911 --Where Were You When the World Stopped Turning? A look back at September of 2001
On the morning of September 11th, 2001 I was doing what I usually do on a September morning... watching the tropics.
The tropics looked like this:
There was some sort of clutter in the Gulf west of Florida... honestly I cannot remember what without googling it as it no longer seemed important after 9AM that morning. Erin was moving north, Felix was trying to reform in the far Atlantic.
I was sitting at my computer in my bedroom... in a tank top and long gauzy skirt that was probably purple talking to someone I lovingly, jokingly refer to as "crazy person" and discussing the tropics. I had to go to work in a bit, the kids had left for elementary school and assorted older kids were up getting ready to go to work. We were chatting as we did every morning... still do but in other ways as we are no longer on IM on AOL and.... suddenly they disappeared. To be clear...they are prone to do that... one minute they are as chatty as a little green grasshopper and the next minute they act like an old sleepy dog on the porch... after another minute or two I became slightly annoyed and impatient. I had to leave for work... I wasn't done with my tropical discussion fix with crazy person and they just left me hanging.
My daughter came in to the room and told me to put on CNN fast...that someone had just attacked the World Trade Center. (No, I did not have the TV on..why would I need the TV? I was online and if it was on it was probably on TWC on mute). She explained a plane, a passenger jet from witness accounts, just went into the WTC and that she was sure it was terrorism. Mind you she had just gotten back from Israel where she was quite knowledgeable about terrorist attacks. She luckily missed a bus that was bombed once... She said "they always do this during morning news or evening news" and she kept babbling, stunned and in shock. Another son came in... said he probably agreed. My older son came in and told her it was a mistake, an accident.. She told him you don't "miss" TWC it was no accident. They argued.
I put on CNN, looked at the computer and realized why my friend left...they knew. To be fair they usually know news events before I do and well I felt like Lois waiting for Clark Kent who had just disappeared within the vicinity of a phone booth. CNN droned on... the kids argued on.... suddenly they broke in that a second plane attacked TWC. My oldest son still wanted to believe this had to be some sort of mistake. My daughter pointed out she was right and we were being attacked. She was obviously right.
Crazy friend came back on briefly, said they had to go and we exchanged some sort of words trying to make sense of it all. I went on automatic, old training from journalism, and said "this is the story of the year. no, the story of the decade ... " And, felt a bit guilty that my detached writer's mind was trying to put it into some perspective. They agreed, said something poetic like "yup" and ran off to do their thing...
I watched, fumbled for work clothes and crawled around the floor looking for my high heels while watching coverage. Work called and I was a working mother supporting a lot of kids and had to pull myself away from the coverage to go to the City Library where I worked the Reference Desk.
Suffice it to say... no one was there waiting for us to open... only the people who work there and a few of the regular transients who are some of the nicest people we had daily who waited for the doors to open to find their regular spots. We gathered in the lunch room staring at the TV... a room full of mostly women staring in shock, nervous and worried that this was going to play out across America not just in NY. A plane was missing ... there was talk that something had happened at the Pentagon.
We were numb, blown away mentally and staring at a view of the WTC on fire.
We watched in real time as people died quickly, others suffered slowly and others had to make the decision to either stay put or try to walk down to the ground and get out of the building as soon as possible. I do remember someone from the WTC saying that they were safe in their offices... some stayed, some left, others were hurt, injured, trapped and slowly dying from injuries from the planes on fire inside the building.
That's not just fire, but blood in my mind... and the debris is not just debris but people being blown out of the windows and jumping on fire for help. It was the innocence of my son dying, crashing and burning to the ground in a million pieces of glass, human flesh and debris.
The terrorism that my daughter and others were used to Israel from terrorist bombers was now alive and killing people in America. There were lots of questions, no answers and a mesmerized, terrified public all staring at the news in shock.
The library director said someone needed to go open the doors and "let them in" and we realized it was time for life to go on as normal..yet there was no normal anymore. Someone ran and opened the door. A few transient type patrons came in and rushed to the computers to read the news. It was very quiet for a Tuesday morning. We took turns running in and out of the lunchroom to watch, took turns watching the library and discussion turned to whether we should shut the library. There was a fear that terrorism would occur in small town America... we had a government building. Others were getting calls from schools that they were sending the kids home... waiting on a decision from Miami Dade County as whether to close schools or keep them open. Nothing was normal on 911. Nothing was known that morning for sure, we only had questions.
I left for a few minutes to check the desk.. no one needed help and came back and saw the TV screen was now covered with dust as if a Dust Storm had suddenly descended upon NYC. I asked what happened... terrified looks were on everyone's faces and one person mumbled that they thought the first tower that was attacked had fallen down.
Again questions... how could the WTC be "gone" and what did they mean "dust" as the brain was definitely not working. They showed pictures of people running...
This is what I basically saw... everything cloaked in a cloud of dust:
Terror turned to horror. People said they were leaving whether they closed the library or not, they had to get to a school and pick up their kids. The Library Director began discussion with the City as to what they should do ...
If one tower had fallen... it was pretty obvious they other tower was falling. I wondered what I would have done... would I have walked down 50 plus floors or stayed put thinking it would be okay? I have asthma, I don't do stairs well ...though I do downstairs better than upstairs but still would I have waited for permission to leave or just taken off and made it out in time to run from the dust cloud?
Friends in New York, in Crown Heights, told me they watched the towers collapse from the rooftop of the taller buildings there... it seemed impossible... it seemed like a bad dream. It was a nightmare that got worse as more information came out. Friends had grandparents in the buildings across the street... they weren't able to reach them and they were worried they could have been on the street injured. People made mental lists of friends and relatives who worked in the buildings... somberness settled over the hearts of everyone everywhere and we were amazed at how the NY Firefighters went on and on trying to recover anyone alive from the piles of debris that was all that was left of the Twin Towers.
I cannot tell you much about the 2011 Hurricane Season as it became eclipsed in a cloud of news and information that went on for days and days.
I do know I at some point went home. I know that because my youngest son insists that when he and his brother and sister walked home early when they let school out he remembers I was lying on the bed staring at the TV.
My older daughter who knew it was terrorism from the getgo was at Aventura Mall which was pretty much a ghost town. Stores were closing. There were rumors everywhere as if we thought the Martians were attacking. Her boss wasn't there, they couldn't get in touch with Starbucks... she decided to close down and send everyone home. No one ever second guessed that decision.. it was being played out that day in stores, businesses and schools across America.
Then we heard the stories... the people who jumped rather than burn alive. The close up video of bits of debris being people jumping to their death. The stories of Orthodox Jewish men who called their wives to tell them they were in the building and going to die ... or jumping to their death so their bodies could be found and there would be no questions as to whether they were alive or dead. The people who were late to work and missed being killed. The people walking across the Brooklyn Bridge... The plane that was missing was no longer missing but had crashed with stories of possible attempts to take the plane back from the terrorists.
By the time we got back to work the next day.... we were told that many of the terrorists had used the public libraries in the Miami and Ft. Lauderdale area to communicate with each other... we wondered if anyone had used our computers to plan this attack on America.
We immediately made security a priority at the library. Security everywhere became a priority.
Security and prayer for the survivors, for the fire fighters ... for Americans who lost loved ones and for our innocence.
I kept thinking how this was like kamikaze pilots at Pearl Harbor.. my mind goes to news and history always.
Everything changed on 911.
Many of us try not to remember, we want to move on and forget as most people do when using coping skills. Others don't forget and fear terrorism everywhere and the collapse of society not just a landmark symbol of America.
My friend and I talked about 911... more than we did the tropics and people who were affected or who knew people who were affected. My friend said "Osama Bin Laden" before I read it in the paper... then again they often spoke on Osama Bin Laden as a problem ... with time we talked again about the tropics. We posted in our online group... we watched with one eye the tropics and the other eye CNN.
The 2011 Hurricane Season:
To be honest... when I posted the pic earlier today, i had to google it... as I do remember we were talking tropics but I couldn't remember what storm ...as the storm of 911 was a fire storm of death and destruction and change on American Land... up close and personal and it eclipsed everything else.
It's hard to believe when you go to the Memorial that all of those people and such big buildings could be in the space of the two reflecting pools:
It's a beautiful building, a stunningly beautiful tribute to our will to go on... to remember and to rebuild; something we see all the time after a hurricane. But, this was not a random act of destruction... it was planned out and carried out by people ...bad people with a loyalty to a anger and hate that is flamed by their world leaders against America and some of our allies and quite frankly anyone who does not believe what they believe.
We go on ... trying to trust... trying not to believe than any day... tomorrow or the day after another horrible terror attack will not be unleashed here ... there or anywhere.
But, we will never forget... it's now a part of our history... and what we forget to remember will only hurt us in the end. Knowledge is power and those who forget history are forever cursed to see it repeated.
Where were you when the world stopped turning? Erin was spinning north, our world began to spin out of control and it was not as easy to put NY back together or the lives of people who lost loves ones as it is after some small tropical storm floods a town and we ask FEMA for help to put it back together again. An economic catastrophe began to unravel across America as 911 brought down more than the Twin Towers...it dealt a strong blow to our economy and the world economy.
Ps... Osama Bin Laden may be dead... but others are still alive who hate and plan and wish they could succeed as he did. There is an old saying in History...that Jews are the Canaries in the Coal Mines. They are the first to die... it's a sign that needs to be heeded. Iran President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad does not just hate Israel... he hates America and England... watch the short video below or google your own. He hates the West. He hates. And, "hatred" is what got us to 911... hatred can not be ignored or placated it needs to be dealt with realistically by people who are the brightest and the best in foreign affairs, diplomacy and not afraid to take action when needed.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FckLO8HcNyo <-- a man who hates the West...
With prayers for those who lost loved ones both in the terror attacks on America and in the wars that followed and with prayers that we should find another way of dealing with this and we should bring home the troops from Afghanistan as troops are dying every day, being blown up while we go on in America arguing over minor, unimportant issues and worrying on which celebrity is marrying another celebrity or getting divorced. And, prayers that the plans of those who hate do not succeed ever again the way they did on 911.
I pray a lot personally... I pray that goodness and kindness and love wins out over hate and evil... I ask you to pray the same thing.
Where were you when the world stopped turning on that September day?
Were you in the yard with your wife and children
Or working on some stage in L.A.?
Did you stand there in shock at the sight of that black smoke
Risin' against that blue sky?
Did you shout out in anger, in fear for your neighbor
Or did you just sit down and cry?
Did you weep for the children who lost their dear loved ones
And pray for the ones who don't know?
Did you rejoice for the people who walked from the rubble
And sob for the ones left below?
Did you burst out with pride for the red, white and blue
And the heroes who died just doin' what they do?
Did you look up to heaven for some kind of answer
And look at yourself and what really matters?
I'm just a singer of simple songs
I'm not a real political man
I watch CNN but I'm not sure I can tell
You the difference in Iraq and Iran
But I know Jesus and I talk to God
And I remember this from when I was young
Faith, hope and love are some good things He gave us
And the greatest is love