Thursday, September 11, 2008

September 11: Our Memories and Our Determination

Much of this is reposted and somewhat updated from previous years because I think this stands as the tribute I want to make. I will update it as I come across other tributes.



I see that the year before last, I got an email last week mentioning that a deadline was September 11. Maybe it's silly but seeing that date attached to a deadline shocked me. No reason not to have it be a deadline but it seemed ... somehow ... irreverent to have the usual business of the day on that date.

Last year a similar thing happened, except that since I remember September 11 was a Tuesday and happened around 9:00 in the morning, I was stunned momentarily when making a vet appointment for our dog. I commented on the fact that it would be September 11 and the young receptionist had an indifferent silence and then merely encouraged me to continue making the appointment, which stung even more than the memory.


To me, it is sad that the best tribute I saw in the newspaper both last year and this year was a paid Open Letter by a local car dealer. It is too long for me to include in its entirety and I hope that they will post the ad for people to read at their website.
... But I also recall that for a few short weeks, America came together. Republicans, Democrats and all the other parties were united in the message GOD BLESS AMERICA. I saw more American flags flying than I had ever seen in my life. People who had not owned a flag in years flocked to stores to put one in front of their home, their businesses and in the back of their pickups. for those few short weeks, we put aside our personal problems and focused on helping those killed in this brutal attack.

Now six years later, I wonder where all those flags are? My guess is that most are in their closets gathering dust along with those feelings we felt on that fateful day. ...

Find time today to reflect on the day we were attacked. At 9:03 AM today, the time of the last plane crash in Pennsylvania, all my employees will gather in front of my dealerships for a moment of silence to honor those who innocently died that day. I hope you'll find the time to do the same or feel free to join our family ...

If you do nothing else this year, take a few minutes and watch this tribute. Remember what it meant ... what it means still.

Who can watch this, perhaps the best of the tributes and not remember vividly all that we felt? I still cry.


That time is always mixed for me with images of hospitals and personal emotions in another way because Tom's father had a massive stroke two days after September 11. We left the girls with friends and drove to Houston for what proved to be a harrowing time. No matter what else was happening, the television in the hospital was on, whether with the sound on or not.

Here is a sample of what others were living through as we watched in horror.
In my dress and non-sensible shoes I climbed (my grandmothers will forgive me) in the least dignified fashion, over the barrier. I crouched next to a man with a green striped oxford cloth shirt. I helped him cut it with my Swiss Army Knife scissors so he could put a piece over his nose and mouth. We shared water. He tried to use my cell phone to call his wife or girlfriend. It didn't work. Everyone started praying. Jesus' rang out all around me. I didn't care. My prayer was to see Andrew and Aaron again. This moment was the only time I thought I was going to die.

I kept thinking about the crying woman with the screaming baby. I kept hearing babies crying--no do you protect a 6-month old from all of this damn ASH?

It was hard to breathe. I couldn't always see the water, so close by, maybe eight...ten feet down? It was so dark. I thought, very carefully and precisely:
  • I could jump in the water if the fire comes.
  • I could get some debris and hold on and float to Brooklyn...I think that's where the current goes from here.
  • There is no debris to use. I haven't seen anything larger than my fingernail fall to the water.
  • I could jump in the water and swim.
  • I don't know how cold the water is. How long could I last? How fast is the current? How much deeper would my breaths be in cold water? Is it better to stay on the land?
  • How do I get back to Brooklyn? My husband and baby are there.
  • They're going to bomb the Brooklyn Bridge next aren't they?...and then the Statue of Liberty...and maybe The Empire State Building and Central Park...if they're trying to break us, they'll go there. They'll hit the places we love.
We heard the fog horns of the ferryboats. The man to my right panicked and thought the ferry was going to hit us. Everyone got up fast and then realized we were better off under the edge again. We shared our water bottles and started climbing back down. Silence closed in around us and I could hear tiny pieces of debris and ash plink into the water.

At some point I looked up and to my left and could see the white disk of the sun above me. I tapped the Muslim man next to me and pointed up. Our eyes smiled at each other over our handkerchiefs. Briefly there was blue in front of me then it was gone again.
excerpt from Heather Ordover's firsthand account
(she was a teacher at a school next to the towers)

For some reason, the image that sticks with me from driving down there and back, aside from all the American flags, was the beat up pickup truck with the gun rack and Confederate flag stickers that had "We are all New Yorkers today" written on their windows. For a Texan to write that ... well, at that moment we realized that the terrorists had no idea what they had done.


NPR's StoryCorps recorded many remembrances of those who lost loved ones in the September 11 attacks. Go to the link and select the September 11 category to listen to them.
“He was tough on the outside—big, big, soft guy on the inside.”

“When I met Michael I was 14 years old.”

“When he was five, we went into a candy store…”

“When I used to hug him, the whole world disappeared…”

“Her eyes sparkled to me. One day they were blue; the next day they were green.”

“He was a high adventurer.”

“His sister idolized him.”

The Anchoress remembered last year ...
I haven’t forgotten. I have too many firefighter friends to ever forget. I haven’t forgotten watching the tape of the first Tower burning and saying to my pal, over the phone, “it’s a beautiful clear day; no plane is going to accidentally hit the WTC - this is NOT an accident,” and both of us gasping because, just as I said it, the second plane hit. I haven’t forgotten because my husband was on a plane that morning, traveling on business, and for a little while we didn’t know what flights we were looking at, exploding before our eyes. Those of us who had loved ones in planes heard about the Pentagon, and about a plane going down in Pennsylvania - there were reports (false) that a car bomb was discovered outside of the Supreme Court. My friend called me back, pleading and in shock - “what is happening, what is happening in our country!” Finally the phone call from my husband, trapped in Atlanta, and I was able to call my kids schools and tell the offices, “please, please tell my kids that their father wasn’t on any of those planes, that he is alright!”

... and she remembers this year too.
As I do every 9/11, I began this morning praying the Office of the Dead, from the Liturgy of the Hours. The psalms this year seemed to speak poignantly of the torment of the victims, and of those who waited, and waited, and who now wait to be re-united in glory. This year, I have made a podcast of the prayer for anyone who wishes to use it....
She has some links to other bloggers and you should go read all of what they wrote, just as I did. With the seeming vacuum in our newspaper and regular "business as usual" going on, it is nice to know that under it all plenty of people remember.


Dear Mr. Obama ... watch the whole thing.

I wasn't going to include this, but I couldn't shake this young man's face. And, then I read what Ace of Spades reminded me about unity ... and realized that this message might be important to more people than I know ... and that our "unity" from that day has long since vanished. Via The Summa Mamas.


Who can read this article by one of our national treasures in painting with words and not be swept back in time?
Flight 93 flight attendant Ceecee Lyles, 33 years old, in an answering-machine message to her husband: "Please tell my children that I love them very much. I'm sorry, baby. I wish I could see your face again."

Thirty-one-year-old Melissa Harrington, a California-based trade consultant at a meeting in the towers, called her father to say she loved him. Minutes later she left a message on the answering machine as her new husband slept in their San Francisco home. "Sean, it's me, she said. "I just wanted to let you know I love you."

Capt. Walter Hynes of the New York Fire Department's Ladder 13 dialed home that morning as his rig left the firehouse at 85th Street and Lexington Avenue. He was on his way downtown, he said in his message, and things were bad. "I don't know if we'll make it out. I want to tell you that I love you and I love the kids."

Who among us does not stop, whether a tribute is seen or not, and remember where we were, what we were doing, at that heart-stopping moment when everything changed?
I turn on the TV and watch as the plane slowly flies into the Tower.
Hail Mary, full of grace
My daughter wanders downstairs, shoes in hand,
Turns to look at what has me transfixed on a weekday morning.
The Lord is with thee.

A time when even the most public figures struggled with what it meant to be "normal" and "go back to work. When we remembered what united us more than what divided us? When we felt our humanity.

I plucked these photos from those found at The Doctor is In.

I am very glad that Project 2,996 happened and that I saw so many heartfelt tributes done for so many different kinds of people. It reminds me that the number of people who died is not just a number. Each was a soul, valuable in the eyes of God and to the people all around them. Valuable to us.
"All of you saw today what happened in New York. Consider how many firefighters died today. You will never be able to claim that you don't know what this job is about. Every single day you go out there you don't know what's going to happen or if you'll make it home. Those who responded today planned to go home after their shift...and instead, we're going to be watching funerals of firefighters for weeks. You know what this job is about and you know the risk. So after witnessing something like this, if some of you, or all of you, choose not to come back tomorrow, we will all understand."

I continue to be struck by the hard, ongoing work done by others to keep us safe, of the many months of patient work that go in to discover conspiracies still underway.
The 4th of July isn't the day the 13 Colonies won their independence from Britain; it's the day they declared their independence. On the 4th we celebrate their eventual victory, but more than that we celebrate the resolve, vision, and determination which led to that victory.

Today, September 11th, we remember those thousands of innocent American civilians who died in the brutal attack on the Twin Towers. But 9/11 is more that. It is the day we resolved, as a nation, not to knuckle under to the terrorist threat -- and more than that, to stomp it out.

We must not turn 9/11 into a simple day of remembrance. We have not earned that blessing.

We must not lose our determination.

We remember not only to honor the victims. We remember also to fuel our determination which can sink low after a seemingly long "safe" time. We need also to remember that time when the things that divided us seemed so much less important than the things that unite us. When we were one people, when hurting any of us hurt each one of us.

We must never forget.

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