Thursday, September 11, 2008

Remembering 911 Again

Below is the entry I made on the fifth anniversary of the terrorist attacks on 9/11/01. I think it bears a repeat.

Just like previous generations remember where they were when Pearl Harbor was attacked, or when President Kennedy was assassinated, this generation will remember where they were when terrorists flew planes into the World Trade Center five years ago.

I was only six when President Kennedy was killed. I remember the nuns at school crying and sending us home early. I remember the television being on constantly and playing "funeral" with my younger sister and my cousins, using our toy box as a coffin. Being so young, it didn't make a great impression on me.

September 11, 2001 was different. In many ways, this event was more horrific than both Pearl Harbor and the Kennedy assassination. We were attacked on our own soil. It wasn't a military attack. It was a cowardly attack on innocent civilians.

I was at work entering police reports into the computer. The phone rang and when I answered it, the wife of one of the police officers told me to turn on the television, that a plane had flown into the World Trade Center. In the squad room, the TV was already on, and we watched the events unfold. At the time, most of us thought that it was an accident--that a plane had malfunctioned somehow and hit the tower. No one even considered that it might be deliberate, until we watched a second plane hit the other tower, then the Pentagon and Shanksville.

I don't remember what I thought at the time, other than that things would never be the same. Even in our suburban police department, we took extensive precautions. We locked down the building, installing a temporary phone outside for visitors to call to gain entry to the building. We remained in this lock-down mode for days. Keys to the police cars had always been left in the cars--after all, who would steal a car from a police parking lot? Not any more. We had to worry about terrorists taking the cars and using them as bombs. Even now, the keys are kept in a lock box inside the station.

There were numerous other precautions taken, investigations done, and assistance given by our department to federal agencies involved in preventing more attacks. Before 9/11, our police department had only been concerned about DUIs, drugs, domestics, and traffic violators.
That all changed in one day.

We'd lost our innocence.

After five years, though, complacency has returned. No one thinks about the attacks anymore. I know it's not good to dwell on the tragedy, but we shouldn't forget. For a time, people changed. They cared about each other. They went out of their way to help others. If anything good came out of 9/11, it was that. Maybe with this fifth anniversary, people will not only remember the tragedy, but remember how we all felt afterward. How we were better people for helping our fellow man.

Do you remember where you were and what you were doing on 9/11/2001? Please share. I'd like to hear your story.


Annette said...

I was blissfully ignorant of the events, teaching yoga class at the community center that morning. I didn't hear about it until I was leaving when the receptionist told me a plane had hit the WTC. Then she turned up the radio so I could listen. I drove home in a disbelieving fog. My radio blarred the news of the Trade Centers collapsing. I kept watching the skies for planes coming down. I just wanted to get home to my family.

I hope we never have to live through another day like it.

Anonymous said...

I was sitting in the waiting room at a physician's office...someone new, who I had absolutely no relationship with...nor with his staff. I remember what a beautiful morning it was, but I was a little tired, so as I waited, I closed my eyes and kind of rested my head back against the wall. The radio was on in the office, not particularly loud, and I heard them say something about a plane hitting the WTC. It was the weirdest thing because at first I actually thought I had been dreaming--that I had drifted off to sleep for a moment. In 1968, upon waking the AM after RFK was shot, I had a similar experience. My clock radio alarm had gone off, and as I tried to wake up, I remember thinking, after hearing the announcement on the radio, that I had been dreaming. I even got up, trotted off the bathroom, and was thinking--"Wow, what a weird dream that was--that RFK had been shot." So, on 9/11, I was stunned that I had that same feeling for just an instant. It was so surreal to me--on both occasions, that it just could not possibly be true. And, sadly, it was. To this day, if I allow myself to think about it much--my "heart" hurts. On 9/11, I believe for the first time in my life my heart felt completely empty and unable to be filled. That last for quite a long time--it still returns. Sometime I empathetic to a fault. In this case, that leaves me with untold anguish--that one human being could do that to another human being. Call me naive--I prefer to think of myself as totally human!

Amy Oliphant