The phone rings. I wake up and answer in the middle of the second ring. It’s my mother announcing that the Twin Towers in New York had been hit by a hijacked plane. After turning on the television to see what was going on, I witness a second plane flying low. Way too low. It crashes into the second tower. I see people jumping to their deaths because it was better than burning alive.
It was my senior year of high school, just starting out my last year before entering adulthood. The first thought I had? “I need to find Yak.” If the nickname sounds odd, it was a high school nickname and she was OK with it. One of her favorite sweaters that she wore almost all the time was made out of yak fur, hence the nickname.
School. Get to school. The staff might be trying to track where students are.
I got ready for school and drove my car, Bob as quickly as possible. My concern for my friend was number one. I remember searching for her at the school. She wasn’t there. I remember calling her. My heartbeat pounding in my eardrums. Waiting for those four words. Praying to hear those four words versus the alternative. I heard her pick up the phone.
“I’m ok… He’s ok.”
Relief comes swiftly, briefly. “Oh, thank, God.” I briefly closed my eyes, pinching the bridge of my nose.
Hearing the assurance in her voice and the finality of her statement partially soothed the ache from the morning’s events. The one good thing from that day was that her family was ok. Yak’s brother had recently moved to New York just before 9/11. My fear was she had lost someone she cared about, and I wouldn’t know how to be there for her. They were one of the lucky ones. Any relief was short-lived after closing the fear on her potential loss, and focusing on the rest of the victims.
Every member of the academic institution was gathered in a common area watching the news live. Teachers, students, administration…
Here was this gathering, a space crammed full of people to the point of standing room only, our entire high school population grouped together. Afraid to leave because… Well, what else was there to do? We couldn’t talk. We couldn’t move. All we could do was watch. The only sound being made were the muted voices coming from the television tuned to the news.
What do I remember? I remember the silence.
We weren’t a school that morning. It didn’t matter if you were old, young, senior, freshman, popular, nerdy, band geek, jock, cheerleader, goth, white, black, rich, poor, purple, striped or polka-dotted. For that horrible moment, we were just people. Attempting to come to grips with the thousands of people who had just lost their lives. To the thousands of survivors who would have to bear a burden no person should, guilt for surviving. To the families and friends of the lost who were dealing with suffering, confusion, anger and utter devastation.
No, not even now. I cannot comprehend their ability to move forward. It’s a courage I’m unsure I’m capable of having.
Earlier today I re-read a post from one of my favorite bloggers, Jonathan Fields. Maybe I’ve seen him, maybe not. He was there. This happened in his own backyard, his wife and child at home, nearby. Perhaps any of us caught a glimpse of him in the background on the news.
Jonathan’s story is haunting. He expressed an experience I will never fully understand. I’m not sure anyone fully understands it. Please read his story, because he represents the voice of those still here and of those who are gone. Read his story because his and the voice he represents deserved to be listened to.
So what’s the point of this post? I don’t know, you tell me. I have no clue.
Correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe that being a lifetime member of the West Coast, it was difficult for citizens on this side of the States to fully comprehend with what had happened. In my opinion, I believe there was a delay. A temporary dulling of the senses for those of us trying to connect with what was happening to our citizen brethren on the other side of our country. It may sound harsh, but I believe it’s true. What do you think? I don’t know.
I just know I’ll never forget.