The date is title enough.
I've been wondering whether to post about this date. I've been ambivalent about all of the observances going on today, but now that it's here I think what we all want is to tell our stories to share the experience of last September 11th so that we can move on.
So here's mine.
I'd moved back to Seattle from Virginia in late August, and moved into a house with 2 friends on September 8th. My household goods arrived on the 8th, but the others' were coming the following weekend. Monday, Jeff and Dennis flew out on their respective business trips (San Jose and Boston), and I was to spend the week moving out of my temporary apartment and unpacking. I hadn't set up any TV, radio, etc in the house on Tuesday morning, so I was in the car when I heard about what was going on. My radio had been tuned to a music station, so when I first heard something about planes hitting buildings, I was thinking it was a joke and quickly turned to NPR for news. When I figured out what was going on, and that it was true, I was parking the car (I had been driving a few blocks to Starbucks for breakfast). I first grabbed my cell phone, and sure enough there was a voicemail from my mom telling me that she had heard from my dad, who was okay, and how I could reach her at school. Then began the process of trying to reach her, my sister, and close friends. I think I bought coffee on automatic, and then it sat in my car, untouched for the rest of the day.
My dad is senior military officer who works in Washington D.C. and is frequently in the Pentagon for meetings (he had been there the afternoon before). On the 11th, he was actually in the air, flying from D.C. to New London, Connecticut on a small military plane. When my mom spoke to him, I guess he had only time to say a few short words. Since he made the trip on a military plane, he was able to fly home on the 12th and spoke about how surreal it was to be the only ones in the skies except for the fighter aircraft. My mom was really angry at him when he returned hom because he never called her back after the initial call.
My mom dealt with the situation of having a schoolfull of children, many of whom had family working in the Pentagon. It's no wonder it took so long for me to get through to her.
My sister works in downtown Washington D.C. and spent the next month afraid that she'd walk by the next target on her way to work. Her office is right next to a firestation, so she spoke of how unnerving it was listening to the constant sound of the firetrucks leaving the station that day.
My roommate Dennis turned out to be not in Boston that day, but driving out of Manhattan, wondering what the smoke was that he saw in his rearview mirror.
When I got to work, I couldn't believe how calm everyone was. Of course no work was getting done; everyone was quietly talking, searching the internet for news, and sharing updates as we heard them. While everyone was deeply affected, no one seemed as personally touched as I felt. I guess having been in the military, and having gone to school with many past and future New Yorkers, I knew that there were sure to be people that I knew in the WTC's and the Pentagon, hopefully none of whom were killed that day. Seattle just felt so distant from everything. Especially for most of the folks here whose families are in WA, went to school in WA, and their friends are in Washington. Anyway, the company sent out several mass emails and voicemails encouraging people to take care of themselves and their loved ones, and set up a projection TV in a common area for people to watch. I went with a few co-workers to try to give blood, but everywhere was packed with people. I didn't end up getting an appointment until October.
I had my first appointment with my new doctor that day. I felt ridiculous for going, but also had no real reason not to go. As my cell phone battery was dying, at least I was able to use their phone to finally speak with my sister. It was strange to notice a few weeks ago that my allergy medication prescription expired on September 11th.
Driving home, I caught up on the latest with NPR (and spent the first of many commutes that month driving down the road with tears streaming down my face). The city of Seattle was so quiet and so peaceful. It was a beautiful late summer day and the mountains were out, unobscured by smoke and ash and destruction.
I felt very far away that week. Those 3000 miles to the East Coast, home to my family and most of my friends, has never seemed quite that large before. My big house was a little spooky, strange and big and full of boxes. The only thing I unpacked and set up that week was the TV and a chair.
I was fairly sure that I wouldn't see my roommates that weekend, stranded in distant cities, but Dennis caught a early morning flight from La Guardia Saturday (I don't ask how) and Jeff rented a car to drive back from California. They returned, Jeff's parents arrived with his furniture, and life seemed to start again.
Not the same, of course.
Here are some things that have changed for me:
- I listen to a lot more news
- I'm more pissed off at our government's violence abroad than I am at the terrorists' past violence at home
- I value my civil liberties more than my safety
- I hang an American flag outside my house
- I don't hang flags from my car, window, office cube, etc
- I always arrive at the airport 2 hours early
- I actually thought about going into the Navy reserve
Here are some things that haven't changed:
- I fly as often as I have time and money
- I value my family and friends
- I can criticize our government and leadership and still consider myself a patriot
- I'm proud that I served my country for 5 years
- I give blood when my iron levels allow