Tuesday, September 11, 2007

nine eleven

Joan Chapman, a long time friend of Dad's, has been an email buddy of mine for many years now. She has asked for a long time for everyone's memories of 9/11/2001. She keeps them in her journal. Here is what I wrote to her today:

I was working at a horse farm in Ocala, FL. I had just left my job of 7 years, a job I really loved, and felt very displaced. I had just gone through a breakup with a guy, who at the time, I thought was the love of my life. During that time I was very heartsick. I HATED the job that I was working at, and didn't really know how I was going to get out of it. Everything felt hopeless. Looking back now, it may have been the "roughest patch" I had ever gone through in my whole life.

I started the job at 5:00AM every morning. This required me to feed my own horses by 4:15 in the dark. There were days that I felt I never even saw my horses. I had no idea if they were sick or well, injured or fine. I barely remembered what they looked like. It was that year that my father started coming to Florida for the winter. He knew how miserable I was and said "just hang on until I get there."

My day at work started out as cool and crisp... one of the first fall days. It seemed like suddenly the day dawned and I thought to myself, this is the only thing I like about this job; being up and outside to enjoy daybreak during the nicest time of the year. And for a brief moment I was happy again. I can close my eyes and smell the air that day, feel the cooler breeze, hear the birds sing at daybreak. I worked with an all Mexican crew who were great and made my job that much easier.

For whatever reason, I won the radio battle that morning, and instead of listening to the Spanish radio station, it was tuned in on Rock 104. Two of the riders showed up at my barn early, for a change, and I was on an outdoor washrack, hosing off a horse that had just come back from exercise when the first news flash came through. It was very brief and just said that there was a fire in one of the World Trade Center buildings. I continued working, never giving it a second thought. It was probably after the third news break that I actually picked my head up and actually HEARD that something might be wrong.

I remember when the realization came across me that something was VERY wrong, I got on my walkie talkie to the boss and office staff and asked "is anyone else hearing what's on the radio or watching tv?" The reply was "yeah, sounds bad." That was it. The rest of the morning went by, more news reports, and when it was time to break for lunch I raced home and turned on the news. It wasn't until then that I realized the extent of what had happened. I was glued to the television in disbelief. It was at that point that they were talking about EVERY aircraft in the country was grounded. To this day, that was the crowning moment for me.. I went outside and looked up at the sky. Not one plane was flying over. I thought to myself at that point, something so monumentally bad has happened that they took every plane in the country out of service.

Six years later, I still think about the beautiful daybreak, the lessening of my grief for a brief few hours, the realization of what really happened, and gazing up at the sky in disbelief. That's it. When it finally became reality to me, that's where my memory fails. All I remember from the point of realization was a surge of anger, and a bigger surge of Patriotism.

When I think back on those events from six years ago I am disappointed in Americans. Where did thier own surge of Patriotism go? It hurts me to see American people not support our President and the war against terrorism. I wish that they would recapture those feelings of 9/11 and stand up as Americans, even if war is hard and ugly, and fight to the end. Fight long enough, at least, that we can sleep at night with the security that we won't wake up to another morning like that, feeling helpless and attacked. I, for one, won't forget my feelings from that morning. So far, it has been the one event in my life that I can still feel, taste, smell, and remember with a very poignant feeling.

What are your memories?


Kara C. said...

I enjoyed reading your account of 9/11, New.

I'll always remember every detail of that day. We were still asleep in California. It was around 7am for us and Ben and I were still living at his moms. She came running in to wake us up saying, "a bomb has hit the World Trade Center!" I didn't have to go to work that day but I remember being glued to the news ALL day. I'll never forget hanging on to everything Dan Rather and Peter Jennings had to say. In some ways it is hard to believe that it has been six years and in others it seems like it was a lifetime ago. I, too, remember the overwhelming surge of patriotism. It's odd that things of that magnitude can't keep the intense momentum going.

Joan Chapman said...

I've known Nora since she was a child getting up early to go to the barn with Dad. Nora has always been her own person and the success she has had with her farm proves that. She is also a thinker and believe me, we have talked our way through many issues in our early morning 'conversation' over the past few years in the era of email etc.

I consider 9/11 to be the Pearl Harbor of my generation. A sneak attack 90 miles from me on the densely populated northeastern coast, propagated by unknown terrorists who foiled every protection we thought we had. 'Never again' was the catch phrase of another time, but it works here.

This year, while doing my daily read of Brian William's blog, a phrase of his caught my eye. He said 'sometimes I think 9/11 happened 10 minutes ago'. Armed with that thought, I asked my Address Book for their memories. They responded with some extraordinary messages. Here is the correspondence of 9/11 the past few days from me:

Family, Friends -

This coming Tuesday will be the sixth year remembrance of the events of Tuesday September 11, 2001.

Brian Williams says that "sometimes it feels like 9/11 happened about 10 minutes ago".

Many agree.

Personally I can recall almost every moment of that day. I was in my office on the 7th floor of the Whitney Grove Building at Yale when I heard the CBS Newsradio helicopter pilot report at 8:45AM that morning - "there's some smoke coming from the World Trade Center - I'm going to take a closer look". With no TV, I got my information from the radio - later that morning,Yale President Rick Levin announced that staff was dismissed and I went to see my sons - Michael was at work, Frank in Chicago on business (he rented a truck and drove home). When I got home to Cheshire and saw flags at half staff and heard the carillon of St. Bridget's playing hymns and patriotic music, the tears came.

Here is what I wrote a few days
after September 11, 2001 -

As I write today, smoke still emanates from the site in New York City known as ‘Ground Zero’. The terrorist attacks of 9/11, which murdered thousands of innocent American men, women and children on our own soil, have altered our world forever. Our country is in a war and the change is palpable. We have High Alerts, increased military cover of planes and ships, a strong and visible national patriotism, a proliferation of flags flying, and a resolution to prevail against terrorism. It is both a difficult and proud time to be an American.

It is hard to make sense of this Armageddon, these attacks on the hearts and souls of America. All the superlatives apply and are not enough. Tears flow and are worn like a badge. We ask everyone we speak with "Family OK?" We wake up thinking, no, hoping it’s a bad dream, but it isn’t.

Every day I read the short obituaries: 'Portraits of Grief' that The New York Times is running about every person who died in the collapse of the World Trade Center. I can barely stand to read them, but I do. It’s important. I feel I owe every single person a few minutes of my time to read a few paragraphs about that life and the hopes and dreams cut short, lost to evil.

We must never forget.
Where were you and what do you remember?

Here is what I wrote yesterday morning followed by the memories and messages I received from my family and friends:

Friends, Family -

Today, now six years hence from the attacks, there is still no place to mourn at the site. Here is what I wrote two years ago:

A Letter to the The New York Times published on May 5, 2005

To the Editor:

I have never thought that Ground Zero was an ‘opportunity’ – not an opportunity for an architect to make an impression, for a new business venture or to show the world that Americans are resilient.

This site is already something. It is a place to honor the dead.

It is a cemetery.

Joan Baldwin Chapman
Cheshire, Connecticut,

And this is what Anna Quindlen wrote today: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/20657183/site/newsweek/page/0/ .

It is way past time for a resolution to this situation.

My thanks to all who responded to my request for their personal memories of September 11, 2001 - Those I have received to date are printed below.
The responses:

I have heard a lot of we are better prepared stuff for "Next Time something like this happens". I just pray that there are no more "Next Times". I remember the day like yesterday. I was late to work as always and I was going through all the stuff in my head that had to be done before I got married (10/20/01) and I heard what was the start of it on the radio 99.1 WPLR.

* * * * * *

It was a day that we will all recall with sad memories. While our family was spared, many were not. I was at my job in Cheshire’s Town Hall, and the shocked silence we experienced that day was uncanny. Planes were stopped from flying, and you could hear the birds on that beautiful morning as they inhabited the skies without competition. My boss was supposed to fly home from Vancouver after a trip to Alaska. She was delayed several days until flights resumed and so many stranded people were sorted out. I have a friend at Yale-New Haven Hospital who waited all day for survivors to be ferried into New Haven Harbor—and nobody came.


* * * * * * *

Hi Joan,

I was sitting here in this room in front of the computer when Tom yelled in from the den that something had happened in NYC. I went and turned on the TV in the great room and stayed there the rest of the day. Tom for some unknown reason had his VCR recording and has it all on tape.

Now, today we had lunch with my brother and sister-in-law from Oregon and my nephew from Georgetown. He is on his way home now and my brother and SIL leave Tues. afternoon and they have a three hour layover in Kennedy. My SIL said and yes it's 9/11 and we will be right there. She's a little nervous about it and I don't blame her. I'll be waiting to hear that they arrived back in Portland.

Hugs and thanks for sharing.

* * * * * *

I will never forget where I was or what I was doing, neither 9/11 or 7/7
when London was bombed.

One of the things that stands out for me, aside from the terror of trying to
locate my aunt's husband who was working in the Pentagon and my cousin who
used the WTC metro stop, was the reaction of the UK, and to a lesser extent
other Europeans. Sort of a "Now you know how it feels." England, Ireland,
Spain and Germany had been experiencing senseless violence for decades while
the US preached. Although their sympathy was heartfelt and their grief real,
there was a definite undercurrent of "it was your turn to bleed".

BTW - I'm not looking forward to my journey back to London tomorrow morning,
but I'll be there, on the tube with the rest of them, defiant.


* * * * * * *

Clear as glass, Joan and same feelings - thank you for sharing. We will never be the same.


* * * * * *


On 9/11. my husband, Owen, & I were in the car driving from Ohio, where we visited our daughter & her family. We were on our way to CT to see one of our sons, his family, more relatives & friends. We stopped for breakfast. When we got back in the car we decided to turn on the radio. It was about 10 a.m. & we couldn't believe it. We were getting bits & pieces of info & weren't able to put it all together at first. We were very aware that all the trucks had pulled off the road & were at rest stops. Only cars were on the road. It was a very strange sight. After we learned what had happened, we also noticed the absence of planes flying overhead. It was very eerie & unsettling to say the least. There were signs along the road saying that all bridges across the river were closed. We didn't know whether or not we would be able to get across the Hudson River or not. However, we were able to get across the bridge at Newburgh on I-84.

I will never forget when we arrived at our son's house & were simply glued to the TV in horror. When we left CT to drive back to NC & were on the NJ Trpk we could see smoke still rising from the remains. How can anyone ever forget that??? It is beyond me. We should be united & not put politics ahead of our country & all the fabulous men & women who have given their lives & those who are still fighting to protect us! We need to wake up, pay attention & not stick our heads in the sand or our country, as we have been blessed to know it, will end.

I will not be able to come up in October as we are going to Ohio at that time for my husband's 50th anniversary from flying school. It seems so many events are scheduled at the same time. With so many people involved it is impossible to make it work for everyone. Please, say"hi" to all for me. Also, if anyone is in our area, have them call & stop by for a visit. We are in Southport, NC which is on the coast--right at Cape Fear. We're about 45 minutes south of Wilmington, NC & about 1 hour north of Myrtle Beach, SC. Please, give out my e-mail address. I'd love to hear from any or all. Have a great time & thanks for contacting me.

Libby (libgar@bellsouth.net)

* * * * * *


I was getting coffee in a coffee shop on the out skirts of Washington, DC when the TV picture switched to the World Trade Center. I watched for a few minutes and decided to go back to the office and then continue home. My cell phone would not function. Beau had a meeting scheduled at the Pentagon that morning and Kim was in New York. As I got to the parking lot of my office, not 3 miles from Andrews runways, in groups of twos, F-16s had scrambled and were screaming over my head. Three hours later, my forty-five minute drive home ended. It wasn’t until about 10:00 that night that we heard from Holly that both Kim and Beau were fine. The following morning Beau was put on active duty assigned to Air Combat Command at Langley AFB and remains attached to Langley six years later.

Americans responded well to the attack. In the six years since, our government has not.

(note: JB is my brother)
* * * * * *

Tonight at dusk, New York City will be illuminated with the Twin Towers of Light .


Melanie said...

I was getting ready for work at the Derry News when I turned on the TV to hear that a plane had the one of the WTC towers. While I was watching, the second plane hit. I remember having to tear myself away from the TV to finish getting ready. I listened to NPR while racing to work, and when I arrived, I found our entire newsroom staff gathered in the conference room watching the news coverage. It was there we all stood and watched the first tower collapse, followed shortly after by the second collapse. I'll never forget the juxtaposition of that gorgeous autumn morning and the intense horror, anxiety and sadness we all felt.