I hate to admit this but these last few years this day has come and gone without much thought for me. There was something about this anniversary that made me really just STOP and remember what it felt like. Perhaps b/c for the first time in years those graphic images are back. Seeing the planes crash, listening to the firsthand witnesses retell the events, it all sort of came back to me. The lessons I promised I would never forget yet I feel I almost did. So tonight I want to detail those memories so my children might feel what I felt, and remember...
Quick note: the videos I have linked from YouTube are graphic. I used ones that were from the CNN news feed since the channel I watched all this happen. It is what I saw on the news that day...
On a 9/11/01 I had woken up early. I was sophomore at UT Austin. I was struggling in Math and my professor promised to give me a one on one tutoring. I woke up early b/c I had been dreading this and wanted to spoil myself a little and go to the Red McCombs Building where in the atrium they have Burger King. I remember riding the shuttle and the bus driver saying "can you believe some idiot just flew into the World Trade Center?" "Really, hope it wasn't some terrorist." She responded, nope probably some prop plane tourist company. I'm from there and we always thought it was a matter of time..."
I don't know why terrorism came to mind first. Perhaps because the bombing of the USS Cole had just happened or I don't know... Anyhow those fear were put to rest and I got out of the tram and excitedly went to my sausage biscuit with no cheese and an orange juice. I picked up my spoils. It was before 9 and so the business school was still deserted. I sat down in front of the large tv and started watching the CNN feed live. No one knew what had really happened. The speculation varied widely but no one had an idea.
Than it happened... just as I was eating the second plane hit.
I didn't believe it. I don't think the broadcaster believed it. Than they played this angle a minute or so later.
That is when I understood this was really bad. A lot of people were dying right now. I sat there just watching watching all that paper flying... the large debris falling... people jumping to their deaths... people waving items from the windows waiting for rescue... I wondered what it would be like to be there and I just sat there watching.
I don't know when it happened but I looked around and I went from being alone in a table in an atrium of maybe 20 people and than being surrounded by probably 100 or more staff and students. I didn't move from my seat... the empty table I was sitting was now full with strangers... my uneaten breakfast just laid there.
Than we heard, Washington is under attack... the Pentagon has been hit. Suddenly I remembered that silly Will Smith movie "Independence Day" and I felt like I was watching it. Where everything was just under attack. I couldn't believe it. Who was this? How did do all this?
Than this happened...
It collapsed... the building just disappeared. No one knew if there was another bomb or plane or what... the building was just gone.
I sat there just still in silence. This time though I started thinking again about the people affected. I kept sitting there... now the atrium was filled so tightly we were all pushing against one another. UT is a large campus, at the 55,000 students at the time and it was well past 9. In retrospect I imagine since that was one of the main buildings on campus there were a few thousand there watching now with me.
Than the other tower collapsed. So clearly...
My sister by 2001 had been living in Vegas for a while. It was like watching one of the implosions the old hotels there I had seen go down. So orderly and quickly...
I just got out of my chair and walked away. I went to the LDS Institute and wanted to use their phone (yes I was an uncool college kid who didn't get a cell phone for another year). I remember finally just feeling the need to talk to my mother. To know everyone was okay even though I knew we all were.
I got there and now I saw my friends. I don't remember who but I remember being glad some of my friends were there. They were all watching on the tiny tv's. I could hear the sound now and they started explaining the 4 airlines that were high-jacked. They announced the fate of United Flight 93 and that it had just crashed with no explanation in rural PN. (Only later did I learn their heroism). They kept showing hospitals waiting for victims to help, but there were not enough survivors to help... They kept replaying the buildings collapsing. That is when the secretary said, "all those people inside". I remember that moment I really just began to cry. I felt so bad... My heart was broken for those people and their families... I was scared and very confused...
After 9/11 I saw the hate that filled the hearts of many people I knew. It was the attitude of vengeance and prejudice. It made me want to analyze myself better. I wanted to understand and get to know new people. While before I had only certain friends I suddenly wanted to get to know everyone. Through my classes and my job I gained new friendships from all over the world, various races, and cultures. When I started my professional life in the Las Vegas resorts I continued doing so and it was part of my reason for wanting to do a mission later on. Now I am blessed to be surrounded by friends that I may never have had.
9/11 gave me a voice. Ever since I was a young child my mom considered me pretty deep. I did a lot of things with the local Holocaust Museum in El Paso; but I still had not learned to stand up when I thought something was wrong . I've always been known as the nice kid and I was scared to offend. Now when I hear something (or receive a bad email) I'm sharp with my words. Back in the day I protested the wars at the capitol in Austin along with a lot of other hot button issues. Now I'm not so vocal politically (more jaded) but I still try to speak up when I hear something that isn't right; and I make sure to vote.
"It is not merely enough to lead an exemplary life in a purely passive sense of doing no wrong. The power of good in a [person] makes him actively help those in need... "
In all honesty I know I don't do enough good. I've got a long way to go in learning, loving, and standing up for/helping those who need it.
When 9/11 happened I was very alone during that time in my life. The guy I had been dating for over a year was abroad. Things were tense back at home and I was 750 away from them anyhow. I had friends but it wasn't the same.
Now tonight I was just surrounded by my beautiful kids and my husband. We watched the special documentary on TV. Chris had never really seen much of this b/c he was abroad at the time in Mexico City. He knew it happened... it just didn't happen like it did for me. It made me think of what they will see. I hope they never go through the loss that so many endured that day. I hope I can teach them to love and to use their voice for good.
I'm glad those images were on the screen again. It is important to see them. It helped me remember the lessons I hope I never forget.