Monday, September 11, 2006

Five Years Ago Today

I was dozing in my carpool on the commute to work. (No, I wasn’t driving.) It was a Tuesday morning in early September, one of my favorite times of year. The radio was droning KSL somewhere in the fuzziness of my brain. Suddenly they broke into the regular program with a kind of disorganized, frantic report about an airplane flying into the World Trade Center.

I roused myself enough to pay attention, simply because the report was so unordinary. The details were sketchy and reports from eyewitnesses were conflicting. At first I assumed it was something like a small, single-prop aircraft. “Nasty stuff,” I thought, as I tried to drift off into the haze again. “Those east coast folks in the big urban areas always think everything revolves around them. I’m glad I don’t work in a skyscraper.”

More details kept pouring in, but the confusing and disorganized messages made it impossible to tell what was really going on. It was just a commuter plane. No, it wasn’t. Somebody said it was a larger commercial passenger jet. They had a guy down on the street trying to do an on-the-spot newscast when he exclaimed that a second aircraft had just slammed into the WTC as he was speaking.

Suddenly everyone in the car was awake and alert. The driver turned up the radio and we tried to figure out through the mass of confusion what was going on. We switched around to all of the different news stations. It was pretty much the same. I thought to myself that one plane smashing into the WTC is bizarre, but two must mean terrorism. It seemed like the only plausible answer to the puzzle.

The reports were still a mass of confusion as we left the car and I made my way to my cubicle. Before long everyone in the department was glued to their Internet connections. Details continued to emerge. The Pentagon. The hole in the ground in Pennsylvania. And then the horror of the collapse of the twin towers.

I was in shock. Everyone around me was in shock. The world as we knew it was falling apart. Our homeland was under attack. Our citizens were under attack! Dismay. Questions and more questions. Who? Why? A sense of vulnerability. Outrage. A desire to help, only to find out later that there were few survivors to be helped.

Little work got done that day. In the carpool on the way home we sat with whitened faces, listening dumbly to the repetitious news coverage. A few questions had been answered by then, but there were still many questions left. I felt weary after a day of battling with a barrage of emotions.

I walked into the house to see the TV on, showing news coverage, something that is outside of my family’s normal viewing patterns. The President came on, making a statement I remember as kind of wooden, yet filled with resolve. I was more scared than reassured. I was inspired as political leaders from both sides of the aisle joined hands with tears in their eyes on the steps of the Capitol spontaneously and broke out singing, God Bless America.

The next morning, Wednesday, September 12, 2001, before leaving for work, I put our American Flag up on the front of the house.

No comments: