Sunday, September 11

Remembering 9/11/01

This has been a year of difficult anniversaries, bringing back sad and devastating memories of what was. Ten years ago, I was coping with the loss of my first love, Rich. It was a normal day and I was working as an on call interpreter for the Deaf. The kids went off to school as usual.

I was on-call at a training school for disabled adults. I'd been there for around a year and had a routine that I settled in to. Between 8:30 and 9, I was interpreting instructions and getting the Deaf clients set up for the morning. Once they were on the way, I would go for coffee and then sit at a computer nearby, reading the news on Yahoo. When I tried to sign on, though, I realized the site was down. I figured something had happened to the network and found something else to do.

I was able to log on eventually and was shocked to see one of the Twin Towers was in flames. What happened? A plane crashed into the tower. At the time, there was speculation that the pilot had become majorly confused and slammed into the tower by accident. It was then that the second plane flew into sight and slammed into the other tower. I couldn't believe what I was seeing! When the second plane hit the tower, I knew it couldn't have been just an accident. We were at war.

Around me, it was like nothing had happened. The teachers all knew but had decided not to tell the clients. They didn't want to start a panic. One of the teachers was especially worried because her husband was in one of the two towers. She'd been trying to call him but was unable to get any answer. The Deaf clients noticed the teachers kept getting together in clusters and asked me what was wrong. I knew the teachers didn't want to announce the news so I just said I didn't know.

When the Pentagon was hit, I felt really scared. Would there be more targets? Would I get trapped here, away from my kids? There was no way I wanted to be separated from them. I thought, if there's going to be an all-out attack and if we're going to die, I want us all to be together. I called the school and the principal asked me not to get the kids before the end of the school day. I agreed to wait for now but if things got worse, I would come and pick them up. Apparently the school officials also planned to keep the news from the students. One reason was that some of the students had parents in the towers.

This was the longest almost two hours I'd spent. After I talked to the principal, the fourth plane went down in a field in Shenksville, PA. Not long after that, the first of the towers collapsed. Within a half hour or so, the second tower went down.

It was all so surreal. I remember thinking for the first time that I was glad Rich wasn't here to see what was happening. At the same time, I missed him desperately. The attack shook the shred of safety I had left to feel--and most of it had been torn away when Rich died. I felt exposed and vulnerable.

As lunch time approached, it seemed that the attacks were finally over. Until then, I was poised to just jump up and leave. Now I felt I could stay until the training day was over at 3. Then I would go home and be there for the kids.

Most of the clients went out for lunch so there was no way to keep the news from them anymore. It was pretty hard to stick to a schedule after that. The teacher I was working with still hadn't heard from her husband but was staying by her post.

I didn't feel angry about the attacks yet. I was still in shock. I remembered that two of my kids and I had just been at the World Trade Center just a couple of weeks before. We'd gone there for the Dark Shadows Festival and had considered taking a ride to the top of the towers. We didn't have enough cash for everything, though, and we decided it was too expensive. Next time, I said. Now there'd be no next time.

The towers would no longer be a part of the New York City skyline either. When Rich was in the hospital in April 2001, we'd taken a walk down the hall to the large picture window in the waiting room. We were on an upper floor and could make out some of the buildings in the city. We could see the twin towers. It just seemed like those buildings would always be there. Now when I watch a TV show or movie set in New York, I look for the skyline. Was this from before ... or after? Sometimes the towers are there and it's just so weird.

The most horrible of all was the loss of life from the planes and in the buildings of the twin towers and Pentagon. My thoughts and prayers go out to all the families of the victims and to the families of the fallen first responders. These memories are permanently etched into my brain. We'll never forget those who died and the events of the day.

On a positive note: the teacher's husband was one of the fortunate who made it out of the towers alive.

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