Saturday, September 11, 2010

I remember

9/11/01 was the last morning I just listened to the radio in the morning while getting ready to go to work. That morning, I was going into work late because I had to take my car in to get payment for repairs arranged after I had been re-ended in my new car. I always just had the radio on as part of my alarm clock, and it would turn off an hour after my alarm. The radio had turned off before I left for the insurance office.

When I arrived at the insurance office, the agent I was dealing with (the agent for the guy who rear-ended me) asked if I had been watching or listening to the news. I told him no, and he informed me that a jet had hit the World Trade Center. At first, I thought small jet, not commercial airliner. While he was looking at the damage on my car, the Pentagon had been hit. I immediately thought Bin Laden. I went home before going into the office. I called in to see if they knew yet - yes, they did. I had turned the TV on when I got home, and I watched as the first tower collapsed. I knew that about 50,000 people worked in the towers, and I anticipated a death toll far more horrifying than it was, although nearly 3000 dead is horrifying enough.

At the time, I was part of a small church group at my parish in Fayetteville, and we had our regular weekly meeting that night. Instead of what we originally had scheduled, we went into the church and prayed the Rosary.

Since that day, I am even more of a news-junkie than I was before. I kept the TV on all the time when I was home, even overnight, watching nothing but news for days on end. I kept hoping for survivors. To this day, I often sleep with the TV on FoxNews channel.

Sadly, the deaths resulting from that attack didn't all occur on that day, or as a result of physical injuries received that day. Another friend of mine has a boyfriend who had a brother who had recently moved to Virginia and worked at the Pentagon. Stephen was a helicopter pilot. He had been part off Dust-Off during the Vietnam War. I'm not sure what Dust-Off was - I'd have to do a bit of research. Anyway, Stephen was at the Pentagon that day. Apparently, he was often in the part of the building that was hit and he lost people he knew. I'm not sure, but I think he was involved in either rescuing or dealing with the people who were pulled from the building that first day. Stephen later commited suicide. My friend and I surmised that what Stephen saw that day brought back the traumatic memories of the Vietnam War, and did not seek help in dealing with what he was going through. Stephen in buried at Arlington National Cemetry. My friend accompanied her boyfriend to the funeral. Stephen's wife moved away from there - I think she had been home when Stephen killed himself there. I happened to have a business trip to DC in May 2003, after Stephen's funeral over the winter. I was able to find Stephen's grave and photograph the headstone, since it was not in place yet at the time of the funeral. I'm sure Stephen's wife was still visiting - there were small stones placed on the top of the headstone. I don't remember the significance of that gesture.

We will never know the true toll of people whose lives will end as a direct result of the attacks. I'm sure Stephen's was not the only suicide of a survivor or a family member of those killed, and there are also those who are now getting sick and dying from illnesses connected to working at Ground Zero....

This was originally posted in May 2006 on a blog that is no longer active on the internet.


Charlene said...

A moving story.

I always wonder what would have happened in the lives of those who died that day and from the results of that day; children they would have had and generations of them to follow, what they may have accomplished until natural death, how they may have made the lives of those they knew better, etc.

I also think the same of he over 4417 people who died in the Iraq war, which we entered into for no good reason.

Code Monkey said...

Regarding the stones: "When attending the unveiling of my Uncle Abe's grave monument, the officiating Rabbi provided an additional explanation that is a little more satisfying. When the tradition started, grave monuments were mounds of stones. Visitors added stones to "the mound" to show we are never finished building the monument to the deceased."

Retriever said...

As you say, we will never know the real toll of that terrible day. The ripples out. Like you, I was at first immersed in the everyday until the real horror of it took hold. Only my husband and I had to calm our children down and keep them from being further frightened, so we couldn't listen to the radio or watch the TV once we were all home together, so we grownups sat and imagined as we tried to create some semblance of normalcy for the kids (obviously we sat them down and told them what had happened and prayed with them, but we had to reassure them that they would be all right, that the world was not coming to an end).