It may be trite in the blogosphere at this point, but I feel I must write something to commemorate the events of 9/11/01 even if only to refresh my own memory. So here goes:
I think everyone's memories have begun with how beautiful that day was. I remember getting dressed, wearing black sandals (I'm a southerner and would never do white!) and watching the Today show. I may be imagining it, but I'm fairly sure Katie and/or Matt made a reference about the exceptional weather and the camera panning to the towers. I had interviewed for a job I hoped I would get, as I had just finished my MA and was grateful my supervisors had allowed me to continue my internship in the interim. My job was at the Watergate which, for those of you who aren't familiar with DC, is within viewing distance of the Pentagon and relatively near several government buildings. I was excited about the prospects of working and living in a fun city as a young, hip professional.
I was listening to Elliot in the Morning, a radio show made up of some potty-mouthed jokesters, as I began my daily tasks. My mom, ever the worrier, had called to warn me to get out of the city. After that first plane hit, she suspected terrorists. I assured her it was a prop plane...and an accident. The second plane hit. The mood on the radio turned somber. I was scared. Then the plane hit the Pentagon -- which I could see from the roof of my building -- then another went down in PA. Where was the next one? What should I do? Where should I go? A dear co-worker thankfully walked me all the way to the zoo metro stop, which is at least three miles. I reluctantly got on a train there and then walked the few blocks to my house in Bethesda. My feet were blistered from my sandals, but I didn't realize it until much later. My roommate greeted me at the door with a terrified look on her face, although she was happy I was home. Our dear friend and world traveler had a flight that morning, but Lauren couldn't remember where. With all the phones out, we couldn't get in touch with her. Luckily, Natalie had an early flight and was already on the ground in Chicago.
That day seemed incredibly long. I remember checking on family (my dad was traveling) and friends, even learning that a good friend's husband was safe but his office was gone. Another friend who, thankfully, is not the most punctual was running late that day and didn't make it to towers before they fell. Hard to believe they had nothing to go back to the next day. At least they were safe! I will never foreget the next few days and weeks after the event. We watched as the Pentagon continued to smolder. I always thought about the people who were on 395 as the plane that hit the building must have flown directly overhead. It was surreal to see tanks on the streets of DC. I felt like I was in a movie or a foreign country where martial law is the norm. Totally bizarre.
I didn't get that job. In the next few months, almost all the jobs for which I had applied would go unfilled. Busses could not go into the city and tourism was down. I don't think a lot of people realize how museums and attractions even now continue to be affected by that awful tragedy. I would soon lose several relatives and find myself crying on the train and walk home. I wanted to be anywhere but in the city. I went to NYC a few months later and was amazed by how everyone had joined together and the city was bouncing back. But I didn't want to be in that city, either.
I moved back "home" and have never looked back. I never realized until today, ten years later, how profoundly that one event affected me. I complain all the time how it affected my job prospects and I am still trying to find my footing in this field. But only now am I beginning to see how it changed me. How I remember caring not about buildings or jobs on that day, but wanting to know everyone was safe. I am grateful that all of my friends and family were safe on that day and that my memories were of people coming together, of loved ones watching the news and crying together. I will never forget seeing devastation firsthand or the fear of everyone rushing out of the city on that day. But I will carry with me most my friend walking with me, my roommate hugging me as I walked in the door, chatting with neighbors as we stocked up on provisions, and the feeling of unity in a usually divided city.
In some ways it feels like it was just yesterday. In others, it feels like it was a lifetime ago. While I mourn the lives lost on that day, I also celebrate the spirit of America. What's really sad is that so much of that spirit has disappeared in the last few years. What will it take to get the feelings of love and unity back?