Sunday, September 11, 2011

Reflecting on 9/11

I spent the last two days at a crop, and I have lots of stuff to share, but I wanted to take a few moments to reflect on September 11, 2001, that terrible day, ten years gone by. . . .
I had just started my job at the University of San Francisco. Paul was working for the California State Public Utilities Commission in downtown San Francisco. Henry was in kindergarten, and Clara was at the infant toddler center.  My boy was a clingy child - he liked me to wait on the playground with him until after the morning bell rang, the kids lined up by class and then walked into their rooms, before I left. So, on that beautiful morning, I stood there hanging out and chatting with other parents. I was puzzled by what people were saying was happening on the East Coast (remember, it's three hours later here).  I frankly didn't believe the stories of terrorism. I assumed that the news reports had been blown out of proportion. 
Of course, I was wrong. Terribly, horribly wrong. I returned home, turned on the T.V. and followed the news reports all day. I called Paul, and we decided to leave the children in school. At three and six years old, normalcy seemed the best we could do for them.  He was sent home, as were all non-essential downtown employees. They worried that his building - adorned with a giant seal of the State of California - could be a target. Our neighbor Ed, who worked in the TransAmerica pyramid, was sent home for the same reason. I called my parents, and we talked about Pearl Harbor. Soon, several of our neighbors came over, and we watched the coverage together. It felt better, safer, to be together. As I heard more and more stories of the day, I related to the passengers on the airplanes. I flew a lot in those days and often took those early morning flights home. I had dreams of being herded to the back of an airplane, from which I awoke in a cold sweat. 
At some point, I realized that one of our best friends - Henry's Godfather - was in New York. I called his wife, Molly, and she said that Jack was in midtown and okay for now. I just kept saying to myself - he's in midtown, that's blocks away from the Twin Towers. Jack and Molly had been in New York for the U.S. Open Tennis Tournament (an annual tradition for them). Molly came home a few days before Jack, to get the kids ready for school, and Jack checked into the Cornell Club (his home away from home in New York City). On September 11, he checked out and went to conduct some business, planning to fly home later that day.  After the towers collapsed, Jack joined thousands of people walking across Manhattan, trying to figure out where to go. He said he followed his instinct to walk West - toward California and home.  Eventually, he returned to the Cornell Club in midtown. When he got there, he told the clerk he wanted to check in and stay until the airlines stated flying again. The clerk told him that there would be no rooms, as they had many new guests scheduled to check in that day. Jack laughed and tried to explain to the clerk that no one would be coming into New York that day.
Jack told us that story on Friday night of that week. He had returned to San Francisco a couple days earlier.  He was on the very first flight which United Airlines flew from New York City to San Francisco. He was able to get on that flight because he has so many frequent flyer miles! We were glad he was able to get on that flight and touched that they called us to come spend that first Friday night with them. 
Ripples from 9/11/01 continue to this day. When my parents passed away, it turned out that the broker's official records for their financial instruments no longer existed. The originals had been stored in Texas and destroyed in a fire; all the back ups had been in the Twin Towers. When I fly, I pass through elaborate security.  Today, I want to remember not the destructive ripples of the event, but the ripples of friendship and community, the ripples of patriotism and hope. So, today, I will fly my flag and call Molly and Jack. I will hug my children and enjoy the freedom which I enjoy and which makes my country such a target. And today, I share my story with you - the first time I have put it in writing. I'd love to hear your story of 9/11 and how you remember it today.

14 comments:

laurie said...

thank you rinda for sharing your story. all of us (of a certain age) have one from that day. i was teaching first grade in denver, colorado. i had seen the early news reports but had to, for the sake of the students, act as if all was normal that day. my eyes would meet those of other teachers in the hallway and we would share a silent concern but made sure those little ones never had to even suspect what was occurring. i'm glad we have today to reflect on that day and what we have pulled out of those memories.

Melissa said...

I was teaching college classes that day when I heard the news. I had met Robbie 4 days earlier - he was supposed to fly into NY that day but his boss had changed their plans on Monday. One day I want to create a mini-album of the events of that time because there are so many stories surrounding that day for us. Thanks for sharing your memories.

Amy said...

I remember thinking along similar lines to you, it all seemed unrealistic, surreal and quite gobsmacking - unfortunately it was reality.

Irene said...

Every year on 9-11 I think of all those who died and those who lost loved ones. I also think of my mom who is no longer here on earth. You see on 9-11, I was at my mom's house helping her type a letter while she made me breakfast. We spent the whole day together watching the news. I wish I could have one more breakfast with her.

JO SOWERBY said...

i am so glad ur friend was safe and cannot imagine what he went through that day. from the news ffotage u only get a sense. i too have shared my memories of that day and watched yesterday for us the live coverage of the memorial service. i am impressed with the beautiful fountains built from the ruble of the towers and someday i would like to come and say a prayer for those who died including the niece of my parent's friends,
jo xxxx

Jimjams said...

Lovely thoughtful reflections and an uplifting final paragraph - I've been listening to an interesting week of radio programmes reflecting on the events of that day. I was at home and saw the terrible scenes on TV. I wondered if this was the start of WW3 ... not in the way I imagined, but it changed the world for sure.

Sian said...

Yes, I have a similar memory - our children were that age too and school had just finished for the day when we heard. It was one of the other mums in the playground who told me and we rushed home to find out more.

It was a different experience for us watching terrorist attacks somewhere other than where we live. A terrible, terrible day

Fiona said...

It was mid afternoon here and I had just returned home after the school run and turned on the TV for childrens tele and could not believe what I was seeing.

alexa said...

Such a terrible day, and your memories capture the events so clearly.

scrappyjacky said...

It was the end of the work day here....I was at school....the children had gone home and we were preparing our classrooms for the next day.....then a message was passing round..."turn on your computers,there's something going on in New York"....we watched horrified around tiny screens. It was made more personal because our site manager's 18 year old daughter was in New York on a visit....had planned to visit the WTC that day....and he was desperately trying to contact her....very luckily for her....she had done a typical teenager thing.....and overslept!!
So many were not so lucky....a terrible day.

Alison said...

I still can't get over the enormity of the event...no matter how many times I watch or listen to programmes about 9/11...it just seems so unreal and as horrific as it did on the day itself
Alison xx

Denise said...

I agree with Alison,it still has so much impact watching it again after all this time - every year-so emotional.

Anonymous said...

what a wonderful story .. we also had all our friends over that first friday night ... i know people who are related to people who were supposed to be in the towers that morning but for one reason or another, weren't there ... there are just no real words that express everything, but thanks for sharing, Rinda.

Mariana in CA

Gail said...

So glad your friend was ok. I remember I was getting ready to take my Dad out for his weekly shopping trip & had the tv on in the bedroom. When I first heard about it I thought they meant something like a Cessna till I saw the 2nd plane hit and knew things would never be the same again. I worried about my husband who was working at the Toronto airport. He said it was the strangest thing to see absolutely no passengers in the terminals just very heavily armed police. Soon after that numerous planes landed there when they couldn't land at home.