11 September 2009

Eight Years Later.

As if you needed any kind of reminder, today marks the eighth anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center.  Like billions of other people, I can clearly remember what I was doing and where I was when I found out about the tragedy. I've never really written about it before (although I've alluded to the experience in past journal entries) so personally this will be a fresh look at that day.

That particular Tuesday started out routinely, a typical workday morning in Seattle.  I've never made it a habit to turn on the TV while getting ready, so I possessed no knowledge of what had already happened -- Wikipedia marks the beginning of the attacks at 8:46am Eastern, while I was still asleep on the West Coast. My bus stop was only a block away from the apartment, and I took my place in line with fellow commuters waiting for the 941 to swing by. I must've been switching out CDs in my Discman when I heard two women saying something about "a plane hitting the World Trade Center in New York." I don't think they had much information on it, that maybe it was a terrible accident, but was most likely a terrorist attack. The 941 came, and the ride downtown on I-5 was abuzz with passengers talking about the event.

An ugly knot began growing in my stomach. By the time I got to work, I felt like throwing up: My brother Jose and Mike, a mutual friend, were visiting New York for the week, and from previous conversations with them I'd known that the Towers were on their list of Things To Visit In NYC. Yeah you can probably tell where this is going. I became increasingly distressed and focused on nothing but getting to a TV and trying to get more details, but unfortunately there were no televisions in the office. I had to resort to refreshing news websites constantly for the tiniest scrap of new information; I must have pressed the Redial button on my cell a hundred times to try to get through the jammed airwaves. No dice.

I remember leaning against a wall in the hallway outside of my office after another futile attempt at calling, fearing the worst. My boss tried to give me some words of comfort, but of course my imagination ran rampant and crippled my mind. The photos of explosions, smoldering wreckage and terrified faces on the news sites didn't help things at all.

No one in the company worked that day. My concentration was completely shot. I remember one co-worker in particular who was especially shook; she worked the early shift and had just finished talking to a client in New York. Needless to say, she (and half of the office staff) went back home not long after they arrived. Payroll was due on Tuesdays so my boss and I were obligated to get that job done, but it took us three times as long to finish and I got nothing else accomplished that day. I was numb.

I was finally able to get through to my mom that afternoon. To my immense, intense relief, she assured me that Jose and Mike were fine and safe at my uncle's house; that they hadn't even had breakfast yet when the first plane struck.

Was it fate? Divine intervention? Hell, the fact that my brother hates getting up early? I look back and have no idea. But the feeling that I got at that time can only be described as blessed. It was very strange, and left me empty and full at the same time.

And I could breathe again.

As you know, the whole world changed at that point. Even now, eight years later -- when Ground Zero is being rebuilt and repurposed into a place even greater than it once was, when we have long been accustomed to long airport security lines and putting our toothpaste into clear plastic bags, when our military presence in the Middle East has overstayed its welcome -- even now, the personal impact of that day still twists my stomach and clouds my brow. I was blessed. I could have lost someone, and I didn't.

But thousands of other families did. I can only imagine what they went through then, and what they are still going through now, so today my thoughts and prayers go out to them.

In Memoriam: 11 September 2001.

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