I recently dug out a stack of old journals and come across an entry dated Sept. 11, 2001. What I captured in my journal on the evening of 9/11 was mostly observational, not having had time to process my emotional reaction. After I wrote this entry, I did not journal for a long time, so there were no additional entries until I started a new diary the following year. I am sharing a slice of history, including my own.
In the name of some unholy god, terrorists declared war on America today.
Like a surreal scene from “Independence Day,” or a page right out of a Tom Clancy novel, unnamed terrorists hijacked and crashed a plane full of passengers into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York City and into the Pentagon in D.C. A fourth hijacked plane crashed into a rural field in Pennsylvania just 85 miles from Camp David.
I first heard that a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center in New York on my way to work. I was channel jumping and I had landed on the Walton & Johnson show, a popular but racy and often tasteless bit of radio. When I heard a caller interrupt the hosts, I was taken aback.
And from that moment on everything changed forever, I think. While the hosts continued to joke, the reality began to sink in. I called *Brad and asked him to turn on the TV. He confirmed in moments what the caller had said—an airline jet had crashed into the World Trade Center. And within moments Brad shared the startling news that a second plane had crashed into the Twin Towers.
I raced to work where employees were already gathered around their computers frantically searching for the news on the Internet.
I found my portable TV and listened while Bryan Gumbel shared the fateful news to an astonished world….and I knew a sense of panic and fear in my heard I had not known before.
With the crash of the second plane, everyone in America knew it was no accident and that a terrible, terrible time was upon us. The news bulletin continued and I sat in a daze when I head Gumbel announce that a plane had just crashed into the Pentagon.
We were at war and we were unprepared. Rumors flew in the next thirty minutes—a car bomb had gone off near the State Department, a plane had crashed into the Mall in Washington, another into a school in Los Angeles.
By the time we heard a plane had crashed into the field in Pennsylvania, we were nearly numb. We were in the middle of a war and we were living it minute by minute, play by play, station by station and from New York to Washington to Pennsylvania, the whole world had erupted into chaos.
And then the towers came crashing down—like a computer animation drawing, it couldn’t have been a more surreal scene. Imagine a plane crashing into a 110-story building and bursting into a huge black ball of smoke—and then spitting red hot fire from office windows as people tried to jump to safety.
I’ve seen the images replayed on network TV and CNN at least 100 times and it is horrifying. The truth is that after all of the adventure movies I’ve seen, somewhere in my heart I want to believe that it is not real life. I like the movies better where I can sit in a dark theatre and eat Runts and Junior Mints and be entertained for two hours before trudging back into the day.
But what I saw captured on TV where the Twin Towers collapsed killing thousands and thousands and thousands of people, looked more like a scene from Hiroshima than a matinee movie. The building began to fold like an accordion and layer by layer, 110-floors began to fall from the sky into the concrete sidewalks of Manhattan.
When the first building collapsed, dust and smoke and debris spilled out and it looked like a volcano was exploding—or a nuclear bomb had dropped from the sky—and white dust and grit splashed and then soiled the streets chasing standbyers it seemed for blocks, and bloodied people scattered like pigeons.
I called Brad about every fifteen minutes. I was afraid and I was sickened and saddened because I knew that our world was changing right before our eyes and ears. Brad, I’m afraid of war—and what about our son, I asked. I cried and sat like a mindless but dutiful employee at my desk. I wanted to rush to Alex’s school and pick him up and hide from this terrible terrible world. I am afraid and everything now has been divided into before and after.
Earlier, or this morning, I was me—living my simple, complicated, uncomplicated, happy, harassed, sad, joyful, fulfilling, bored and safe existence. None of that seems to exist anymore.
The president has said the terrorists have committed an act of war, and that we will seek them out. Meanwhile, untold thousands of people are lying in concrete rubble that was once national landmarks, tall symbols of freedom, finance, and national security, as an uneasy world looks on.
Today, terrorist destroyed the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, thousands of lives and threatened our national security, our air traffic system, and economy.
Every airport in America is shut down; the New York Stock Exchange is closed and families are searching for victims amidst dirt and dust and tons of concrete. Tonight, I pray for America and for my family and for my American brothers and sisters.
Like every American, tonight, I pray for peace, but I know we are now at war.
(Notes: *Brad was my husband at the time of this entry. Alex is our son.
I get chills when I re-read this because I remember that day so clearly; I remember what it felt like to live in the present–where planes were crashing into buildings—and in the future, where I could clearly see the trajectory of a new history unfolding, a world changing before my eyes–all at the same time. I didn’t capture that in my journal account–but I remember knowing it, as I sat helpless behind my desk.
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