Sunday, September 10, 2006

Where Were You on 9/11?

I suppose this will be the defining question for Gen-X and the Millennials much as “Where were you when President Kennedy was assassinated?” was for us Baby Boomers.

I was in my sixth grade junior high school class when Mrs. Kirkpatrick turned on the television and we heard the news on that November day back in 1963. I was shocked. How could this be? A classmate began weeping and we tried to console her. We were confused, curious and sad. And surprisingly, I saw smugness and stifled glee among some young Southerners who reflected their parents’ distain of the slain President because of his civil rights stance.

Five years ago on September 11, I was on my job at DuPage County Human Services. When we heard the news, again I asked, “How can this be?” We were near enough to Chicago to immediately worry about whether Chicago would be attacked. Our government building was closed and we were sent home to follow the news.

When we returned the next day, we began to see the fallout. Many callers I spoke with only wanted someone to talk to them. One woman was nearly hysterical. In the following weeks I talked to the wife of a Chicago cab driver looking for somewhere to get food. No one would get into her husband’s cab because he “looked like a terrorist.” I tried to advise a United Airlines executive. He’d gone to New York after the attacks to help, and when he returned home, his job was gone. The economy took a big hit and I was called upon to help the wounded with food, housing, medical resources or shoes for their kids. It was depressing, and I decided to go back to school to study graphic design. I gave up trying to save the world. It was too sad.


Tim said...

I remember I was working a 12-hour shift on the last job I had within the U.S. My position was held far in the back of the factory, and as I was coming to the front for supplies, I noticed there was a large crowd huddled around the break room, where a t.v. sits near the window.

Because many of the employess often stop by there for a moment or two to see the latest sport stats or otherwise, I really didn't think much of it, and happily went back to work.

Lunch rolled around, and as I neared the break room, these folks were still huddled around the t.v. - I'm thinking, "Wow, must be some game. As I got closer to the t.v., I realized it wasn't a game, and instead saw the massive plumes of smoke eminating from what was left of the towers.

I immediately asked what on earth happened, and as someone told me it was as if it were pouring into my ears in slow motion; a morphine induced hallucination or the like.

I remember coming home to a shocked wife, who had been glued to the screen that entire day. We continued to watch this as we half-heartedly ate our dinner . . .

Two months later, as I rode through NYC on my way to my flight to Norway, we passed the rubble - it was all too surreal. Though I was never directly affected by 9.11, the thought of it even happening still fills me with an odd sense of "black".

Sheila said...

Today is an odd day in the U.S. We are remembering those who died on 9/11 while at the same time questioning the war that came afterwards. Flags fly at half mast and I can't help but feel a great sadness that so many lives were ended all too soon. I guess the closest event I can liken to 9/11 is the Oklahoma City bombing of the federal building there.

We are vulnerable to madmen of all kinds. Life is indeed fragile.