September 11, 2001

11 Sep

10 years ago today I stayed home sick. As I’ve done unknowingly during the Oklahoma City bombing, and Columbine. I didn’t know these things would happen, but something on those mornings just made me stay in bed. I didn’t realize that September 11th would change the way our country acts, thinks and feels. I was just tired and not feeling well.

I woke up to a phone call to turn on the television. I found out in the course of the day that most of the people I talked to daily at Cantor-Fitzgerald were probably gone (they were) and I went to work the next few weeks while the market was closed from 8am – noon and just sat there. There wasn’t much to do. I made red, white & blue ribbons for everyone in the office and cried when I went home each day. I burned a candle in my window to remind myself of what we’d all lost.

In early October 2001 I went to NYC to try & meet up with people from the Bank of New York & sort through some accounting. There were maybe 20 people on the plane so I had rows of seats to myself. The round trip ticket was $80. When we landed at JFK we sat on the tarmac, far from the airport. They sent a bus to us and we had to disembark onto that. They bussed us in to the terminal, again sending us through metal detectors, even though we’d just flown in without going anywhere in-between.  We took a cab to the hotel and settled in.

The next day we stopped for coffee & then took a cab as close as we could to ground zero. It wasn’t very close. We walked in among stores closed for business, but decorated with shows of support. We walked in among lingering dust and fumes. We went past ambulances decorated with American flags & we went to Firehouse Engine 4, Ladder 15 that lost 15 firemen, one of the hardest hit by this act of senseless violence. One of my traveling companions was a schoolteacher & her students had made cards for that firehouse. We talked to the firefighters for a bit. Told them how much their actions meant to us, and how even in Minnesota we were so affected and stunned. We took photos with them (they were so gracious) and waved goodbye, moving toward the place where the towers stood. There were soldiers with machine guns around every corner and the Stock Exchange was barricaded. You could get within about three blocks of the wreckage and there were people trying to sell sunglasses, Trade Center statues and more. It made me frustrated & angry.

Looking ahead you could see a few pieces of framework still standing. It was still too fresh and new to have been taken down yet. Cranes moved and people yelled through bullhorns. The people around us were silent or crying. It was somehow comforting though to be among these people from all over the city. I didn’t feel like an intruder. We didn’t come to gawk, but how could we not make our way to see for ourselves what had happened to friends, strangers, lovers, husbands, wives, parents and co-workers?

The Bank of New York collapsed after the towers as it was in the same vicinity. They were still trying to set up remote offices in New Jersey to balance their stock trades and deal with accounting. Not everyone who worked there was accounted for & it was hard to get through to them.  I didn’t end up going to BONY that week because it was still just too much. I tried to balance my spreadsheets on my own & called them to get information as they had it, but things were just too messy. I went to a Broadway show & tried to buy a few things here & there to show we weren’t scared, that life continues.  I made it home without more tears, but upon returning to St. Paul I just wept. Wept for those who were taken from us when it wasn’t their time, wept for the city I just visited that was trying so hard to keep it together, & wept out of frustration that I couldn’t do much to help.

September 11th has been changed by politicians to reflect many things. It’s completely morphed to the point of me feeling almost ashamed to talk about my patriotism in the many months that followed the collapse, or how I woke up every day & prayed for the families & my co-workers who knew so many that died.  For me, September 11th is a memory of something terrible, frustrating, & angering, but so hopeful. My anger played out in tears, as did my frustrations. I don’t want people to ever forget the photos of firefighters carrying Chaplin Mychal Judge, or the rescue attempts when one small voice might have been heard through the rubble, stopping all machines to listen. I want people to remember how supportive the world was of the United States, how they sent workers & aid to one of the wealthiest countries on the planet. How London’s paper screamed of injustice in what had happened.

I know that September 11th started something we can never turn back from & that saddens me, but I cling to the memories of the kindness of people I didn’t know, of people weeping at walls & walls of “Missing” flyers, of the resolution that this won’t, can’t, happen again. I hate that blockbuster Hollywood movies were made of this day. I hate that it started a war we can’t seem to stop. I hate that talking about 9/11 seems to make people angry that I’m talking about 9/11.  But it is there, and I can’t change it.

Today I think about how it changed our country. How we live in fear, with crazy body scanners at our airports & red, orange & yellow warning levels. How people of a peaceful religion were changed & made out to be some horrible monsters trying to kill us all. How some people now take the word “patriot” as something negative & twist it to bend to their idea of politics. Today I reflect on those gone who will never come back, or those whose minds were changed, warped, or overcome with sadness. I hope for healing. I hope for change.

Elvis Perkins-  “While You Were Sleeping”

This song is about the towers on 9/11. Perkins lost his mother on one of the planes that hit the towers.

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