It seems odd not to post something about 9/11 today, particularly since my Sunday School class reminded me that not everyone alive today actual remembers that day. Instead, what they mostly know is what they've been told, by family, teachers and the media. Their understanding of the events that day, and the events that followed, is influenced and framed by the thousands of different perspectives they encounter. I realized that I may not always remember that day in the clear snapshots that still come to mind when I think about that day, and that perhaps I should record them here.
In the fall of 2001, I was in my last semester at Murray State. I still had that year left before I would graduate, but I already knew that I was headed to Frankfort for an internship that spring and was totally in 'wrap-up' mode at school. Most of my friends had graduated the previous May, I'd already gone 'alum' in my sorority, I'd joined a community scrapbook group, and I worked at a local job center for men and women who were anticipating layoffs as the Fisher Price plant prepared to close later that year. For the first time in my college experience, I didn't have a roommate that semester, and I'd settled into weird in-between existence in my duplex on Northwood Drive.
Every morning, my alarm went off at 7:45 (central time), and I would get up, turn on the television as I walked through the living room, and take my new puppy (yes, Zeppelin) out back for a walk. That morning was no different than any, and as with every morning, I walked back inside just before 8:00 a.m. to catch the end of the local news before they went back to New York for the 8:00 hour of the Today Show. That's when I learned that there were reports of a plane hitting the World Trade Center. At the time, we still didn't know what kind of plane, and I think the local newscaster suggested that maybe it was a small plane, a terrible accident. They through it back to New York and I sank down onto the couch.
I didn't move for the next hour, watching as the second plane hit the World Trade Center, then as Jim Miklaszewski reported about the explosion (we later learned that that, too, was a plane) at the Pentagon. I had class that morning, and didn't know what to do, but figured I shouldn't miss it. As I got in my car to head to campus I heard the announcement that all flights had been grounded. I remember looking around and feeling the incredible silence. My professor, Dr. Umar dismissed class almost as soon as we arrived. Dr. Umar, an Iraqi native, was as interested in getting back to a television set as we were. I remember someone asking if he'd heard from his family back home in Iraq. He hadn't yet. I stopped for a moment at the classroom next to ours, where Dr. Rose had pulled in an old radio from his office to listen. Then, I walked with a classmate over to the Campus Coffeeshop for a sandwich. There, everyone crowded at the counter as we watched the second tower collapse. Together, we walked to his fraternity house where friends crowded in the TV room watching in disbelief. At some point I went home. My afternoon class was cancelled.
I spent the afternoon on my couch watching the news. I remember getting up at some point to take Zep for a walk. I called my sister-in-law to ask what the events of the morning would mean for my brother. She didn't know, but acknowledged that it meant something. (He left six weeks later for Afghanistan and didn't come home until Easter 2002.) I called the scrapbook shop to see if we were still meeting that night, as we had just started a recipe swap group and had our first dinner planned for the evening. The owner told me that she thought people needed to be together, and that it might as well be at the shop. I still remember gluing 'onions', 'peas', and 'tomatoes' to my recipe pages that afternoon, with the soundtrack of NBC news in the background.
I don't remember much of the following days. I remember that Dr. Umar's sister got through to him the next morning to let him know that his family was okay. I remember our PR classes totally changing the order of the syllabus to discuss how to deal with crises so we could discuss the advertising and corporate response to that day. I remember blood drives and money drives for the American Red Cross. I remember how HGTV, which I'd really just discovered, went off the air for a few days, as did many cable channels, as we all turned our attention to the networks, looking for some sort of reason. I remember being glued to the television again on the morning of October 6 when our troops went into Afghanistan, thinking things would be over quickly. I remember my mom and my sister-in-law tearing up at Thanksgiving, when my dad suggested my three month old nephew might one day jump out of airplanes like his daddy and granddaddy before him (If you know Jackson now, you might laugh at that suggesion).
What strikes me most, ten years later, is how much of my life, my family's life, has been effected by September 11. I met a family today who lost a son/brother in the Pentagon. Ed Earhart was 26 on September 11, and for his family, as for thousands of families, September 11 was a defining day in their families as the day everything changed in loss. For me, September 11 wasn't itself a day of loss, but it was the pivot point that altered, at least a bit, the direction of our lives.