Monday, September 11, 2006

Remembering . . .

This is the first year that I haven't felt an overwhelming sadness, remembering the events of September 11, 2001. Maybe it's finally starting to heal. If I feel like that, after 5 years, and I had no connection to any of those who died that day, nor really any connection to anyone really affected by what happened, other than that I live in the same country, the same state -- how must the families feel? Like it happened yesterday? Like it's a nightmare that they'll never wake up from?

I remember thinking, "How could the buildings have fallen down?" I was in denial for about a month. I'd never seen them in person. They were built when I was a child, but I don't remember hearing about it. The encyclopedia I had as a child (World Book from the early 70's) shows them not yet completed. I vaguely remember the 1993 bombing, and the little information I gleaned from the coverage of that event and still remembered eight years later was all I knew about these buildings. There are two towers? Did I know that before the morning of September 11? If someone had said to me, "describe the World Trade Center," before that morning, I don't know what I would have been able to say. Not much detail at all. Odd that I would mourn the passing of buildings that I hardly knew. . .

I spent the morning thinking it couldn't be as bad as the man on the radio was saying. I was at home when the first plane hit, but they thought it was some small plane, a tragic accident. If I have time later I want to write another post describing in detail how I heard, but anyway, I was in the car, driving down the driveway, when the second plane hit. I was on my way to a Bible study with a group of women I hardly knew -- well, I only knew one of them, and only just a little. The rest were strangers. It was the first meeting of this group. I'd been looking forward to it and a plane crash several hundred miles away wasn't going to keep me from going. If I'd still been home when the second plane hit, I probably would have stayed, but I wasn't.

"This guy is confused," I thought of the local talk show host, who I know to be an experienced radio man and not someone to give out false information. "I'm watching a second plane hit the other tower! I can't believe this!" He said something like that. "No," I thought, "he's watching a replay of the plane hitting the [first] tower. Someone's found video of what happened 15 min. ago and they showed it, and he just doesn't understand what he's seeing." Because I couldn't see the picture, of the first tower clearly billowing huge quantities of smoke, while a huge commercial plane slams into the second tower. So, it wasn't truly real to me.

I did ask the women running the Bible study to pray. Some of the women there knew about the first plane. I was apparently the only one who'd heard about the second plane. I still was thinking, however, "It's two small planes, it's a big fire, we need to pray that everyone can get out of the buildings." No idea still how big this was.

So, the Bible study started and we sat there for at least an hour, oblivious to what was going on. Eventually someone's phone rang, she stepped out to answer it and came back with the news that, "both towers have collapsed and 100,000 people are dead." My brain said, "No, that just can't be true. Buildings don't just collapse." Then the pastor came in and told us what had happened, "There might still be more planes . . . the Pentagon was hit too . . . yes, they were commercial, passenger airplanes . . ." The meeting hastily let out early and I got in my car and turned on the radio. A car bomb had gone off in front of some government building in Washington. [That turned out to be false.] I looked up into the sky above the small town I was driving through -- were more planes going to crash, here?

When I got home I sat and watched them replay the events I'd missed, again and again. My husband had stayed home from work, glued to the TV in disbelief. We sat and watched, scared and shaken.

How could a bunch of guys from so far away hate us so much that they'd do this? How could a bunch of terrorists believe so strongly in their cause that they'd be willing to die in the attack? How could this have been planned and carried out without anyone catching on and stopping it? How could those big tall buildings just fall down?

Now, five years later, I have different questions: How is it that we never went after these guys when the bombed the Cole? How could we so quickly forget what we learned and how we felt five years ago? We came together as a country and stopped our petty, partisan bickering. But only for a little while. How is it that many of us can't see the connection between the terrorist attacks we suffered and Iraq? How could we so quickly forget?