August 20, 1989 NYC skyline from Liberty Island Ferry
Interestingly, I started writing this on September 10, 2011. Ten years after I started a new job. I am finishing it on September 11, 2011. Ten years after a horrifying day filled with uncertainty.
September 10, 2001. I started a new job in Dad’s hometown. It was part time administrative for a large international company and the pay was good… I had a great first day.
September 11, 2001. I had the radio tuned to a country station as I drove to work for my second day. I had to be there for 8am (central time). This was not to be a great second day.
I got to work… again, my second day at my new job. I wasn’t there maybe 10, 15 minutes when my boss got a phone call from his wife. Soon after he answered the phone, someone else’s phone rang. Then, another, and another. This went on for several minutes. Eventually, people started relating what they heard… a passenger jet hit the World Trade Center.
Quickly, I got on my cell phone and called Mom. I told her to turn Fox News on that folks were getting phone calls about a plane hitting the World Trade Center. She hurried to turn the TV on. She and my older brother, who was there with her, watched the events unfold as they happened. They watched the 2nd plane hit the World Trade Center in real time.
Meanwhile, at work, we all struggled to find out as much as we could. We did not have access to a TV. All we had was a small desktop radio. The only station it would pull in good enough to hear was ESPN out of Dallas. Luckily, even ESPN was reporting on the events of the day. Some folks stayed on the phone connected to a person who was watching the tragedy as it happened on TV.
When I got off work, I believe it was between noon & 2pm, I rushed home. I, like everyone else, spent the next several days, eyes glazed over, staring into the TV trying to absorb all the news, footage and information I could. It was as if I couldn’t function. It was numbing. Watching it on TV, obviously, was no comparison to being at any of the locations. It was as if I was watching a movie, like it wasn’t real. It was very hard to comprehend. It still is, really, as I have not been to any of the locations after the events took place.
August 20, 1989 World Trade Center from the bridge that connected the 2 towers.
I have been to New York City. I have pictures of the World Trade Center. I have pictures taken from the bridge that connected the two towers of the World Trade Center. What struck me when I was there was this huge gold sphere in the middle of a fountain in the center of a plaza between buildings. I don’t know what they called it, but I took pictures of it. I thought it was cool. When things happen that your brain cannot comprehend or process, you become focused on things and say things that, under normal circumstances, you wouldn’t be obsessing over. But, in trying to understand, grasp and cope, my brain just focused on the gold ball. So, while buildings were toppling and smoke was filling the streets, all I could ask was what happened to that stupid gold ball. While footage was shown of the devastation of two collapsed towers along with several other buildings, all my brain could do was question the fate of that stupid gold ball. I think my brain just shut down at that point.
August 20, 1989 The gold sphere fountain in the plaza between the World Trade Center buildings.
That fateful September day, with its bright blue skies that seemed to stretch from sea to shining sea, also ended my new job. For the events that took place on my 2nd day of work caused this international company to have to cut back due to lack of orders, as the entire world put everything on hold.
Dad, too, was eventually, however temporarily, laid off, as he worked for a manufacturer of seats… airplane seats.
Aside from the devastation, the carnage, the loss of life, the fear everyone felt, etc., I often thought of several things, such as…
How would I have dealt with being on one of those planes or being in one of the buildings that was hit? Just the thought, puts a fear in me that’s indescribable with words. How brave these people must have been; yet, how terribly horrified, petrified, totally helpless they must have felt… staring into the eyes of death.
How it must have felt and still feels to be one of the people who lost someone dear to them. Hearing their voice in a last phone call, message or maybe not at all.
Being a critter person, I wondered how the pets were… those locked in apartments choked with smoke, those who lost their beloved human, those that searched scorched buildings only to suffer from breathing problems and burnt feet.
Dad’s words to Mom when he was in Viet Nam…He would rather fight on foreign soil than American soil…
Dad wrote these words to Mom back when he was in Viet Nam while she was pregnant with my older brother. Being in Rhode Island, which has always been a little anti-military, family and friends would press her for why Dad volunteered to join the US Navy at a time of war. She wrote to Dad with the same question. His response has echoed through my life whenever he has had to travel without us or whenever our military has had to do what they do best. He explained to her: he would rather go to foreign shores to fight those who wish to destroy our way of life… the American way of life… than have to fight them here on American soil. He would rather go there, possibly lose his life and never see his unborn child or his wife and family again, knowing he did all he could to protect our country, our way of life and the future of Americans including his wife and unborn child, hoping that child would never see the devastation of war here in the United States.
When his words crossed my mind on September 11, 2001, a harsh realization… I wondered how Dad was doing. I wondered how he felt. I wondered how all our military members felt. I wondered if they thought they failed the American people by allowing terror and war on American shores.
Dad switched from the US Navy to the US Air Force becoming involved with the SR-71 Blackbird and the F111 fighter jets. He crew chiefed their maintenance crews… he was one of the ones that said whether they flew or not. I have heard some say the sound of fighter jets flying overheard that day caused them anxiety, as they had never dealt with fighter jets flying overhead. For me, I find solace in them, but I was raised on the flight line. Dad was stationed at SAC bases… high security bases with special clearance. He spent 20 years keeping the enemies of freedom and America off our shores. Now, everything changed. They were here. People wonder why our brave men and women gladly go to foreign lands to fight in wars they don’t understand. They go so we, the American people, do not have to learn to live with the events of 9/11. Often, I hear “bring our troops home”, but as much as our troops would love to be with their families and friends, they also never want a 9/11 to ever happen… again. They want their children to grow up in the United States they grew up in. They want to shield and protect us, the American people, from what they see. That all ended on 9/11… and they, our military, were helpless to help their fellow Americans except to get back out to foreign shores and make sure it never happened again.
Today, as I went to church, I kept the events of 9/11 in my head and in my heart.
As Mass began, our priest, who is from the Philippians, became a US citizen a couple years ago and is extremely patriotic, began with prayers for our – his, mine & all Americans – nation and those directly and indirectly affected by the events of 10 years ago.
In a Catholic Mass, there is a reading from the Old Testament, reading of the Psalms with a response from the congregation which is also taken from the Psalms, a second reading from the New Testament followed by a reading from one of the four Gospels. Usually, there is a theme linking these readings to one another. The readings are set by the Roman Catholic Church/Vatican in Rome some years in advance. The readings for each Sunday, as well as weekdays, are the same world wide regardless of what country you are in, holiday you are celebrating or tragedy you are remembering.
Today, Sunday, September 11, 2011, the theme of the readings… forgiveness.
I thought it ironic that on one of the greatest tragedies known to modern civilization, the world wide theme of the Mass was forgiveness. Forgiveness is always a difficult thing for humans to do. I should know; I am one.
The 1st reading, Sirach 27:30-28:7, this message stood out to me from Sirach 28:2-5…
… if you forgive someone who has wronged you, your sins will be forgiven when you pray. You cannot expect the Lord to pardon you while you are holding a grudge against someone else. You yourself are a sinner, and if you won’t forgive another person, you have no right to pray that the Lord will forgive your sins. If you cannot get rid of your anger, you have no hope of forgiveness.
The Gospel was similar, Matthew 18:21-35. Jesus told the parable of the unforgiving servant. He told how the servant had asked the king to show mercy on him and his debts, which the king forgave, but when the servant was asked by a fellow servant for his mercy regarding his debts, the original servant could not find it in him to show the same mercy he had just received. In turn, the original servant was punished for his lack of mercy and forgiveness.
Our music director planned 2 songs for late in the Mass, God Bless America and America the Beautiful verses 1 & 3. When he started playing God Bless America, I sang along. I had no idea I would soon lose my voice and be reduced to tears. Being an Air Force brat, patriotic songs have always had an affect on me. I cannot sing or hear the Star Spangled Banner without getting a lump in my throat and feeling pride gush inside like the red color of a thermometer rising. When Mass ended, I found I was not the only one leaving with red swollen eyes and tear drenched cheeks.
As we stepped outside, I was struck by an uncanny similarity to September 11, 2001… the blueness of the sky, not a cloud to be seen, just as it was that life altering day 10 years ago.
I left Mass this September 11th, 2011, ten years after, with this question… can I forgive? Can I do as God has asked on this the 10th anniversary of the end of the United States as I knew it? I know I am suppose to. I pray the “Our Father” / “Lord’s Prayer” daily… “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” But, do I? Can I? After 10 years, I don’t know.
So… I pray… I pray for the people who lost their lives during the attack. I pray for the people who have lost their lives since the attack either because they could not cope or because of illness the debris brought on. I pray for all the survivors. I pray for the rescue workers, human and canine. I pray for the people who were left behind, who tragically lost a loved one. I pray for the children who will never know a parent lost that day. I pray for all the people of our great nation who had to watch on TV, trying to understand and comprehend the movie-like surreal events they just watched. As I can’t begin to imagine a world before Pearl Harbor’s December 7th, 1941 attack, which will be 70 years ago this December, I pray for all the children who won’t be able to imagine a world before September 11th, 2001. I pray for all US military members who struggle to keep war and terror from American soil. I pray for the healing of our nation, the United States of America. Lastly, I pray for God’s guidance and help for me to be able to forgive.
Once again, I am reminded God will never leave us or abandon us in these difficult times with this passage from Habakkuk 3:17-19…
Through difficult times, I will rejoice because the Lord God is my savior; He gives me strength.
May God bless America... forever!