Thursday, September 11, 2008

Where were you when the world stopped turning, that September day?

7 years ago, everyone's life changed.

I'm still amazed at how much that affected me and to this day, I think of everything as before and after. If I find an old receipt the first thing I think is "Oh that was before September 11", or maybe some vacation photos "Oh that was right after September 11".

Maybe it was because it was just so easy. So easy for them to get on a plane and destroy pieces of our country. So easy to be hated for something I still don't even understand.

I remember it plain as day. I had just joined the gym on Sept 10, 2001. My friend Brett had been nagging me for quite some time and I finally caved and joined. I was up just getting my clothes around, getting ready for my first trip to the gym when my ex calls home and says "Are you watching the TV?" I turned it on and I believe both towers had already been hit. I remember just standing there, in amazement, just holding my clothes for the longest time.

I decided to go downstairs to the big TV and in that 30 second timespan, the first tower fell. I flipped out and called the ex at work and I remember screaming and crying and then he came home. I always have appreciated that he did that for me.

We watched the tv all day, and sat and cried off and on. We bought gas like everyone else. Sometime in the afternoon it became a mission to try to find that day's newspaper - any newspaper.

I chose to leave seth and tanner at school, and when I went to pick him up, I said to Tanner (he was a first grader then), "Tanner, something really bad happened today" and he looked at me, and said
"Mommy, nothing bad happened today"
and quickly changed the topic. I've always wondered if he knew.

All anyone wanted to do, was to be together. And to this day, when I think about 9-11, I just feel myself wanting to hug those people. Anyone. And say how sorry I am.

I have a few photos from that day, mostly of my ex and the firetrucks (he went to work and every truck had a flag). I had forgotten about the flag shortage.... we actually *already had one* and I have one flying on my house right now.

Patriotism isn't just for when things are bad you know?

Anyway, the above photos were taken of a memorial that seth (then only 11) made outside his bedroom door. "For the memory of the firemen and police and ambulance men. The USA thanks you. From Seth's room"

We left it up for several months.

Gene and I weren't together then, so his story is obviously different from mine.

He says that when he was in bed, his ex came into the room yelling how america was under attack. He turned on the TV and watched good morning america as the second plane hit... he saw it live. (something I'm glad I missed).

As the flights were all being called back in, ordered to land, he went out and took a photo of the airplane "clouds" across the sky, doing u-turns left and right. He also took photos of fighter jets circling the midwest.

I remember looking up at the sky for days and seeing no planes and how sad that was. And scary. Someone so far away had so much control over us all.

And I still think about those planes, and it gives me comfort walking outside at almost any given clear day and being able to see at least one plane, if not 10.

Here's a layout I did, post 9-11. It was really about the Sears Tower. But I'll let the journaling tell the story (yes, I still have the original journaling saved on my computer. I said this thing is old!)

"April of 2002 I was lucky enough to get to travel to the top of the Sears Tower. It had finally reopened after September 11th and it had been nearly 14 years since I'd been able to view Chicago from the tallest building in the world.

We anxiously watched the movie giving us the history of the Tower, how it was created and all of it's statistics. What it didn't tell me was how I would feel when I finally made it to the top.

I was so unsuspecting as I walked to the edge. I commented on how I didn't remember the railing from the last time I'd been to the top as bent over the railing as far as I could and looked down.

Emotions swept over me instantly. I had just caught a glimpse of what thousands of people saw every day at the top of the world trade center. At 1300 feet above the ground, I "saw" in my mind's eye, thousands of people trapped at the top of the towers. I saw hundreds of firefighters and police officers running toward the building to save everyone, rushing them from the towers, and I saw those same fire fighters and police officers lose their lives in the line of duty.

I stepped back in a flood of tears and tried to regain my composure. It took me several minutes of being alone. I calmed myself as I walked around the observation deck, occasionally snapping photos of the foggy skyline.

Someone caught my eye. Standing alone at the railing looking out over the city was a sailor. He looked quite young, probably barely into his 20's. He was quiet and observant of everything below him. For some reason it gave me great solace that he was there. I realized that even although thousands died that day last September, thousands more was willing to step up and protect me without even knowing me.

I quietly turned away from him and put on my telephoto lens. Pretending to take pictures of the skyline, I turned and caught him in my viewfinder and snapped his picture. I didn't want to forget him, and what he meant to me on that day, even though he was a stranger.

We never spoke, we never even made eye contact.

It was time to go.

Moments after I'd left the building, I stood across the street snapping photos of the tower from below. I noticed this sailor come out of the Tower. I watched him in my viewfinder as he stood at the base and looked up. I wondered to myself "is he thinking about the World Trader Center too?"

His demeanor didn't change and he seemed very solemn. As I watched him, he put on his coat and placed his cap back on his head he looked down as he turned south and headed away from the tower. I was hoping that on this day, he discovered what he was truly fighting for, that the hugeness of this building reminded him of why he went to war.

He reminded me of what it is to be an American, and how much he gives up every day, so I can go to the top of the Sears Tower any time I wish Thank you, whomever you are."

I guess we call this day Patriot's Day now. So please, take a moment not only to remember this day with a prayer, but also, to celebrate the lives of the people that were lost that day no matter how important or how small they were one of us, and it could have been simple to be you or I instead of them.

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