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10 years after: 9/11 memories September 9, 2011

Posted by vsap in Blogroll, Uncategorized, US Politics.
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I lost my job on August 31, 2001. I had just carted my daughter off to her freshman year of college. My wife was a secretary at the same school my son attended. In short, all was right with the world on September 11, 2001. Except, of course, I was in the beginning of a job search.

Living in the Chicago area at that time, whatever Michael Jordan did made news. On the morning of September 11, 2001, Jordan had retired. That was the lead on Yahoo news, my home page at the time. I looked at the headline, shrugged, and went to work sorting the freshly printed resumes and considering who should be the fortunate companies to receive them. Severance was good until the end of October, so I didn’t feel any hard stress, but I knew I had to get some interviews in quickly if I was going to have a job by the holiday season.

Then, the phone rang…still a land line back then. It was my wife:

“Do you see what’s happening?” she asked urgently.

“Michael Jordan retired. So what?” was my off-handed reply.

“Don’t you have the TV on?”

“No. I’m looking for a job.”

“I know. I know. But a plane just flew into the World Trade Center in New York!”

“What?” I replied, like it was absurd. Then I refreshed my screen and Michael Jordan disappeared and the first shot of smoke bellowing out of the side of the WTC appeared.

“Just turn on the TV. I’ll call you later,” she said.

I did as instructed and the horror of that day began to unfold in front of me.

After the second plane hit, the phone rang again.

“Daddy, what’s going on? Are we safe?” It was my daughter’s urgent voice this time. It took a little while to assure her that whoever the perpetrators were, they weren’t looking to destroy a small college in southern Wisconsin.

“But we’re close to Chicago. Couldn’t they try to destroy Chicago?” The balance between girl and woman hung on that question. Yes, I agreed reluctantly, if they were so armed I suppose they could take out the Hancock or Sears Tower but, again, that’s quite a distance from her.

“What if it’s nuclear?” she finally asked.

“If it is, then it wipes out everything for a hundred and fifty miles in every direction, so all of us will be gone. I don’t see that happening. What I do see happening is you calming down, praying, and just staying put until we know more. How’s that?”

“Okay, Daddy. I love you.”

“I love you, too, kid. I’ll call you later.”

This story was likely replayed a million times simultaneously across the nation on that day.

In the days after, I took on substitute teaching. The job market in Chicago dried up and I finally landed in Virginia, not more than fifty miles from the Pentagon. My brother-in-law commented, “Everyone wants to get away from there and you’re moving there!” It was true and the horror would begin again with the emergence of the DC Sniper on the scene, hot on the heels of 9/11 it seemed.

Nevertheless, the tragedy of 9/11 didn’t hit me hard until I visited the site of the WTC in April 2007. I had traveled to new York City several times in 1999 and 2000 for work. I had lunched around the WTC and our New York hosts were always proud of that landmark. Rightfully so.

The April 2007 visit was my first since 2000. I was crushed beyond measure. Furious at the loss of life. It may have been the first time my son saw me cry. I was full of vengeance. I remember hearing myself say, to myself, I hope, “Kill them all! Kill all of them!” then sobbing all the more.

Again, this was likely not unusual for even the toughest New Yorker. But I found myself, in 2007, where New Yorkers might have been in 2001, with unhealed wounds and hate in my heart. They had moved on, in some measure. Me, living far away, I had suppressed my feelings and never revealed them until this visit.

Crying does good. It cleanses, really. I enjoyed the rest of the time in New York and I have been back a couple of times since then. After all the wrangling about what to do with the site, something new has finally been planted. It spits in the eye of terrorist who believe their jihad will endure. It will not. But, by the grace of the Lord God of Israel, the American spirit will.

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