Tuesday, September 11, 2012
Where Were You When the World Stopped Turning
Originally published September 11, 2011
I really wasn’t planning on doing a 9/11 post, but there are things I feel need to be said regarding the 10th anniversary.
I used to work at the WTC, so did my mother. So did a lot of people I knew over the years. People I once shared a lunch table with died that day. People I went to high school and college with; people that were friends of friends; someone who sat across the nave in my old church. They died for the mere fact that they went to work that day.
The whole day is burned into my memory. There was a huge meeting at my office in Princeton, NJ that morning. I wore a black and white floral print sundress with black woven mules. I had been stressed out about the whole meeting and planning a luncheon for those attending. It was the first event at my office’s new location, and I wanted everything to be perfect.
My boss’ husband knew how stressed I was, and the week before would call me up and bust my chops about how there was a hurricane or tornado or some other natural disaster that was going to come through Princeton, NJ that day to ruin things. I obsessively checked the weather because the luncheon was planned on the patio.
That morning, about 9 AM, I was sitting at my desk, finalizing things for lunch. I had a stack of work to get through and keep me distracted. Glenn called, and told me a plane hit the World Trade Center. I said it wasn’t funny, and he said, “No. A plane really hit the building”. I went to MSNBC.com and saw that they thought it was a small plane. A few minutes later, he called back and said that there was another plane, that had hit the other tower.
Many of the folks at that meeting worked at the World Trade Center, in another building. I had to go upstairs to the conference room and interrupt.
The rest of the day was a surreal blur. I remember calling the big man and he at first didn’t believe me. I remember going home, and laying on my bed, watching the horrific replay of the towers falling, over and over and over. There was a line of ambulances and police vehicles going up Route 1 to NYC, to share the burden and help the survivors who never came. People covered in ash and dust, wandering across the Brooklyn Bridge. The harried phone calls, checking in with loved ones and friends. Are you ok? Are you able to get home?
Then there were the photos. And the survivors and families and friends, all searching. Trying to find something that had been there earlier in the day, to find that someone who had only just done what they did every day-got up and went to work.
In the days that followed, I heard from friends who had loved ones missing. Some never completely gave up hope, until it was obvious that all hope was lost. My mother had been in Washington DC the week before the attacks, and had actually gotten home on the 9th. The 10th was the Princess’ birthday, and then came the attacks. I remember having a conversation with the Princess in the weeks prior to 9/11 about how the world had changed from when I was her age to that moment in time. I remember the fear of nuclear war and Red Dawn; apartheid; the Berlin Wall (she was an infant when it came down-she had no understanding of the significance). I remember telling her how lucky she was to live in a world of relative peace.
Then 9/11 happened.
I went to a Yankee game with the Big Man a few weeks later; the President had spoken that evening. It was a playoff game against Oakland, and we were sitting down the first base line and I had a clear view of Jason Giambi. Between innings, we had a discussion about our future. I was torn between going back to school and maybe pursuing law or ministry. I remember the heightened security that night; my bag was thoroughly searched
I felt as if my sense of what was right, true and just had been ravaged.
There was no going back.
A lot of my friends have admitted that their lives utterly changed that day. One decided to become a priest as a result of his faith being shaken to its core. Another, who lost his fiancée, decided to follow his dream. He left his investment banking job, went back to school and is now a cinematographer. Someone else moved to Australia, because it was as far as she could get from New York City. Another friend decided to end a marriage that wasn’t working anymore, and many more of us were convinced that we needed to move forward with the rest of our lives, because you didn’t know how much time you had left.
The world as we had known it, did indeed stop turning that day; however the axis did right itself and it started up again.