Friday, September 08, 2006

September 11 - what I remember

It's weird what you remember about events. I remember most clearly what I was wearing. It was my favorite pantsuit - when I put it on that morning, I remember admiring how well it fit me, and how it managed to make me look slimmer than I was. It was black, with coral trim on the lapels and coral buttons down the front. And I wore my black boots, the ones with the super high heels, because the pants were a little long for my little 5'3" legs, and the boots made the whole outfit perfect.

How oddly appropriate that I wore black that day.

I was sitting in my office - on my computer, checking my message board and planning my day. One of my students came into my office and began the shattering of what I thought I knew about the world.

"Mysti - do we still have that TV?"

"Sure - it's in the file room - why?"

"A plane just flew into the World Trade Center"

"No s***? How'd they not see that?"

At that time - when he said plane - I thought a little prop plane. Because surely it was some inexperienced pilot that ran into the World Trade Center. And I had no idea what the day would bring - what kind of horror would be visited upon us as a nation that day. It was just a little ole plane, right? I figured maybe a few offices worth of damage. Tragic to be sure, but there was no way I could know what was coming. It was probably just a little prop plane. I mean hell - it never ever occured to me that it could have been an airliner. Those pilots know what they're doing, right?

Did they ever. >:<

So we went to the back, turned on the TV and saw the billowing smoke. We marvelled over how someone could have missed seeing the building, then I went back to my desk and send an ICQ message to someone - Rog, Jen, I don't know. Someone. About the plane. Then I went back to check on the news coverage. And found Todd standing there staring at the TV in shock. Because another plane had hit the other tower. And as we stared at each other in dismay, we realized that maybe the first plane wasn't an accident. And maybe it wasn't a prop plane either. About that time, I pulled the TV out into the main office area. By now everyone knew what was going on. And we watched in horror at the billowing smoke, and heard Matt Lauer talk about people jumping, and the flames, and how the fire department was responding. Never dreaming what was coming.

And then the tower fell. And we watched in horror. Not knowing how many people were still inside the buildings. Amazed at how the tower fell straight down. Exclaiming to each other "Oh my God...oh my God." Then it hit me. Not only all the people in the buildings. But the paramedics. The firefighters. The policemen. And I bent over - in anguish, nauseated, physically nauseated at the loss of life, trying to control my tears, pacing back and forth between my office and the TV - unable to tear myself away, but hardly bearing to watch. Other faculty and students came out of their offices - as we watched replay after replay of thousands of people dying. Unable to not watch. And as we were watching another replay, Gopal (one of our professors) said something that made my heart stop.

"Is that the first tower? Are you sure?"

"It's the replay - they keep showing it over and over and...."

"No - look - there's not another tower there - the second tower just fell!"

"Oh God. Not that one too."

Yes. That one too. And the horror ...well it refreshed itself. Seeing one tower full of people fall was bad enough - but BOTH of them? It was almost too much to bear.

And through all of that - we never thought it was anything more than a couple of crazies. We knew it was on purpose - all you had to do was see the footage of the second plane flying into it's tower and there was no doubt it wasn't an accident. But a well coordinated attack on our country? Like the rest - it just never occurred to me. That day was full of assumptions I made based on the world I thought I knew. Not that I hadn't heard of Bin Laden. I actually had. A couple of years before I read a Reader's Digest article that was an interview with former president Clinton. Someone asked him what was the biggest threat to the US, and he replied "Osama Bin Laden." And elaborated. So I had heard of him. I had read about him. I knew he was a fanatic. But it just never occurred to me that he'd plan THIS.

And then someone on the news said that a plane had flown into the Pentagon.

And I said outloud, "That's it. Oh my God, we're at war."

And we were. And I finally learned what the phrase "and her blood chilled" felt like. It wasn't a fun feeling. I thought of my husband, my kids...where they were, what they were doing, were they safe? Would they stay safe? Were planes about to come raining down all over the country? I know I'm in Podunk, TX, but Pantex is just a couple of hours up the interstate....all these thoughts raced through my head, as I watched everyone run, listened to the folks on TV say what all of us were thinking, saw the people with the gray faces and the shock on their faces... and I continued to pace. I could hardly sit down. I'd sit at my computer, post another message on my hockey board, then it was back to the TV. I'd try to work, but I couldn't. How could I concentrate on accounts when the world was falling apart around me? When we were under attack!?

I remember the TV saying that all planes had been grounded. And hearing about the flight that went down in Pennsylvania. And I watched TV. And paced - in my high heeled boots. In my favorite black pantsuit. And all I wanted to do was go pick up my children and hug them and take them home. Where they'd be with me and safe. And when 5 o'clock finally got here, I left work - and went to pick up my children. And nearly ran into the after-school program and hugged them. I realized that while they knew something had happened today, they didn't seem to realize just how drastically our world had changed. When we got home, we sent them off to watch movies in another room, and Monty and I watched TV some more. Heard the story of someone who had ridden the debris down and survived - then the retraction when it was proven wrong. Hoped they'd find survivors - and felt the overwhelming sorrow when everyone started to realize that there just weren't many. Watched them try to dig through the debris to find survivors - and watched them run when someone thought there might be a shift of the wreckage - or another building came down.

And listened. You could still hear them. It's a sound that I'd never heard before 9/11. And when I hear it now, it still sends chills down my spine. Granted, I only hear it when watching Rescue Me, but the sound of the alarms - the ones that the firefighters wear that only go off when they're motionless......hundreds of them.....once I knew what they were, what the sound was, and why they were much Lord? How much can we all bear? Those were the thoughts in my head.

I stayed up too late watching the cable news channels. Trying to accept?adjust? to what I was seeing. And got up the next morning, and turned the TV back on. Went to work, and had the TV on...hoping that they'd find more survivors. And in the ears adjusted to the fact that there were no more planes in the air.

Several days later, I sat in my office and heard fighter jets go over our campus. (We had an airforce base just outside of town most of my life - Reese is closed as a military base now, but I know the sound of a fighter when I hear one) Never before had that sound scared me. It did that day. And to this day - when hear a low flying jet, I tense up. I've flown once since that day. I didn't like it much. But I did it. Because no stinkin terrorists were going to stop me from living my life as I see fit.

But I don't wear that pantsuit very often. I still have it. But every time I put it on, it doesn't seem to fit anymore. And not just because I've gained a few pounds in the last 5 years. Rather - the person that wore that pantsuit on the morning of 9/11/01 isn't the same one that tries it on now. But I still have it. And the boots. And everytime I look at them, I remember. Because this Redneck Texan will never forget that day. And how it changed everything.

Rocks In My Dryer
is hosting an I Remember 9/11 day at their site. While I've yet to figure out how to add the graphic, please drop by and share YOUR memories of that day. So no one forgets those who died that day. Just for going into the office, or getting on a plane.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing your 9/11 story; it was very touching. I'm sorry about your boots and pantsuit, but I understand.

    Hope you feel more noticed now...{smile}