Where were you?

This has been the most controversial 9/11 in my memory. Koran burnings, mosques on sacred ground, a President that seems to be more against his nation than for it… I have decided that while many blogs have taken a more militant stance today, I would ask you if you can recall how this day went for you all those years ago. Hard to believe it has been 9 years already. We have moved a few times, changed jobs, our fortunes have gone up and down, and I got to see my daughter for the first time in 13 years. All this and more has happened as we tried to get on with our lives.

But, things changed forever since that beautiful, awful, glorious morning. We have 2 wars that we are still fighting ( I for one do not believe Iraq is done…and that thought brings me no comfort) a generation of our citizens have learned what service and devotion to duty truly mean. We have watched our way of life , even our way of travel, change completely. We have had a global holy war declared on us by a religion we still barely understand, by fanatics that use tactics even our parents and grandparents, who fought the Japanese, might flinch at the thought of. We have learned to distrust our own people, to watch people born in this greatest of countries turn from us, and help our enemies. We have also found true heroes among us. Not overpaid, pampered sports figures, or Hollywood elite, but everyday people. Police officers and Firefighters. Rushing into a hell on earth that everyone else was fighting to get away from. To them, if no one else, we owe the struggle to make us safe again. This is not a fight that will go away by wishing it, or trying to make nice with the opposing side. I find our enemies, in many ways, to be barely human. Anyone who hates all life that is different than their own so much they are willing to sacrifice their children to destroy it can not be called human.

But, enough of that. I am in danger of going down that militant road today. I want to think back to that day 9 years ago. I was working for a laundry repair company. I had started early, around 6 am, so I had completed my first call for the day in Bradenton, FL. I was coming back across the Sunshine Skyway bridge. For those of you familiar with it, a more glorious view on a clear day is hard to find. I had reached the peak of the bridge heading north into St. Petersburg. Traffic was slowing, but still not bad. The radio was tuned to 970 WFLA, as always, and I was catching up on the news. A typical day in all respects.

Then, a special report came across the radio. A plane had crashed into one of the World Trades Center towers. Wow, I thought, talk about bad piloting, how can you not miss those things ( I had thought it was a small, 4 passenger plane. I was a aviation buff, and assumed it was somebody out for a jaunt in there Cessna had not been paying attention) I called my wife, who worked for a travel company in Brandon, and relayed the news to her. We both wondered how this could happen, and hoped no one was hurt. We did not have much hope for anybody in the plane though.  Then the radio broke in with a live report from the scene. A very excited man was all but screaming that no, it was not a small plane, but a multi-engine jet liner. I almost swerved off the road when I heard that. (Not a good idea mind you, I was still 100+ feet over Tampa Bay) The commentator (I keep thinking it was Sam Donaldson, but I am still not sure) asked more questions of the man. Then…well, the man being interviewed started screaming “My God, my God, another plane just hit the second tower!” The commentator said, “You mean another plane hit the same tower?” “NO goddamn it! Another plane hit the second tower!”

There was no doubt in my mind at that point. Perhaps I have a suspicious nature. Perhaps it something to do with military training. But I knew right then I was hearing the opening shots of a war being fired. A war that would not always be fought somewhere far away, but could reach out and strike at our civilian populace. I called my wife back again, and relayed what was happening. She immediately began filling in the people in the office. Her supervisor scrambled to check flight status of these planes and find a TV and began trying to piece together what was happening. I continued on to my next stop of the day. After all, work had to be done. The president was off the ground, and our command structure was intact.

In the meantime the news came in that the Pentagon had been hit. The Pentagon? How could this be happening? Why are we not stopping this?  People are turning our aircraft into guided missiles full of citizens and we are not putting a stop to this? Somebody has to do something! What I did not know. I was filling up with a helpless rage by this point. Someone needed to pay for this. Nobody does this to my country and gets away with it!

At my next stop, an easy repair, as I was getting back into my van, I turned on the radio and heard a flight had gone down in farm country in PA. PA? What would be important there? Then, as I began to draw a mental map of the states, it hit me. My God, they were after the White House or the Capitol Building now!  What kind of enemy hijacks commercial planes and uses them as attack craft against out business centers and seats of power? I was getting fairly numb by this point. My next stop was just across the street. A retirement center. They had a day room and a TV that was always on. Maybe I could see some images , and make sense of it all. I called my wife again and gave her the latest news. She informed her office. I guess I had become the reporter for all of them by this point.

I went into the day room, and as always, the TV was on and blaring (many of the residents were hard of hearing, but did not always wear there hearing aids. Something I now understand about) I sat down with those folks, and the reports came in. Not much news now, just rehashing what was already known. By this point all of the staff from the home had gathered in the room to watch. Some of the employees could not speak English, and the girl at the front desk was translating the reports. We were all breathing a sigh of relief. People were getting out of the building, and while there was loss of life among the office workers (not much on the passengers on the flights. But there was not much hope for them, considering what were seeing now) good old American engineering had triumphed. Despite the impact of a jet liner, the buildings stood strong.

When the first tower collapsed…I started crying. No shame there. How could you not? I remember a little old lady sitting next to me, holding my hand and weeping for all she was worth. She told me between sobs she had been a college Freshman when Pearl Harbor had happened, and had not felt this level of pain and heartache since. Now I know how my grandfather had felt. What he had gone through that cold December day 60 years before. We were under attack. We were having another Day of Infamy. We are at war. The likes of which has not been seen before. An enemy that will stop at nothing to see us submit or be destroyed. There opening salvo proved that. By the time the second tower fell, I was numb. No reaction. I called my manager and told him I was going home. “Why?” he wondered. “Turn the damn TV on!”I shouted at him. There was silence,  some swearing, then, ‘Yeah, go on home. I am gonna close up the office here. We all need to be with our families.”

I called my wife, told her I was heading home. She told me the owner of the company had not decided to close up shop yet. There were people caught between flights, on there way to and from cruises, that needed some guidance. She spent the balance of the day they were open trying to settle in for who knows how long. I am sure not much was getting done. Everyone was in a state of shock by that point. Reports were coming in about possible loss of life. Planes were grounded all over. People were scared, nervous, angry. There were false alarms everywhere. One in particular my wife and I can now laugh about. A few days after the attack, a small, brown skinned man walked up to a lady who worked in the same office as my wife (the lady was out on a smoke break) and asked in heavily accented English, “Is this the tallest building in Brandon?” The woman panicked, ran back inside screaming “The Mooselims are attacking! They are going to blow up the building!”  The entire building was evacuated, all 11 stories. Eventually it was decided it was a false alarm, and everyone went back in to work. Everyone had forgotten that the license bureau was across the street, and people giving directions to the bureau ended it by saying “It is across the street from the tallest building in Brandon, you can’t miss it!”

Well, here we are 9 years later. The world has changed forever, and not for the better. Many people have forgotten exactly what happened, and why. The Blame America First crowd has become very vocal, and in my opinion, placed a man in the White House who stands for everything they believe in. Apology, subservience, defeat. But that is now. 9 years ago, we were attacked, and for one brief moment, we were pulled together. We lived those famous words. “United We Stand, Divided We Fall” We were a nation burned by grief, but welded together by anger and brotherhood. Those days are gone, unfortunately. I would not wish another attack, but I do miss the days we were one nation. Indivisible.

Explore posts in the same categories: War on Terror

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: