industry = caca) …and only much later how it truly affected my psyche. I left work early that day (I worked in a high-rise and at the time, we had no idea how far this hijacking thing went) and drove shakily to a friend’s house to watch the news and give them a squeeze.  I remember how eerie it was – no one on the roads, NOTHING in the air. (This was only relatively more creepy than when the airspace reopened ….after being used as a WMD, those planes will never look the same to me again).

I spent the next few months angry and depressed, and shovelling french fries into my mouth. I gained about 10 lbs. in 3 months.

I visited NYC in late October of that year and stayed with my Great Aunt and Uncle in Brooklyn.  He had seen the 2nd plane crash with his own eyes out of his window. I went down to Ground Zero because I had to see it for myself. At this point, people were still wearing masks, and I only had my scarf.  The air tasted acrid, like buildings and chemicals and …though I tried not to think about it — probably people. It was unbelievable to see that area so raw, but comforting at the same time as all around me, people were going about their daily business. Not as if nothing had ever happened, but as if to say, “We’re New Yorkas. You can crash whatevah you want into buildings – we’ll suhvive and come back bettah than evah.”

I remember thinking back on that day…,”Bringing a kid into THIS world…maybe not such a good idea.”  So now that I have a kid, what do I think?  Well, obviously my tune has changed…but other things have also changed.  I have an addiction to CNN that I haven’t been able to kick. It’s improved, but I still need to make sure that I have the most current news information (despite 98% of today’s “news” being crap.) It’s something about not wanting to be caught off guard — and 9/11 is probably the most off guard I have ever felt in my life. I have horrible thoughts that never would have entered my mind prior to that day…like if I’m crossing the street, I sometimes get  a flash of being struck by a car.

It’s in the motions of doing ordinary things, I find myself confronted with flashes of disaster that could potentially happen, but probably won’t. 

Perhaps I was naive before that I didn’t think of these things on a daily basis, but ignorance was bliss.

My question is now, am I the only person whose mental outlook is still significantly altered like this?  Do I need to see a shrink? Other than the obvious (looking for terrorists or other suspicious folk, being more aware than before…etc.) – what has changed for you since 9/11/01? Where were you that day? I’d love to hear your stories.

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