What I Remember
I am sitting in my nice, comfortable house as I compose this on September 11, 2010. It troubles me that so many people seem to have forgotten the tragedy that befell our country nine years ago today. They want to “move on.” It’s “issue fatigue.”
My memories of that day nine years ago are as clear as a bell. I worked in Washington, DC at 1615 L Street, NW. The part that is important about that is “16,” as in “1600 Pennsylvania Ave.” I worked two blocks from the White House.
Like many people, I was glued to the television at work and saw the second tower hit. I saw the both towers burning. My mind could not comprehend what was happening inside of the buildings as people opted to jump out of the windows. When you choose certain death – a terrifying end to your life – and that is a better option than what is going on inside, it speaks to the unimaginable horror of being in the burning towers.
I remember the Pentagon in flames a mere three miles from my office.
I remember (when we were forced to evacuate Washington, DC) the Humvees and soldiers with assault rifles on many street corners.
I remember the stories of heroes who stayed with co-workers or even strangers to comfort them in what they knew was their impending death.
I remember the heroes of the Pentagon as ordinary people dashed inside a burning, crumbling building to save others.
And I remember Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
You see, the “16” is important because of the proximity to the White House. We will never know where the United Air Lines flight 73 , the airplane that was taken back by heroes, was headed. But if it was the White House, who knows what would have happened to me and my colleagues. We’ll never know, but the sacrifice of others on that plane made possible my not knowing.
I remember being in New York City a scant two weeks after the towers fell. I remember putting my not one-year-old son in the stroller and walking to the area of what used to be the World Trade Center.
I remember the desperate pleas reaching out from hand-drawn signs in Penn Station, aching with the pictures of loved ones. I remember the smell. Of drywall. Of fallen buildings. Of death.
I remember a grieving and angered nation. I remember wanting revenge.
I remember finally making it home from work late in the afternoon, picking up my baby boy and sobbing. I was grieving for the others – just like me – who got dressed, went to the office and worked. Normalcy. And all they wanted was to come home to their loved ones.
I did. They didn’t.