The buildup to the fifth anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center has been coming on for some time now, but today it is here. Last night Ryan and I watched Katie Couric’s report on 60 Minutes on the dust at Ground Zero, and how people who were involved in the rescue and cleanup efforts there are now getting sicker and sicker because of the pulverized concrete, glass, office furniture, telephones, metal that they all inhaled for hours upon hours. Ryan blogged about all of the finger-pointing that has ensued since then… and I agree that the blame game drives me nuts. After all, the only people we had to blame were the hijackers and those who supported them. Not the EPA, not the President (although I don’t agree with how he’s handled things SINCE then), and certainly not the people of New York who were blindsided by this whole thing.
I digress, though… this entry wasn’t supposed to be about who did or didn’t do what, but just remembering where I was and what I did that day, when we were all so confused and didn’t know who had done what.
I remember that Jenny, my roommate my senior year, came into my room and woke me up. “There’s no class today,” she said.
“Why?” I asked her.
“Because there was an attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.”
Normally calling off class called for staying in bed, but we both got up and dressed and staggered down to the Alumni Student Center, where TVs had been carted in from conference rooms and every one of them was tuned to one news outlet or another. Students and professors were piled on couches and cushions and chairs and tables and floor space, all silent, all watching the horrible video over and over again. (Little did I know that a year later, I’d be working for the news, in my first producing job, embroiled in a debate over whether to show the attacks again on the first anniversary.)
Later that morning, Jenny and I drove to our friend John’s house near downtown Seguin. On the way there, we stopped at a convenience store so that she could buy cigarettes. I remember seeing the Middle Eastern man working the counter and consciously thinking how from then on, people were probably going to look at him differently, with suspicion, although he was no more involved than I was.
At John’s house, the three of us sat on the porch, away from the TV in the living room, and talked about what drove people to do such things, talked about the past, talked about the future and how uncertain it was. It was sunny and warm that Tuesday… I remember squinting in the sunlight as we sat out there.
I remember that Ryan was on a plane that day. He was supposed to fly to Nashville for the RTNDA conference after receiving a scholarship. But instead, he sat on the plane in San Antonio, and thankfully never left the ground. Knowing what I know now about his mom, I can only imagine how worried she must have been. I know how worried I was… and how worried I was again, later in April, when he flew to Las Vegas for the rescheduled RTNDA conference… and how relieved I was when he returned.
I remember getting a call from my mom to get gas that day, because nobody was sure if the gas prices would skyrocket. They didn’t, at least not right away. I remember calling a guy I hadn’t really talked to since high school to pass on the message. It was strange to hear his voice again, but I think we were both a little glad to talk to each other for a few minutes… like a reassurance that we were both still there.
I don’t remember the evening of that day, or much about the days that followed. There was a blood drive, and chapel services, and flags flying and lots of discussion in classes.
I’m sure I’ll never forget the unremarkable details of that day, just because it was that day… just because it was such a strange and awful and mystifying day. Just because it changed everything, and made it so much more important to live out our “normal” lives.