Where were you on September 11th, 2001?
Everyone has a story, every single person in this country experienced the same tragic destruction of life as we knew it, and everyone had their own personal experience of what happened on that day. This is mine.
My company had just relocated it’s headquarters from NJ to CA in the third week of August. My job at the time required me to have direct contact with Sweden every morning, so with a 9 hour time difference I had to be in the office by 6:00 am during the transition period. After two weeks I had already completely fallen in love with California, so the brutal work hour adjustment wasn’t a really big deal. I still felt like I had landed on a different planet from the one I had known, but I saw the possibility of adjusting to it very easily.
On that day, about 15 minutes after I got into the office, my father called. He told me something terrible had happened, that it looked like we were under attack, that our country was under attack, and to turn on the news to see what was going on. I was the ONLY person in the building at that time of day, and I hadn’t yet even figured out how to turn on the TVs that hung on the walls, so I was completely dependant on CNN’s website. I could not believe what I was seeing, I felt sick, but more than that, as if the floor was about to swallow me up, and I was terrified. What the hell was going on? Terrorists? In theUS? Really? And then the plane hit the Pentagon. That was it. We WERE under attack. What was happening???
When the first tower fell shortly after, I was sitting at my desk with tears streaming down my face. The tragedy was too enormous to comprehend. Others began coming into the office at this point, everyone knew what was going on, we were all in shock, most of us just having moved from NJ and having loved ones who worked in the city and at the World Trade Center itself. A couple hours later our CEO spoke to all of us about what was going on and sent us home for the rest of the day.
My son’s aunt had been taking him to school and picking him up for me during this transition time, so this was the first day I could be there to pick him up myself at the end of his school day. I was waiting outside the school, sitting by the walkway where the first graders would come out. All of the other mothers began showing up, but they didn’t look right. They were all smiling and chatting with each other, laughing and gossiping, wearing their designer sweat suits and Gucci sunglasses, looking as if they had no idea what had just happened a few hours earlier. I watched them in shock, there were no other tears, there were no other looks of horror, it looked as though they were all COMPLETELY oblivious. Not only had I been relocated to Stepford, but these people either didn’t watch the news, or simply didn’t see that it was something that was going to affect their lives. Was that actually possible?
When my son came out of class, I tried so hard to keep it together. I told him something bad had happened, and that I was very sad about it, but that everything was going to be okay. We walked home and I turned the news on to watch the coverage, to try to get a better understanding of what was happening. He had gone into his room to play, I didn’t let him see any of it, but I could not tear my eyes away for the rest of the day. He would see many of these horrific images in the future, but he did not need to experience it then, as we did, with the scenes replayed over and over and over again. He was only six years old, too delicate for the harsh reality of what was happening around us. I would talk to him about it, and explain it to him in a way that he could understand, but that was something that simply was not possible at that moment.
Life as we knew it was over. Things would never be the same. I was now going to have to raise this child in a world that was so completely different from the one we had known just a few hours earlier.
Tonight I’m sitting with him, ten years later, watching United 93, still answering questions that have been asked a million times over the past decade. With tears in my eyes, I can give him all of the facts of that day, but I can still only say, I just don’t know why…