Thursday, September 12, 2013

Where were you?

Tried to post this yesterday, but blogger is having a hiccup....

Apparently there are few news orgs who want to remember about what this day means. I suppose they want to "get past it". Sorry folks, getting "past it" is not an option - not when we have to take our shoes off just to get on a plane, buy clear plastic bags to attend a sporting event, watch a manhunt for a teenager in Boston unfold on live TV. And don't get me started on that train wreck in the White House. I'm too outraged to feel validated, even a little bit.   There is no more past it.

Part of my extended world deals with soldiers who come back from service with injuries. Some visible, like missing limbs, some not so much, like TBI and PTSD (or PTSS or whatever they're calling it these days), equally devastating injuries. Sorry folks. NOT. GETTING. PAST. IT.

Twelve years ago my hubby and I were getting ready to go to a conference together, a rare occurrence. He was running last, as per usual. My biggest worry was whether I should take the time to put the recycling out. How dumb that seems now. In fact, it seemed pretty dumb the rest of that day too. I was half watching the Today Show, when they cut to footage of a burning WTC 1. They were speaking to someone, on the street below, who had witnessed the strike. She was certain it was a big plane not a small one. I told my husband who was shaving and he immediately asked "Is it terrorism?" They didn't know yet, I told him. At this moment, I was not overtly alarmed, because I had convinced myself that the fire suppression in the building would be working. Then there was the shadow of the second plane and a new bloom of flame. You know how your mind doesn't want to make sense of something like this? Well, mine didn't. I wondered how the fire had "jumped" to WTC 2. Then I realized. The program cut to the Pentagon, just in time for me to see the reporter say "I felt a tremor". "Now the alarms are going off!" Lauer told him to get out, and we went back to the trade center footage. When we arrived at the conference site, everyone was crowded into the bar area watching the Towers burn. Then news came that there was still a "rogue" in the air and it was heading toward Pittsburgh. WTF??? What's in Pittsburgh? The conference ended abruptly, and I remember walking across the veranda of the hotel to see rows of students in hotel uniforms of all types crying into their cell phones.

I got to my office, with no TV, only to hear from a colleague that the towers had collapsed, and a plane had crashed near Somerset. I couldn't take it in. The rest of the day was spent trying to get
news. The University decided to hold classes as usual, however, if students did not attend they were not penalized. Faculty were asked to make broad accommodations. No one cared.

In the hours that followed here are some of the ways we coped:
 That evening my sister, a critical care nurse in Philadelphia, called me and begged me to find her numbers for NYC hospitals so she could volunteer. (She did not have internet access at that time.) Late that evening she finally spoke to a nurse supervisor at St.Vincents, who told her not to come. They were not overwhelmed with injuries. The hospitals had prepared for an onslaught of burn and crush injuries, only to have few. That, to me, was the most brutal knowledge to absorb. No survivors.

My in-laws, God love 'em, never listened to the news in the morning, and that day toddled off to downtown Pittsburgh where my MIL had an eye appointment. Buildings in Pittsburgh were being evacuated because of the report of the rogue plane flying toward the city. Though they noticed that there were many more people on the streets than usual, my FIL dropped her off at the building and then drove off to park. She got to the 11th floor eye doc's office to find them closing up. They told her what was happening, and that she had to leave. She was a little pissed. Fortunately, when she got to the street, my FIL was driving around the block looking for a space and was able to retrieve her. They were both in their 80s at the time. (There was also the time when they drove right through a tornado warning area, completely unawares that there was a touchdown a mere river's width away from them.)

I beaded over 100 flags pins which I gave to anyone who wanted one.

Our Veterans Affairs office handed out hundreds of flags to anyone who came husband still has one in the rear window of his car.


In case you need reminding here's Tilly's Story. I have no confirmation that this is true, but if it isn't it is an extraordinary piece of writing. Posted in 2003:


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