Wednesday, September 10, 2014
Day 61 of 100 Days of Good Karma.
It’s difficult to approach September 11th and not be taken back to that day thirteen years ago.
I was at work, a technical support call center. It was a stressful week anyway. The Friday before, the company told us they were shutting down and issued lay off notices to two hundred people, myself included. We were told we could work as much overtime as we wanted, but at the end of the following week, the week of September 11th as it happened, that was it. No severance, no benefits, nothing after they closed the doors Friday.
I took an early shift, starting at six in the morning, trying to squeeze in some extra overtime hours before I didn’t have a paycheck to fall back on.
There were no TV’s on the call floor, but a few people had small radios at their desks.
Sometime shortly after starting work for the day, someone popped their head over a cubicle wall and said, “A plane just hit the World Trade Center!”
The big question on everyone’s lips: Was it an accident? Did some pilot just screw up that bad?
That question was answered just a few minutes later when the second plane hit the other tower. And then news came out of Washington that a plane flew into the Pentagon. And then a fourth plane crash landed in a Pennsylvania field after some brave men and women stopped the people who had hijacked their flight.
No. Not an accident.
Twenty or so call technicians gathered around a tiny radio listening to the chaos broadcasting from New York City. Some of us were crying. All of us were stunned into silence.
I remember the silence vividly because, as a technical support call center, it was never silent. The phones were always ringing with someone on the other end needing help.
But not that day.
One of the managers saw the group gathered around the radio and told us we needed to get back on the phones.
Seeing as we were about to get laid off, we were hardly inclined to jump to his command, but there was one person in the queue. Someone took the call and informed the caller of the news out of New York. The caller hung up and that was the last call we took for the morning.
Once the manager doing the walk-around realized the magnitude of events, he stopped to listen, too.
I remember looking up in the blue morning sky, longing to see a single airplane contrail.
But no one was flying. Not anywhere.
All airplanes were grounded the skies were shut down.
Bomb threats cropped up all over the country in the days and weeks after the September 11th attacks.
Then there was the terror of opening your mail, dreading the potential of white powder spilling into your lap because some looney decided you were the next one to receive anthrax in your light bill.
I mourned with the rest of the country.
I remember sitting in stop-and-go traffic, a sea of cars decorated with yellow ribbons and American flags. I looked over to see a woman sitting in the car next to me with tears streaming down her face.
I knew she was listening to the news in her car because I was crying the same tears listening to the news in mine.
I donated food, wishing I could do something more.
I remember the only time in my life when I’ve heard television broadcasters started encourage people to turn their televisions because survivors guilt was sending an alarming number of people into a spiraling depression.
I felt like they were talking to me.
I remember an angry solidarity in Americans, back before we were tired of wars, in the weeks and months that followed.
But more than the anger, I remember the sacrifices people made for each other. It was a scary time, but it was also a time that reconfirmed there are more good people in the world than bad.
I suppose every generation has their national scars. For my parents, it was all the political unrest of the 60’s, including the JFK assassination, the Martin Luther King Jr. assassination and Robert Kennedy’s assassination, not to mention the Vietnam war.
For the grandparents’ generation, the Great Depression and World War II.
The attacks on September 11, 2001 was my first national scar.
Today’s silver lining: Today I am grateful for the men and women of our military, our police forces and our fire departments. For everyone who puts their own lives on the line to protect people like myself and my family.
Thank you to my favorite veteran, my Dad, for the time he served in the military, including the Vietnam war. You never talk about it, so I’m sure some crazy shit went down. Know that I love you and I appreciate the sacrifices you made for your country and for your family.
Thank you to my Uncle Mike and Aunt Karry, my friend Jill, and all my other friends who have given their time to either the military or police service. You are forever in my thoughts.
And thank you to all the fire fighters out there, past and present, living and deceased. Especially those currently battling the wild fires in Siskiyou County, California, where I grew up.
What’s your silver lining today? I love comments!