Sunday, September 11, 2011

I remember

As life goes on, I become more aware of my desire to have life events and stories captured on my "online scrapbook" {ie: this blog}. So bear with all the long tales from the past. They are not for you, really. They are for my kids, someday.

"On that terrible day, a nation became a neighbourhood, all Americans became New Yorkers" Gov. George Pataki

There are a few events that happen in your life that are "where were you when" events. They are things that rock the nation, and moments in time that will never be forgotten. A very popular one was when President Kennedy was shot. But I was not alive back then. There are a few of these events that have happened in my lifetime. When the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded in 1986, I was watching it on tv, in an assembly in the gym at my school. When Princess Diana was killed in 1997, I was watching tv (a show, FX, which was actually produced by Dodi Al Fayad), when they interrupted the broadcast to share the sad news.

Tuesday September 11, 2011 started out just as normal for me as for all those people who died, I'd imagine. I got up and went to work in a big city, just like they did. I was sitting at my desk doing the early morning deposit for A Rent A Car at Gyro Mazda. We always had easy listening music on the radio. The kind of stations that play Lionel Ritchie songs, and "Lady in Red" and stuff like that. Sometime right after 8:45, they interrupted the regular radio programming, and shared the devastating news of the first plane, flown into the first tower.
Gyro Mazda, the building I worked in. Pic from google maps.

We were all incredulous. Who would do that? It was being initially reported as a pilot error. And we all looked at each other. Who could make THAT kind of gross error in judgment? It's not like you couldn't see the biggest building ever! "We" included my office mates. The accounting dept was one large room, no partitions between desks. Jennifer was an immigrant from England, and "C of E" (Church of England). Silva was an immigrant from Slovenia and Roman Catholic. Shiraz was an East Indian immigrant from Africa and a Muslim. And me, just "from there" and a Christian. The accents (and lunchtime cuisine) we had going on in there was great!

When the 2nd tower was hit, we realized something bigger was going on, and we gave up the radio in favour of the tv in the showroom downstairs. We all called our families at home. Had they heard? Were they watching? What is happening? Then reports of more planes and more attacks. I saw the towers fall on tv. It was surreal and unbelievable devastation. Being in the age of information and technology, there are pictures and video a-plenty. Seeing them again brings back the hollow-chest, sinking feeling that you had when seeing it all unfold. I guess I would describe my mood as shock, perhaps. People were encouraged to evacuate the city and go home, if they did not live there. I decided to stay at work. I was not "being brave", I just was honestly not scared, personally, for my life. If it happened now, I think I would be, but perhaps since nothing had ever happened like that, I didn't quite know what to make of it.

There was such pandemonium. A plane went down in Pittsburgh with no other details given. Brian lived in Pittsburgh. We were good friends at the time. I had my mom log into my AOL Instant Messenger account and see if she could contact him. He was fine. Whew.

They landed ALL the planes in the sky. Thousands of people, stranded. People that lived near Pearson International were encouraged to open their homes to strangers in need of accommodation for a few nights. I wished I lived near the airport to help out.

After the towers fell, I went back to work upstairs (away from the tv) and listened all day as the news unfolded. The loss of life and dramatic display of terror were almost too much to wrap your head around, in such a short amount of time.

My drive home, although only 35 km (21miles), usually took about 1 to 1.5 hours (gotta love traffic!). Not that day. By the time I left work at 6pm, every one was home. I could count on one hand the number of cars I saw on the Don Valley Pkwy and the 404. It was eery. It took me less than 30 minutes to get home. We watched all the devastating news on tv that night of course. With each increasing minute it was just so hard to fathom HOW and WHY.

I can't remember if it was confirmed that same day, or the next day as to the purpose of the attacks. My co-worker Shiraz was outraged and incredulous. This was not his religion, he insisted. These people are crazy. I was really impressed with President Bush and the speeches he gave. Being Canadian, his speeches were never heard, or even known about in Canada (unless you really followed politics, which I do not), so that was really the first time I'd heard him speak. The devastation of the day began to really set in. What would I say to my husband, on a final phone call to say goodbye, moments before he jumped from a 100+ story building, or his plane crashed to the ground? What would I do if I were there? God's grace.

The stories of the lives of the victims and survivors are so touching. Everyone was so unbelievably brave. The way that the country united on that day was visible to an outsider. Americans, you should be proud of the way you banded together, and your resiliance. It makes me proud for my American children. Of course, since I listen to country music, there were quite a few songs sung about the event, and they still make me cry to hear them. Where Were You When the World Stopped Turning by Alan Jackson and Have You Forgotten by Daryl Worley are two of my faves.

After the attacks, the North American world changed forever. The American people sacrificed personal freedoms forever, in an attempt to feel protected from the evil outside, and within. The first time I tried to cross the border post 9/11 I realized the change. The first time I flew in an airplane after those attacks, I realized the change. What a remarkable difference. For a long long time when driving, you had to cross the border twice in order to enter the USA (two different and complete check-throughs), but only once to get back into Canada. And we all know the impact it's had on flying - with so many restrictions it's almost ridiculous - except for the fact that they are saving our lives. When I get in a bad mood about having to throw away all the liquids for my babies or not being allowed to bring ANY carryons at all (this did happen to Brian in 2010, when there had been a bomb on a plane a few days prior) - I remember that I would rather be alive right now, than a tragic part of history.

 It made my immigration to the USA ten times more difficult and expensive. After 9/11 they began changing all the rules and all the visas. Trust was broken, and it was time to clamp down. I understand completely, even with the personal inconveniences I was caused. A superpower was broken on the outside, but its spirit remained strong.

This is how Ground Zero looked in 2002 when I was there. Found a picture of it on Wiki.
 I visited New York City for the first time in 2002. We went and visited Ground Zero, where the towers used to stand tall. We didn't take any pictures of it, and I don't know why. That is a big regret, I wish I had. We ate lunch at a hotdog/gyro place right at the base of the towers, and tried to imagine how it must have been that day, buried in debris, soot and ash. Brian told us how they used to stand at the base and make people look straight up (it makes you fall over/get dizzy). With so many tall buildings around it was hard to imagine something even twice that tall. 
There were memorials and peoples names written all over the construction boards keeping people back/out.

There have been lots of theories, controversy and conspiracies about the events that occurred that day. I don't know if they are true or not. And it's something we'll never be able to know for sure, so it seems pointless wasting too much time dwelling on it. The fact remains that 3,497 people lost their lives that day, (including 27 Canadians that were killed in the attack). They died horrifically, and were brave. They didn't deserve what got. And we will never forget them. God is still on the throne. And He is faithful.

It was a day that was a turning point in American history. I'll not forgot that day or those blessed people as long as I live.

God Bless America

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