The end of the innocence.
That is what September 11, 2001 is for me.
Prior to 9/11, just about every other major country has had major acts of terrorism on their soil, whether it was hijacking, suicide back pack bombers, or bombs against infrastructure, like an embassy or hotel. It is a way of life in some places, and in others, not so common, but a definite part of their reality.
We, as North Americans, believed we were isolated from major acts of terrorism. Even after the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center we were willing to believe that it was a fluke, never to be attempted again. After all, it failed, right?
Yes, it did fail, but the failure wasn't so much theirs as it was ours.
It should have been a huge wake up call. We should have known it was just a matter of time before they succeeded, and in a big way.
Our airport security has never been where it should be, if only back in 1993 we decided to take it seriously, like Israel. If only in 1993 we started to more carefully track student visas and be sure that the students were actually attending college. If only in 1993 we had extensive backgrounds and security checks done on non-citizens trying to apply for pilots licenses.
If only... Yes, it is easier to 'if only' now, because hindsight is twenty-twenty. Instead, now, even 5 years later, we are still scrambling to catch up to where our national security should be.
September 11, 2001 was a gorgeous Tuesday, following several days just as gorgeous. I woke hubby up like I do every morning and he said he was going to sleep in as he had a sinus headache. I got the kids off to school. I returned to hubby getting out of the shower and I tried to convince him to stay home and blow off the day, but hubby said no and left about 8:25 to head into NYC in his company jeep.
I got Hammer up and settled into breakfast and his school work. I remember I went to the computer and was reading a homeschooling message board, checking out some new ideas for the new school year.
The phone rang, and it was about 8:50 am. It was my cousin K and she told me, 'Turn on the tv, NOW. A plane hit one the Trade Centers. Where is your hubby?' I told her he was probably just going through the tunnel because of his late start and then I told her I would call her back.
I called Hubby, and before I asked him where he was and if he knew that a plane hit the Trade Centers. He told me he was out of the tunnel and almost to his office, traffic was unusually light, and then he said, 'I was on the helix, (a raised loop into the Lincoln Tunnel) and I saw the plane hit the Trade Center!' He thought it looked small, but wasn't sure.
I immediately asked him about our friend John, and he said he wasn't sure which tower his office was in, but he would be at the office soon, so, Jay would know. Jay and my hubby had been working together for almost 5 years at this point, and John was Jay's best friend since kindergarten, and John married Jay's sister.
I remember hanging up with my hubby, my eyes never leaving the tv screen and the Today show and sitting down on the ottoman, kind of shocked, but relieved that hubby was okay and in Midtown. My mom called and I just told her fast that hubby was fine and in the office not to worry.
Then, it happened. Right before my eyes, the second plane slammed into the other tower! We didn't see the plane hit, but you saw the explosion, it was unbelievable! I was confused... I just kept staring, open mouthed and numb at the tv.
It was as if time stood still. I couldn't move, I don't remember who said it but one of the newscasters said it was terrorism. They were putting NYC on lockdown, and there may be more planes, and more targets in NYC.
I grabbed the phone and called my hubby. I used my cell phone radio function because calling the cell wouldn't work. He knew about the second plane and that it was terrorism, they had radios on at his office. He told me no one could get a hold of John, and Jay was really upset.
I told him to get out now and fast and head up through the Bronx and to Westchester, and to come over the Tappan Zee Bridge. That was staying open at this time. He told me they (he and Jay) were already heading for the elevator. He was going to drop Jay off at his sister's house and then get home to me.
I had to take a minute to get myself together as I had Hammer home with me. With that, the door from my garage opened and my mom walked in. I was so happy to see her and we just hugged for a minute and I told her about Hubby and Jay and John and that he was trying to get out via the Tappan Zee.
We both sat down in front of the television in my living room and just stared in a complete state of shock and numbness. Then, the plane hit the Pentagon. That is when panic truly started to set in. I called hubby and told him and again, he knew. We said our 'I love you's' and hung up.
I remember thinking that it couldn't get any worse... or at least that was my hope. It was horrific to watch. People jumping out of the buildings, the Pentagon rent open and the injured spilling out. It was Dante's Inferno in NYC and DC! And, how many more planes? I remember at this point there was talk of about 6 or 8 still in the air.
Next, the news started to talk about pieces of the tower falling, and the concern over a collapse, but from what was being said, the fear seemed to be about just the floors above the plane crash. Awful enough, that is for sure.
No one, least of all my mom and I, were ready for what we saw next.
The South Tower started started to collapse, and it just crumbled and crumbled down. It was horrific and surreal and completely mind numbing. The people, the moms, dads, sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, cousins, friends of thousands, gone. The rescue workers, the people just escaping the nightmare within the buildings, gone.
We watched as more firemen run into the still standing North Tower to help evacuate quicker before its inevitable collapse. It was almost a half hour later, but it seemed like just a few minutes. The devastation was just as shocking and horrifying the second time.
I remember feeling so helpless.
I ran out of the house and went to get the kids out of school. My hubby had suggested it, but now, I needed them here, home with me. I remember getting to my Fuzzy's school and seeing other moms with tear streaked faces. It was so strangely quiet, too. I remember seeing a teacher crying in the hall. I found out that her brother made it out of the Trades and home, thank God. Two boys wouldn't be that lucky, their dad was an accountant for the Port Authority. Next I picked up Pumpkin at pre-k and even the toddlers were more subdued than normal. It was if even they could sense something had gone terribly wrong in the world.
I remember getting the kids home and settled into the family room with television and lunch. I remember remarking to my mom that 'in the family room it's Nickolodeon, and in the living room it's a nightmare.'
Except that we couldn't just wake up.
By the time my hubby dropped Jay off at his sister's, we knew things were not looking good, but we were very hopeful. John worked for Silverstein Properties, the owner of the complex, and he was involved with helping to evacuate. That was all that was known for sure at that time.
Hubby pulled into our driveway at 2:45 pm. As you can imagine, anyone in a car was trying to get out the way my hubby did, and the roads were choked with people trying to get to family members all over the NY-NJ area.
He got out of the car and I ran to him and we just held each other. I had held it together up until that point, but that is when the tears just started. I don't think they stopped for the next five or six days.
Unfortunately, running outside we found out something else too. Not only could we see the smoke from the towers looking to the east, but we could smell the smell, too. It was horrible. I still smell it in my nightmares.
I was lucky. My hubby came home. Hubby had an appointment on Thursday morning with John at the Trade Centers to discuss some possible door work. If Thursday was the day of the attack, I would not have been so lucky.
John was 6 foot 7 inches tall and pretty wide, too. He died that day, trying to help evacuate and rescue people. Thanks to his great height, and the fact that he was well known to many that survived, his family has been able to piece together much of his actions prior to the collapse.
I know that this has gotten way too long, and I am sorry. Just a bit more, I promise.
I knew coping with 9/11 was going to be very difficult, and that this tragedy would always be a part of our lives, but I have to say, I didn't realize in the beginning just how hard it was going to be.
Watching my hubby go back to work the first day was awful. I had to learn to cope, and it wasn't easy. I wasn't ready to be 'rah rah let's show 'em how we keep on going!' I just wanted my hubby home with me, and screw ever setting foot in NYC ever again!!!
It is still hard. I know that life goes on, and that is a blessed and wonderful thing, but, it is still hard. It is hard because NYC is still, and will always be, a HUGE target. Due to my hubby's job, he is in and around every possible target in the city, on any given day. The UN, the museums, Grand Central, Penn Station, Wall Street, the Empire State Building, you name it, and he might be there.
My coping is an ongoing process. I do go into the city for my rheumatologist, because they are the best, and we have gone in for some family stuff, too. Life does, indeed, go on.
It is still heart wrenching just to look at the skyline. It is all wrong now. It is missing the Towers, the exclamation points, at the end of the glorious sentence that is the Manhattan skyline.
Now, without punctuation, it is the end of the innocence.