I remember, too.
I usually have a problem with the trend in the last few years to memorilize everything. Seriously, if I took a tragic shit, I think that I might get a plaque somewhere. While I don’t think that we should forget history and the lessons learned from it, I’m not sure that every.damn.thing needs to be memorialized forevermore.
That being said, today is the seventh anniversary of September 11. While rolling my eyes at all the mentions of it, I have also been moved to read the stories on the blogs I read about where people were, and how that’s affected them. It got me to thinking about where I was seven years ago, and how far I have come, and how much our country has changed.
On September 11, 2001, I was at work at Prudential, and one of the women in my department, Karen Q, stood up and said to all of us “A plane just hit the World Trade Center.” I looked over at her and said, “Someone is losing their job today!” It never occurred to any of us that it was anything but an accident.
A few minutes later, someone else stood up and said the second tower had been hit. And we started hearing about planes crashing in the Pentagon, and heading toward the White House. We had a TV in the conference room, and I sent my temp in there to see if we could get any reception. I was IMing the guy I was dating, and he was able to get on the CNN website, and was giving me updates. When I heard that planes were heading toward Washington, I called Barb to see if she was safe. She was at work at Goddard (NASA), and told me that she honestly didn’t know where she was safter – at her apartment inside the Beltway, or at Goddard, which is close to Andrews AFB.
Sean, the temp, got reception, and we all took turns going into the conference room to watch what was going on. (I was attached to a call center, and we had not officially closed, although there was nothing going on.) I was watching when the Towers went down, and was amazed that I was the only person in the room crying.
We closed shortly after that – corporate thought that they might be in danger in Newark*, and shut down the entire company. My friends’ works were not closing down, so I offered to make a big pot of spaghetti and have everyone over to watch the news and the press conference that night. The guy I was dating came over for a while, but then left before the rest of the crowd showed up. Everyone trickled in as they got out of work, and we ate and watched the news. We eventually just couldn’t take anymore, turned the TV off, and started drinking.
We missed the press conference.
A few of us were standing out on the front steps smoking later that night, after it was dark. We heard planes going overhead (I lived right by the St. Paul Airport), and thought nothing of it until Nick mentioned, “Hey, isn’t all air travel suspended?” Well, yes it was. We later learned that relatives of the Saudi royal family were being flown out through St. Paul.
As with most big news events, I got too overwhelmed after a couple of days, and had to stop listening to the news. I just couldn’t handle the sadness and anger and despair of the rest of the world. I know that there are a lot of stories that I missed, and a lot of both heartwarming and terrible moments that I don’t know about. I’m ok with that.
I’ve become disheartened over the last seven years at how September 11 has been used as a scapegoat for all of our ills as a society. I am embarrassed at how our country has persisted in pursuing the War on Terror, which really seems to be an excuse to exert government control over Americans and force other countries into doing things “our way”. We have seen wars started over false information, have seen our civil rights disappear, and have re-elected (or elected for the first time) a man that can only be described as a nincompoop so that we can continue these fine programs. I’m sad that the lives of these 2,973 people are now standing as symbols of the beginning of the movement by our government to make us “safer” when we are no safer than we were before – just more constricted, and more afraid than ever before. I’m angry that our politicians and members of the community have decided that these attacks were the result of our citizens straying from god, fucking who they love, and our increasing materialistic nature.
In my mind, the attacks of September 11 were the works of a madman that hates America and had the means to make a really big statement about it. He, like all cult leaders, was able to talk other people into doing his bidding. I don’t know whether he – or anyone else – will attack us again, but I am pretty sure that our citizenry is no safter because we can’t bring liquids or knitting needles on the planes. I do think that our fearless leader used this event to make changes that he wanted to in order to make himself more powerful, and settle a personal vendetta. Watching the fallout from September 11 makes me ashamed to be an American.
If I were smart enough and articulate enough, this is what I would want to say. (I may have to make Paul Campos my personal deity. He has shown me the way on more than one topic.)
What I choose to remember today are 2,973 people that woke up one morning and went about their business, never dreaming that they would be part of the biggest social and political statement of all time. I send my love and wishes for peace to their loved ones, and hope that seven years has helped ease their pain, just a little bit. This is not the day to remember the act of one crazy man, but to honor the lives that were taken on this day.
*In December, 2000, I made my only trip to Newark for work – it was my second day at Prudential, and I had to travel with all my co-workers. Being direction-impaired, and having not looked at a map before we left, I didn’t realize where Newark is. I looked out the plane window as we landed and thought to myself, “Hey, that looks like the World Trade Center. Holy shit, that’s the World Trade Center!” I’d never been to New York (still haven’t, if anyone is up for travel) and was so excited to be able to see into NYC. It was a total fluke that I got to see the Towers at all, and I’m grateful for that fluke, as I am for many other flukes in my life.