Sunday, September 11, 2011

Another 9/11 Post

Suz & I moved to Missouri in late summer, 2001.  I was commuting back & forth to finish my USCC job in Chicago, living in the hotel just across Bryn Mawr off the Kennedy.  That morning I didn't turn on the news.  I even thought, "Just get to the office; you're gonna be late."  By the time I walked into the building & got in line at the lobby breakfast kiosk, the first plane had already hit.  The girl behind the counter had the radio on.  Something going on in NY, she said.

That singular moment impacted my life in ways I'd never realize.  What if I'd checked the news?  I probably wouldn't have left my room.  Every morning we lived overseas, the first thing I'd do is check the news... "Just to see if America's still there," we'd say to each other.  Suddenly, you never knew what morning you'd wake up and everything would change.  Forever.

When we were in Prague the first time, my grandmother died.  We'd said goodbye.  She knew she was going soon.  It was agreed that we wouldn't come home (a mistake, I belatedly realize).  It was early in the morning... or very late... a jarring awakening.  Then, Sasha's cancer.  My dad's bouts with cancer.  Jan's sudden death.  All calls seemingly in the middle of the night. I'm realizing it now, but for the last ten years, I've been waiting for the other shoe to fall.  Dreading that lobby experience... something in NY.  In Boston.  In LA.  In my life.  It got to the point that I always answered the phone with a subdued tone.  I never knew what disaster would await me on the other end. 

You could see the end of O'Hare's runway system from my 7th floor office.  On approach, it seemed the heavy haulers were at eye level.  There was just a constant roar.  As the FAA shut down the skies, the atmosphere became eerily quiet.  There was a TV on the 8th floor and we alternated between projects & soaking in the awful reality, replayed over & over.

That night I went out with some friends (to a TGI Fridays or something) and just watched TV together.  Nobody wanted to be alone.  Later, I looked out at the city from my hotel, watching the Hancock & Sears Towers glittering in the distance, wondering if they would be there when I awoke.

Of course, there was no going home then.  The whole country was in lock-down.  I think I finally rented a car & drove home several days later, grateful to be with my family when so many others weren't.

On a desperately cold November weekend in 2002, my family visited NYC.  We made the pilgrimage to Ground Zero.  I grabbed a few shots of 10 House... the FDNY firehouse across the street from the Twin Towers.  They lost 5 guys and a truck in the collapse.  Along with their normal job, the firefighters play host to innumerable tourists, telling the story of Tuesday over and again.  Here's a quote from their site:

As the towers collapsed, tons of building debris fell onto the firehouse and forced its way into it, blowing out windows and doors and causing extensive damage to the facade, interior structures, utilities, lighting and the roof. Inside the firehouse, the apparatus floor was flooded with over three feet of debris and in some areas in and around the firehouse the debris from the collapse was nearly six feet deep. The building’s ventilation system, air conditioning units and Nederman exhaust system were completely destroyed.

Back in early Texas history, the battle cry was, "Remember the Alamo."  Today, we "Never Forget."

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