Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Where were you?

I was getting out of a history class at WSU, walking through the student center when I realized that it was too quiet. The silence caused me to look around to see every single person staring up at various TV screens and thick, black smoke billowing around one of the twin towers. I had no idea what it was. At the time, I didn't even know what the World Trade Center was. My first assumption was that it was a building in a far-off land. Then they showed the Pentagon, billowing with smoke as well. That's when I first realized that something terrible had happened here.

But I knew I had to make it to class anyway, so off I went, confused. The lit instructor told us that class was cancelled and we could go home if we wanted, or we could stay and watch what was happening in New York and D.C. I chose to stay. This seemed incredibly important and I wanted to know what was going on. Surely there couldn't have been a terrorist attack here...like everyone was talking about. That stuff doesn't happen here.

I sat there, listening to reporters just as baffled as I was. Then I saw a plane hit the second tower. Shortly after, I, along with many of my classmates, watched the towers - steel towers - crumble to the ground and people running for their lives on the streets below.

None of this had really sunk in yet. I was overcome by shock. I left, and as I walked to my car I called my mom to tell her what I'd just seen. She didn't believe me at first. It wasn't until I got home, had watched more coverage to get more information, and then gotten online later that day. Already there were stories. The loved ones of the passengers on the planes relating the last phone calls of sons, daughters, mothers, brothers, calling to say goodbye. That's when I broke down.

All of this - the memories, the emotions - came crashing back last night. I reflected on that day five years ago yesterday for a little bit. But I tried to push it away and focus on the good things in life now. I went to the gym after work, where every TV was turned to 9/11 coverage. I have my arm radio programmed to a couple of these stations so I listened to it for a while. They played the footage of five years ago, as it happened. And all of a sudden, it was five years ago, and I was sitting in that classroom watching it happen all over again. I had blocked out the sound, in my mind. I had forgotten the cries of terror, the people in the background saying, "I don't want to die, I don't want to die," I had forgotten that they showed someone leaping from one of the towers. I had forgotten the images of the people on the streets, watching it. It was too much. I nearly started crying right there in the gym. I had to fight back the tears. I decided it was a good time to switch my radio to some music. Once I was safe in my car, then I let it out.

Remember hearing about how WWII veterans who saw the first part of Saving Private Ryan had terrible reactions to it? How it vividly brought everything back to them? I thought I was ready to see United 93, or World Trade Center... but it's too soon. I have a feeling I would react in much the same way. It's too soon.

If you get the chance to pick up a book, I suggest "Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close" by Jonathan Safron Foer. September 11th is a significant, underlying theme and very articulately laced in. Foer candidly writes about some aspects in a way I had never pictured it. It's worth checking out. It's a way to think about that terrible day in a less harsh way.

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