Monday, September 12, 2011

Life Goes On

In the years since September 11, 2001, it has been interesting to me to hear how different people perceived that day.  One thing I have found almost consistently is that the further west people were, the less they seemed to be impacted by it, unless they had a family member or friend who was somewhat involved.  For those of us on the east coast though, it was a very scary time.  I remember for days afterwards waiting for the other shoe to fall.

I spent the day yesterday avoiding the TV and the internet.  10 years later  and I still can't watch it without crying.  At the time I was working for the director of an emergency communications center.  That day we were supposed to cut over to a consolidated center:  the town was going to a central 9-1-1 for both police and fire.  If you've never been in a 9-1-1 dispatch center you might be surprised to know that most of them have large TV screens all over the place.  Sometimes it could be hours between calls so dispatchers are allowed to watch TV and movies.  Therefore, we all had a front row seat to the events in New York City and Washington, DC that day.  As the events unfolded, it almost felt like slow motion.  Ultimately because no one was sure what was happening, the cutover was postponed until several weeks later. Though NYC is 2 hours away from where I live, it felt like the next town over - like our neighbors were in a war zone.

In December of that year my sister and I went to NYC to see the Rockettes and as usual zipped around the city on the subways.  We had gone to the southern part of Manhattan to a particular bookstore and were walking back towards the north looking for a subway station.  As we walked we realized we had somehow gotten ourselves right in the area that had been impacted.  Even months later, there was heavy ash and soot all over.  I can't describe the sadness it made us feel to see all the posters people had put up looking for their loved ones.  Then, at one point we turned a corner and literally found ourselves looking at this:

It took our breath away.  Even years later as the area was cleaned up we found it almost too hard to go there.  We had a friend who had volunteered countless hours to give massages to the workers involved in the cleanup so once the memorial/tribute was set up at St. Paul's Chapel - the church that survived the attack we went because we wanted to see where she had been.  Once we got there though, we almost raced through the area.  We literally could not stand the grief.

Then, in April of 2009 my own family experienced the sudden, horrific death of one of our own and we became just like those families who woke up one blue-skied sunny day and sent their loved one off to work and then just never saw them again.

So, while I remember, I don't know if I'll ever be able to watch any of the documentaries or not.  A bit ironic since I did watch quite a few things in the immediate years after.  As for now, I choose to use the day to remember that while life is a precious gift that can be gone in the blink of an eye, life is also meant to be lived as fully as possible until it's not possible.

That's why my day was spent off the internet and TV and onto exercising, sunning on my patio, preparing healthy meals for this week and picking the last of the produce from my patio pots.  It was a good day.


  1. ☼ Sun is good!
    ☺ Maybe some happy times...
    ♫♬ Maybe some tunes to workout to
    ☕ Maybe some coffee (if you like it)

    Hope your week is great!

  2. I think we were impacted a lot on the West Coast by 9/11. Perhaps not as much as East Coast folks because you were so much closer to it. I know a lot of us here felt an indescribable pain that's still there when we think about those days following 9/11.

    I work for an airline. To me, the use of an aircraft to kill thousands of people was unimaginable and horrific.

    Perhaps I felt closer to it than most people because of all the new security measures that came down immediately after 9/11. Numerous software changes to stop the bad guys, although we all knew, if the bad guys wanted to, they could still follow through on their terrorist plans. Those changes went on for years after 9/11. It completely changed air travel.

    I live about twelve miles from the Sea-tac airport, and I'll never forget the three days following 9/11 when all aircraft were grounded. I would walk my dog every night and the quietness of the skies was something I'd hadn't heard since I was a child in Alaska. I didn't use an iPod or any MP3 player back then, just me, my dog, and my thoughts. Normally there would also be a distant roar of jets flying overhead.

    On those nights following 9/11 I would think of all the lives lost. Every night, in the silence, my heart would break and I would cry, walking with Daisy in the dark.

    That picture is incredible, especially considering it was shot a few months after the tragedy.

    I watched some of the coverage, but the reading of the names of the lost lives made me cry. I had to leave the room and go do something else. It's not that I want to forget, I'll never forget. I just couldn't stand to see the sadness in the loved ones that are still mourning their loss.

    I'm glad you had a good day and celebrated life.

  3. I am with you on avoiding the TV yesterday - I just did not want to bring up all of those emotions once again. And as to the fear, while at first I felt somewhat insulated from the attacks, once the news started talking about (then) President Bush's being from Texas and the terrorists wanting to hurt his homestate, well, that got me on edge. It was nerve-wracking for sure. I have never been to NYC and cannot imagine seeing all that you and your sister encountered firsthand, even so many months later. And yes, with the personal tragedy, I completely understand why you needed to make yesterday a positive, forward-looking one.

  4. I kinda wished I hadn't watched t.v. yesterday, but it is what it is. You've been through so much Helen these last couple years, that's the last thing you needed to bring to the mix and relive.

    Hope you have a great Monday! And sunning on your patio sounds like a great idea!

  5. Very good post Helen!

    My son's birthday happens to be on 9/11 so we deal with the day differently than some. We avoid the TV and try to focus on his "special" day.

    He was 12 when the tragedy happened and he commented that day that his birthday would be forever overshadowed and ruined by the terrorists events.
    We have tried hard to not let that happen.

  6. There has been a lot about 9/11 on Dutch television this weekend and I didn't watch it. I still can't watch the planes fly into the towers, it's still unbelievable. I knew exactly where I was that day: at work and was one of the first to hear it on the radio.

    Here in Holland we were very shocked by all of this, we still are.

    I did watch the news (by accident) and they had an item over what happened after 9/11 but also what happened after that: the attacks in London, Madrid and Indonesia. The war in Iraq and Afghanistan. Famous people in Holland who weren't afraid to say what they stand for that were killed. A lot has happened the past 10 years, the world has changed after 9/11 and not in a good way.

  7. I couldn't watch much of the coverage. It was just over and over and over. Why we need to see the same images over and over and over I don't know. Aren't they already burned into our minds? 9/11 was one of the impulses that made John and I move to be closer to family, even though it didn't happen right away, it really put the seed in our minds to make it happen.

    My father's ideology changed radically after 9/11 and has stayed that way (and gotten further and further in that direction). Sometimes unexpected outcomes stem from tragedy and not always what you want to see happen.

  8. Like you, 9/ll prompts me to think of many other events that were tragically significant and life-altering to those who were affected. Very sobering indeed.

  9. Lovely post Helen. We watched a fair amount of the coverage last night. And when we were in NYC a couple of years ago, we went to ground zero. Certainly a day that changed us all...hope your Monday is a good one. Take care.

  10. I don't like the media to telling me what to grieve over so if I feel them pushing, I push back by avoiding.
    As I said in my post, I wasn't as affected because of the soon to be death of my husband. He was clamoring for more info through the drugged haze he was in, and wanted to know the scoop. I'm glad we didn't watch it non-stop back then.

    I finally witnessed the tragedy because they played it over and over and over again for the past 10 years. There have been more than enough occasions to grieve again and cry for those people -- on top of the grieve accumulated in 55 years of living. It was a stunning disaster yet so is any death...all you have to do is ask the survivors.

  11. Yes, I was thinking about how they deal with this on the other side or in the middle, for us East Coasters, specifically, right here in D.C., it is a more personal story. So many people I know lost loved ones. My neighbor, I kid you not, worked for American Airlines and thinks that she and her co-workers checked the terrorists onto the plane. It is just so close.
    As someone said on FB today "Thank G-d for Sept. 12".

  12. Lovely post, Helen. I did watch some of the tributes on TV on Sunday, and for me, I walked away when I was done reflecting on the enormity of what had happened. That was enough.