I can’t believe its been that long since that fateful day. One decade has come and gone. I was 25 years old. Wow. 10 whole years. That’s a long time for anything. My wife and I had been married for not quite 2 years at that point. We had been in our home for not even 6 months. We signed the papers and closed on the house the previous April. That home…..my home ……the home we thought would only be a “starter” home. We’d be in it 3 years….maybe 4 at the most. After looking all over the city and the surrounding suburbs, we settled on a place 2 blocks from my parents. Yep. Two blocks. What can I tell you, I found certain comfort in that. And my wife fell in love with the house the moment she looked out the window and saw the view of snow capped downtown.
We spent the first year remodeling it….taking down the ugly wood paneling in the living room…then the ugly wall paper that was under that……washing the walls from the 50+ years of smokers that probably lived there…..repainting. Replacing doors, windows cabinets and faucets. We put in a lot of work for this thing we thought was only gonna be a starter home.
Little did we know where life would take us 10 years later.***
The morning of September 10, I woke up from a pretty restless night. Slept like crap. Tossed and turned and spent all day pretty tired. I just couldn’t sleep. Promised myself I’d go to bed early that night. That didn’t happen. Not really anyway. Fell asleep about 11 or 11:30pm. The morning of September 11 came. It was about 6:30am. I thought, “hell no, I’m going back to sleep!” And so I did. Rolled right over and went back to sleep. No clue what was happening at that exact moment in NYC….DC……Pennsylvania. Just rolled over and went back to sleep. Woke up 2 hours later. 8:30am local time. Turned on the TV.
The nightmare began…….
I turned on the TV. Channel 4. On one half of the screen, they showed the Twin Towers covered in smoke. On the other half, news guy was saying things. Bad things. Things that didn’t quite register. A plane hit one tower?! Then another plane hit the other tower?! Wait what???
I changed the channel. Still local news. Channel 9. They not only talked about the towers, they said something about the Pentagon and a plane going down in Pennsylvania. What??? I wasn’t quite sure what I was seeing. Was this a movie?? A bad joke??? A publicity stunt for the next Tom Cruise flick?? I was confused and a little freaked out by it all. All I could do was keep watching, hoping someone would tell me they were just kidding. Hoping someone would have a rational explanation for all of this. I flipped to more channels, everywhere I looked, the twin towers engulfed in flames, the Pentagon with a hole in it’s side. (My wife and I would later see the repaired Pentagon when we were in DC for one of the National SBA conferences).
I got in touch with her at work and as she talked, it was finally beginning to soak in. Hijacked planes. Some dude named Osama. Some organization named Al Qaeda. I knew what I was watching then. We had been attacked. On our own shores. Just insane when the previous day, the biggest thing on the news was Anne Heche going completely crazy after breaking up with Ellen!!
I spent the rest of the day like millions of other people, glued to the TV. Watching them replay footage of one tower falling, then the next one. Watching footage of the second plane hitting the other tower. Seeing the smoke and ash and debris flying everywhere in NYC. The Statue of Liberty in the foreground, with a blackened NYC behind it. And damn, nobody cared about the censors at that point! People cussing up a storm describing what they saw. And then the things they showed on TV!! People jumping out of the burning buildings before they came crashing down….which by the way, they replayed over and over! And arms and legs within the debris after collapse. Yeah. No one cared about the censors.
I popped in a VHS tape and just started recording. Got about 3 hours of footage. (yes I’m old, I said VHS tape, don’t judge. It has since been converted to DVD ;^)
The thing that struck me the most that day….the thing I’ll never forget and will forever and ever be lodged in my brain, was a story one of the survivors was recapping. He had made it out just before the first tower collapsed. He talked about how he was running down the stairs carrying an older man. A co worker, but really a man he didn’t even know. A guy he saw was a little slower than everyone else. He carried the older man down I don’t know how many floors.
But on his way down, he talked about seeing something I’ll never forget. People with disabilities being left to suffer. People in wheelchairs. People who for some reason or another could not make it down the stairs. And they were being left there! Left to die. People shoving them out of the way, people trampling over them. No one caring that these people -these fellow human beings that God created just a little differently than you- couldn’t save themselves.
Then it became real. Then it became personal to me. No I don’t use a wheelchair to get around, but I am slow as hell because of my SB. And without leg braces at the time, forget it, woulda died in the tower that day. And my friends…..my friends who do use chairs to get around…who would’ve stopped for them???? I had been watching the TV for hours….mesmerized….overwhelmed…scared. But when I heard that….that’s when it became real and I just lost it and spent the rest of the day in tears, from that and every other horrible thing I witnessed on my TV that day.
Where were you that day?
***this blog entry was written September 11, 2011 on the 10 year anniversary of the attacks. But also. After 2 years of weekly marriage counseling, summer 2011 was the end of my first marriage, with official divorce coming shortly after. I suppose I was filled with melancholy and memories, sadness and disbelief, still working through some stuff as I wrote this entry. So I wrote of 9/11, but the end of my first marriage (I’ve since been happily remarried) was also on my mind. After re reading it, I decided to keep those paragraphs, because in keeping with the spirit of “my bleeding ink”, and with the quote in my header, I felt I had to stay true to my real thoughts, even if they did seem strange and out of place to those reading this and who had no idea what I was going through at the time.