My 9/11 Journal - A Remembrance
Curtis and Colin at a 9/11 memorial, September 2006
I wasn't going to do it. My blog is a place for the funny. But it's also a place for the relatable - and every single one of my American readers can relate to the heaviness that this day, September 11th, will always carry. We all remember where we were at the moment the first plane hit the Twin Towers, and the horror of watching the tragedy unfold, feeling powerless and scared.
I was a brand-new military wife, barely 21 years old. My husband and I had been married for just over a year, and were living at our very first duty station: Sheppard Air Force Base in Wichita Falls, Texas. Curtis worked the night shift, so we were both still asleep when my mother-in-law called that morning to tell us to turn on the TV.
We were glued to the screen as we saw the smoke billowing from the first tower, and even more riveted as the news camera captured the plane hitting the second. I remember thinking, over and over, the same thing that was on everyone else's mind: all those people. Watching helplessly as victims jumped from the buildings, sirens screamed, bystanders lurched through the streets of New York City, dazed and disoriented and hysterical, covered in white like wandering ghosts through clouds of smoke and dust. All those people.
As the morning turned into afternoon, and then faded into evening, I wrote in my journal:
The World Trade Center in New York City is no more; the Twin Towers are both demolished, piles of rubble on the ground. As of this moment, there is no idea how many people have died, although the World Trade Center's capacity was 50,000 people. Two hijacked planes - commercial flights - crashed into the towers about ten minutes apart. A plane has also crashed into the Pentagon. Now there are reports of yet another plane crash outside of Pittsburgh, but no one is sure as yet whether or not it's related to the terrorist activity. I can't believe it. America is in absolute chaos. Oh my God. I am sick to my stomach ...
Our base has been put under a Threatcon Delta: that means war. All buildings here on base are on lockdown - nobody comes in and nobody leaves. Planes are being prepared to deploy. There is still not even a tentative death toll, although we do know now that there were approximately 260 passengers on the four crashed, hijacked planes (two at the World Trade Center, one at the Pentagon, and one in rural Pennsylvania). I just saw on the news that the Palestinians are celebrating with parades, with candy. Celebrating! This is a crisis, amazing, stunning, unbelievable. We take our security for granted and we let our guard down because we're big, strong America and we think nobody can bother us. Even Walt Disney World is closed!
It's crazy. Still Threatcon Delta. People are in a panic over gas prices; in some places it's up to $5 a gallon (it has been about $1.38). People think that if we go to war with the Middle East, gas will be in short supply. The gas stations here are packed, to say the least. People are flooding them, waiting an hour or more to fill up their tanks. President Bush is going to address the nation at 8 o'clock this evening. I'm still taking it all in, but it's a lot to swallow. Our lives are never going to be the same.
This day has been phenomenal. Thousands are dead. The same people who woke up this morning and got ready for yet another day at work, or who looked forward to seeing friends and relatives at the end of their flight. As of right now, there are fires still raging at the Pentagon. A makeshift morgue has been set up in its central courtyard, scores of bodies pulled from the wreckage and covered with sheets. Hospitals have run out of gurneys. Americans are coming together in the face of this tragedy, though ... the Red Cross has extended its hours for blood donation, and last I heard, there were so many people wanting to donate that there was a four-hour wait.
I had no idea when I wrote "our lives are never going to be the same" how true that statement was. Everything changed from that point, especially regarding life on a military base. Once we were simply waved through by Security Forces on the basis of having an identifying sticker on our car; but from that point, every ID in the car was checked, and cars were randomly searched - even underneath, using big mirrors. Security was tighter everywhere. It changed the way we flew, our comfort level on an airplane.
But most of all, it changed our perception of being safe at home. Forever.
Even though many years now stand between that day and this one, the remembrance of the tragedy can still open up fault lines along my heart, bringing tears as though it's just happened. Today, I'm praying for everyone who watched it, felt it, lived it, and lost because of it - but especially for those who hated us enough to cause it in the first place.