The bells are tolling and TypePad is freaking out. It’s September 11th, 2006.
Five years ago, it was a Tuesday. On the television screen it looked like one of those glorious September mornings, cerulean sky and bright sun emerging.
A Tuesday morning like many before, and so many after. But only it wasn’t, was it?
Five years ago, my first recollection was that of the morning radio show from San Francisco that woke me up every morning.
That morning as my stereo lit up and started playing radio show, something was not quite right; it’s easy to disregard human voices and continue leisurely sleeping, or at least trying to do so. Invariably, in my case, my thoughts would always turn to lesson plans and the mischief that my cadre of 15-year olds would be up to in this particular Tuesday morning.
However, statements like these are a little hard to ignore:
“It seems a plane has flown into the World Trade Center.”
“The plane was hijacked.”
“They are circling the New York aerospace”
Believe it or not, my sleep-addled West Coast mind didn’t fully register the horror of this.
I thought it was a tasteless prank and took a shower instead of running to a TV right away. I thought it was a tiny plane. I thought it couldn’t possibly be anything but a tasteless prank.
In the shower, I kept thinking about what pieces I’d heard and realizing that maybe it was something serious. Shower cut short. Asked my parents to turn on the TV; apologized for the earliness, but realized my stepbrother had already called when I saw the TV on already. It was serious. More echoes of hysteria, but this time accompanied by the scariest scenes anyone has ever seen on television:
“The building is on fire.”
“We don’t know what’s going on.”
“The towers might collapse.”
While I was in the shower, the Pentagon had been hit too. And while driving to work, those brave passengers sank the last plane into rural Pennsylvania.
Driving to work, I just couldn’t shake off the feeling that it could still be a prank; something having to do with people not realizing that you couldn’t fly planes into buildings. Something about a misnuderstanding, and how you just can’t kill people who are going off to work on a beautiful Tuesday morning –even if my own Tuesday morning, 2000 miles away, was more foggy than ideal.
You can’t kill people who are just going off to work.
Come on…. work is bad enough…. do you really need to go for the overkill?
You can’t just kill people in their offices or their coffee stands or their receptionist desks or in their fireman’s boots or their pilots’ shoes– doing what they have to do. They are just doing what they have to do.
At my old place of employ, we teachers had a communal morning prep which was spent honestly freaking out.
How will we tell this to 1500 teenagers?
How will we deal with this ourselves?
Does anyone have an extra TV set in their room?
Does anyone know how to fashion a makeshift antenna? Answer: With a paper clip and a very resourceful student. Thank you wherever you are, Justin.
Some teachers taught their lessons and forbade any network intrusion. Maybe they had the right idea that day.
But for me, I couldn’t not watch. I felt like watching was sharing that enormous sorrow even in a tiny fraction with all those who died and lost their own. So we watched and we cried and we talked conspiracy.
And we watched on.
CNN, FOX news, MSNBC, they were all brothers in despair. Did it matter that day what your political penchant was?
You know the answer.
All that mattered that day was that people were dying right before our very eyes; people who were just trying to go about their daily lives in the same way we were in that small high school in the middle of the artichoke fields.
We were just trying to work. Because good, hard, honest work –that core Virgoan value, the astrological sign under which this catastrophe happened– is what makes this country great.
A little of all of us and our collective innoncence died that day, between the North Tower and the South Tower and the West Side of the Pentagon and the open field in Pennsylvania– so far away from us personally in that little place among the artichokes, two thousand miles and three hours in the past.
Now I live close to that west wall– that west, smoldering wall of five years ago which is smoldering no more. That wall which looks silently over the living river of highways and which was rebuilt but which will forever bear a scar.
Because the scar is there, in all of us.
Five years ago we said we’d never forget. Things have happened since then– lies, setbacks, confusion.
But the deaths of 2,973 people –caused by those other 19 who also died there– cannot and should not be forgotten.
As if we could.