Everyone I’m sure has a story to tell from this date. Last year around this time I contemplated writing it in my blog and decided against it. Maybe enough time has gone by now.
During this time 9 years ago I lived by myself in an apartment outside of Boston. September 10, 2001 was a Monday. I was attending Goth Night at an Irish bar in Boston with a good friend for the final time as I was moving to Arizona to start school in a few weeks time.
At the end of the night I decided to take Route 9 home rather than the Mass Pike. I’m not sure why I decided to take that route. I passed the normal things; malls, gas stations, grocery stores, and I also passed a certain hotel. Unbeknown to me at that time a terrorist was staying in that very hotel waiting to carry out a most horrific task the following morning. My stomach is dropping as I recall this.
I went home and went to bed. Fairly early in the morning the phone rang. It was my bestfriend calling to let me know that the first plane had crashed into one of the Trade Towers. She knew I didn’t watch television at the time. I was thinking that it had to be a small plane, like a cessna or something. Wasn’t there a plane of that type still embedded into the side of a building somewhere in New York City? No, she said. This was no small plane. In fact, it was no accident. As we spoke the second plane crashed into the other tower. I heard her gasp. What the hell was going on in the world? Although I can’t remember which plane left out of Boston, I know it left from our airport (Logan) and struck one of those towers. No sooner did I get off the phone with her then did I get a call from a marine friend of mine who was stationed in Yuma, AZ at the time. He told me that there were many other terrorists sitting on grounded planes and that this could have been much much worse.
Immediately I searched for the small black & white tv set with the 6 inch screen my mother had given me. My sister called thereafter. She had the tv on as well. The whole world was glued to the news then. We both watched in horror as the first tower fell. I placed my head down on the kitchen table and cried. My father was working in Washington D.C. I kept trying to call but the phone lines were jammed. After getting off the phone with my sister who also didn’t have any luck reaching our Dad, another friend called. He informed me that a plane had hit the Pentagon. Oh my God! Oh my God! Where is my father!? Panic doesn’t even begin to describe how it felt. This was a far reaching serious as hell type of realization. Nobody had heard from him. Nobody along the eastern seaboard was able to call anyone. Much to all our relief, my Dad called from a bar not too far from the Pentagon where he was watching CNN with all the nearby office workers that were told to evacuate. I can’t even begin to describe the relief. I cried when I heard his voice. He was remarkably calm. My Dad didn’t work at the Pentagon but he was nearby. A girlfriend’s Dad was working there at the time and although thankfully he wasn’t hurt, he was thrown to the grown upon impact.
In time more would come out about this horrific plot and the men that oversaw it. I of course learned of the hotel they stayed at. I learned that they had come into the country from Canada and the highway they took to Boston was the same one my family took to get to Maine on our summer vacations. I remembered a week earlier I had joined friends at the Charles River to play volleyball. The restrooms were quite a distance away. Families of all backgrounds joined there for recreation. It was not uncommon to hear several different languages and I will always love the diversity of Boston. On the way to the restroom I caught sight of a young man dressed a bit too warmly for the weather we were having. He was in a light blue dress shirt and trousers. He leaned against a boulder and stared out over the river. I remember thinking that something about this seem odd to me. I couldn’t put my finger on it. It was a good 15 minute hike to the restroom. The young man smiled slightly at me and continued gazing out over the water. On the way back to meet my friends, the man was in the same spot still gazing over the river. Now this may not have anything to do with what happened but for some reason this man stuck out in my mind. He was not with anyone. He was not dressed for recreation as the rest of those there were. It may not even be related but I remember.
My Mom arrived home from work one night shortly thereafter. A woman she knew from the office had been on that plane leaving Logan. When her boss told her of what had happened to her he broke down and cried with his head on the desk. This woman ran a business in the same office park I had worked in before moving. Her daughters were taking over the business and had even appeared on Oprah. It was requested of them to bring in their Mom’s hairbrush so that investigators may be able to extract DNA from it. Her remains have never been found. My Dad, safely home now, went with my Step-Mom to a memorial service for co-workers she lost in that plane. Her building remained draped in a black ribbon for months to come.
In the midst of this surreality I was getting ready to leave for Arizona where I would be living while in school. The apartment needed to be packed and there were friends and family to say goodbye to. A girlfriend of mine asked me if I still believed in God after all this. I honestly didn’t know what to tell her. When I think of my thoughts at that time I am ashamed however, they were based on fear and anger. I thought so many things, so many bad bad things. There were images on tv of people in the middle east dancing in the streets after the attacks were carried out. Why? Why would they do that? In recent years I have returned to the church of my childhood. I am a Catholic. This time last year I remembered these thoughts and confessed them to a priest. I was ashamed to admit those things but relieved at the same time to purge myself of such thoughts. There is no longer room inside for those things to stay.
Two weeks after the attacks I drove to Phoenix. Upon arrival I stopped to get the car washed. The 20 something year old guy and his buddy working there came over to assist me. They saw the condition of my car and asked where I had traveled from. When I said the Boston area the first one said, I hate Boston. When I asked why he said “because they let that plane take off from there.” As if the city had any control over it whatsoever.
In time I settled in here in Phoenix. School began. I made new friends. A show that was popular at that time was Ally McBeal. This was of course supposed to take place in Boston. In between clips they showed different areas in downtown. A man I had started dating was over and I was pointing out all the different places there I recognized. All of the sudden it hit me out of the blue. Boston. I went from content to sobbing in about 30 seconds. Somehow in the midst of packing and moving all this crap that was inside was coming out.
The following summer I reluctantly flew home. My Mom and I had plans to visit a friend of hers at the Maine coast. I remembered the highway we were on as we headed up. That night while trying to sleep I kept thinking about that highway. I thought of those men in their car heading to Boston. I thought of the people in the planes. What was going through their heads? I thought of the little girl that was heading to Disneyland with her family. My heart started beating fast. I kicked the covers off. I couldn’t breathe. I was sweating. This night I witnessed my first ever panic attack. For the next year I woke to the thoughts that this would be the day that I might die. I had a strange obsession at the time with thinking I was going to die every day. In time this faded.
I wasn’t sure if I should share this here. I don’t think I’ve ever written completely about this in my regular spiral-bound journal. Some years the date feels like any other date on the calendar. Other years not so much. When my husband and I first started dating we were both watching a documentary on 9/11. Again, just like after seeing scenes from Boston years ago on Ally McBeal, I bawled without warning. My husband watched in bewilderment. “Oh yeah,” he said. “I forgot you were from there.”
These times have a place in the past and in the past they will stay. I believe in forgiveness. I believe in healing. And hearing news of one person in Florida wanting to burn copies of the Quran on 9/11 makes absolutely as much sense as burning Bibles because Timothy McVeigh may have been a Christian. Its beyond time for healing and moving forward. I’m sure all of us could fill more than a half of a dozen books with where we were and what we experienced during those days. This here is only one page.