Some days I write these things more for myself than anyone else, and today might be one of those days.
Twenty years ago, I had moved in to my brother Pat’s house. I had been living alone, and he had a roommate that moved out, and he thought me moving in would be good, as he had the room, and so I did that. I was still living more of a party lifestyle, work at the restaurant all day, party at night, sleep in and repeat. Our paths didn’t seem to cross a lot, it was a decent arrangement.
That morning of September 11th, he woke me up early. I was like Oh Hell No, if he thinks he is going to be waking my ass up at 7am on a regular basis…. wait, what was that Pat? He said something was going on in New York, I had better get up and watch what was going on with him. The tone of his voice, really hit me. I got up and we stared at the live feed out of New York. Then we heard about the Pentagon. He had to leave for work, but I had a few hours until I had to go. I kept watching, stopped briefly to shower and get ready. I felt guilty taking the time, and the time to drive 10 minutes to work. We all did, as it turned out that day staring at the TV and waiting was all we could do that day. We went through the rest of the day in a fog. The rest of that week. The next who knows how many days were spent in disbelief and grief.
Twenty years gone by. It has gone fast, I was 31 then, I am 51 now. I watched a lot of stuff this week on 9/11. The documentary that Spike Lee did, about the 2 brothers, French guys, who were doing a documentary at one of the Fire Stations in New York, they were following a rookie fireman on his 90 day probation with the department. So they were very much in it that day, as they went out on a gas leak call that morning with the chief and some of the guys. The one brother was with them, the other was somewhere else, but the one with the Chief caught video of the first plane. That took my breath away. As I watched other shows this week, his footage was used in almost every single one. He was in the North Tower with the firemen. He caught things and it was amazing. It is like you are with them as you watch it. Unreal.
I watched interviews with survivors. There was one with that lady that was the last person found alive in the rubble. Again, just amazing listening to her story. I am in awe that people survived that. They talked in one show about the boat evacuations from Manhattan. That thousands and thousands of people hopped on ferries, fireboats, and even larger boats that just happened to be in the harbor that morning helped get people off the island. They interviewed people that were helping out, and they said an image that stuck with them were all the shoes that were left on shore, on the docks and all over. Women’s shoes, mostly as they couldn’t run or jump to the boats wearing them. I never knew those stories.
See, there is a lot we didn’t see and don’t know. I believe for years there will be more and more stories. We will hear stories of bravery, and surviving that will be told. I think how do you recover from seeing people jump 100+ stories to their deaths so they didn’t burn up in that building? How do you return to the Pentagon to work? How do you get on a plane as an employee of an airline, and feel like you can do your job?
I don’t know. I still feel apprehensive when I see a plane that flies sort of low or in a place it doesn’t seem like it should be. Any of us that can remember probably have little things that catch our attention. I never complain about TSA lines. How could I when they are just trying to assure one of those terrorists don’t get on a plane with me? The wait and the perceived inconvenience are worth it to me.
I had an emotional week watching it. My brain feels tired this week. Work was hectic and crazy, that added to it. Maybe I watched too many of these shows, but I don’t know if that is possible, considering I have lived 20 more years than anyone who died that day. I was not in the wrong place on that day. I witnessed it all from the safety of my home and place of work that day. We were all nervous and anxious, with that “what will happen next?” worry. But we ended up ok that day, shaken, but not broken.
They didn’t take as much from us that day as they had hoped. But they took plenty. Our collective confidence was certainly shook, and in some ways we still live with that. Lots of people are marking the day at ceremonies, or climbing stairs at Lambeau, or praying, reflecting or whatever feels right for them. I support that. For me, watching the shows, and reflecting on the day are my thing. It was a bright sunny day, so is today where I am. I honor that day, and all of those people who died in planes, buildings, rural fields, on the streets and anywhere else that saw that ugly display that day. I honor those that survived, but developed serious health and mental health issues. The babies that had to grow up without a parent because they had to go to work on a Tuesday morning. The ones that were born in the days and months after that day who never knew their dad. My 20 years have not been perfect, but I got to have them, so many people did not.
Be kind today, be patient today. Live your day in the best way you can. If you are able to pause and take a moment, do it. Be thoughtful and purposeful. 20 years is a long time to miss someone. 20 years is a long time to live having seen what we saw and felt. 20 years.