Reflections on 9/11

Photo Courtesy of Glyn Lowe Photoworks

As we mark the passing of yet another 9/11, it becomes clear that time is marching onward. Children born in 2001 are now thirteen years old, which leaves an entire spectrum of kids who view this tragedy as ancient history.

In an effort to never forget the way I felt on this day, I re-read my 9/11/01 journal entry every single year. Here it is in its entirety, and as always, much love to the folks I shared this day with: Haley Kyle, Charvi Magdaong, Amy Wilkinson and Greg Smith.

Let us never forget.

September 11, 2001

Tuesday, 2:33pm

Today is a day I will remember for the rest of my life.  Today is the day the world turned upside down.

The World Trade Center has been destroyed, the Pentagon has been devastated, the president is hiding in an unspecified location, four commercial airplanes have crashed, and we have no idea who did this to us.

This is like a dream.  It's Tuesday afternoon in Orlando, I'm wearing my overalls and a striped tank top, and outside, New York City is burning.  Every airport in American has been shut down, downtowns all across the country have been vacated, the Kennedy Space Center and Disney World have shut their gates, and thousands of people are lying dead in the street at this very moment.

I can't believe this is really happening.  Stuff like this is only supposed to happen in movies.

Today started off like any morning.  My alarm clock went off at 10:30am to alert me of my 11:30am Theatre Survey class.  I promptly hit the Snooze button--like any other day--and was just settling back to sleep when Haley ran in to tell me the news.

Apparently, early this morning, a group of terrorists hijacked four jet liners headed to California.  They somehow took control and began flying them north toward New York City and Washington DC.  At 8:40am, the first plane slammed into the side of the South Tower of the World Trade Center.  Eighteen minutes later, the second one crashed into the North Tower, plowing all the way through one of the stories before emerging on the other side and bursting into flames.   About an hour after that, the third plane barreled into the outer walls of the Pentagon and tore all the way through to the inner courtyard.  Finally, the fourth plane went down in an empty field in Pennsylvania--though whether it crashed or was shot down by the government is unknown at this time.  It was believed to be headed toward Camp David.

Both Trade Towers collapsed about an hour after being hit, killing what is estimated to be as many as 50,000 people by crushing them with thousands of tons of concrete and mortar.  Eyewitnesses said the carnage was unbelievable, that desperate people were jumping from the buildings as they burned, and that all you could hear were explosions and sirens and screaming.

I think I'm in shock.  Stuff like this doesn't happen to America.  50,000 people don't just die.

But now they have.  I've seen them on the news.  I've seen them falling from the sky, I've seen clips of the second plane actually crashing into the North Tower, I've seen people screaming and running through the streets, I've seen fire and smoke and ashes raining down on camera men... and cars... and bodies.

One of the eyewitnesses who actually escaped the North Tower said the building was chaos.  There were fires, and sprinkler systems were flooding the halls while people wailed and shoved, praying and crying and panicking.  He said the hardest part was running past the invalids who were stranded in their wheelchairs, waiting for someone to carry them downstairs.

Another person who was on the street when the buildings were hit said he saw survivors of the first explosion hanging out the windows, waving a white sheet and yelling for help.  Then he said there was another explosion and...  Well, he didn't see them anymore.

Another observer said he witnessed a man and woman jumping out of the building together while holding hands.  The thought of all this makes me want to throw up. 

My family is safe, which is better than many people can say.  I've talked to both of my parents and Shana and also to Jeff, and that makes me feel better at least. 

But the world is going crazy.  Jeff told me I should go fill up my gas tank before the prices skyrocket and I should get money out of the ATM in case our financial institutions go off-line for awhile, so I ran out and did that this afternoon.  The gas station was a mess--cars were backed up, the pumps barely ran (as they were all being used at the same time), and finally a speaker came on that said, "We're sorry for the inconvenience, everyone, but we're running out of gas."  I couldn't believe it; it reminded me of the book Alas, Babylon so much that it was scary.

What is going to happen?  Are we going to war?  Who are we going to war against??  

President Bush just gave a press release where he promised we would "hunt down" and "punish" these terrorists.  It's funny; I didn't vote for him, but for the first time ever today, I felt like he was my leader--like he was speaking directly to and for me.

We're all so worried about what these terrorists will bomb next.  The whole entire country has been shut down, and I'm afraid because the Kennedy Space Center is only 30 miles away from here.  It's times like this when I wish I were home in Panama City with my parents.

One thing is for sure, though: Americans everywhere have been filled with a sense of patriotic pride.  We're uniting for the first time in my lifetime.  Right now I'm sitting in my apartment with Haley, Greg, John, Charvi, Eddie, Steph and Dan, and for the first time ever, I'm hearing them talk about how they would fight for our country.  And I personally had my first-ever sense of patriotic rage a few moments ago when I heard that Palestinians are dancing and celebrating in the streets over this.  Dancing in the streets..  That thought makes me furious.

I'm so afraid.  What will we do if we have to go to war??  My children will be reading about this in their history books.  What if Jeff has to fight?  And Greg?  And Charvi and Russ Mathis?  What if I'm going to lose my friends and loved ones?  How do you survive while your whole world is turning upside down??