Saturday, September 09, 2006

Memories of 9-11

In September 2001, I was in my 3rd month of unemployment. I had two friends who were also unemployed and I called them once a week to share a little pep talk. I called the first on Sept 11 around 9am. He told me to turn on the news. Of course by then the first plane had hit the tower. But we saw the second one. Then I called the other friend and told him to turn on the news. I considered calling a friend in California but it was like 6:30 in the morning there and I wasn't sure he'd be awake.

What a horrible day. I was riveted to the TV of course. About 11:30, my son called me from school. He was in high school and the administration told the students what had happened and allowed them to watch TV in the cafeteria. My son told me he was "alright" as if something had happened nearby -- he was clearly shook up.

Around 3, I walked up to my daughter's school (she was in 5th grade) to pick her up. The teacher whispered to me "they don't know anything" and handed me a paper from the district with advice for parents on how to handle the situation. My daughter knew right away that something was up, since I had come to get her. As we walked home, I told her our country had been attacked, but that it seemed to be over for now. She told me recently that she didn't know what to think when I told her that; for her, the impact seems far less than for my son.

We all watched TV the rest of the afternoon and evening, even though I know the "experts" were saying that kids shouldn't watch so much. I thought they needed to know what was going on -- because at that point I wasn't really sure we weren't heading into world war.

Life went on for the kids with school the next day, but I had nothing to do but watch TV which I did for a solid week or more. I even dropped a freelance project I was doing because I just couldn't do anything else but watch it all unfolding. I particularly remember Ashley Banfield's reporting (on MSNBC, I think) and Aaron Brown on CNN.

I continue to be fascinated by how the media reacted to the events that unfolded that day. I wish I could watch the re-broadcasts that several networks are doing on Monday. So much chaos and mis-information during that week.

I had a friend who was living in Washington and saw the smoke from the Pentagon and his daughter was in NYC -- in fact, she had used an ATM in the WTC just before the first plane hit -- and he could not reach her for hours, didn't know if she was dead or alive. I have another friend who was in the air when it happened and didn't know anything until the plane landed in Atlanta; her boyfriend had to drive there so she could get home. Yet another friend was in California for his mother's funeral and could not get home for a week.

Another major memory for me was the absolute silence of the skies. We had become so accustomed to the noise of planes that to not hear them was eerie. I clearly remember the first plane I saw once air travel was reinstated.

It was a very, very frightening day, although of course less so for us out in the hinterlands than for New Yorkers.


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