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Posts Tagged ‘9/11’

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Today, September 10, marks the 13th Anniversary since the last day the United States was “normal.” I am not really sure what I was doing on September 10, 2001 specifically. I dropped my son off at the high school – not sure if I took my daughter or if she caught a ride with her friends. I took my youngest to middle school. It was a Monday so I went to work at my church. And I was still fresh off my trip to my brother’s funeral in Alabama. There were still sad moments during the day. I worked my three hours and went home to grab lunch. More than likely, I turned the television on to watch the rest of the noon news before one of my daytime shows started. I’m sure I fixed dinner that evening after my husband and kids were home from work and school.

According to USA Today’s online article “The Day Before,” items that the American people were reading about or watching on the news concerned the trial of actor Robert Blake, suicide bombings in Istanbul, Michael Jackson’s first live concert in quite awhile at Madison Square Garden, and President Bush’s trip to Florida. It was by all accounts, a day just like thousands of days that had come before. But that would all soon change.

Just like those alive on December 7, 1941 or November 22, 1963, we all know where we were and what we were doing the morning of September 11. I’ve written before of my memories and thoughts. Before we realized it, whatever we considered “normal” was gone. For many days the airspace over my house – close to Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport – was silent. Growing up near an air base in Ohio and living in my present home for so long, airplane noise had always been normal for me. The silence overhead was eerie. People walked around with a look on their face as if they didn’t know whether to be sad, confused, or angry. Everyone wanted to talk about it. Most of us were glued to our televisions as those horrific scenes were played over and over again and listened to the stories of those who had escaped from the towers, the Pentagon, or had heard their loved one’s last words via a cell phone high above a Pennsylvania field.

When the airlines began flying again, instead of the “normal” sounds above, I would look up and wonder if there would be another plane right on the heels of 9/11. What used to be normal for travelers had all changed. There was a list of banned items, new rules and restrictions in place for luggage, and no way to see your loved one’s off in the terminal just before boarding. When family would fly in to D/FW in order to catch another flight somewhere else, there wasn’t any way that I could go visit with them until they left; it just wasn’t allowed anymore.

Children grew frightened. The American people pulled together – at least for a short time – because it was OUR country that was attacked; OUR people were killed; OUR airlines were hijacked. Churches were packed with people looking for answers and praying for the nation.

And normal now? Homeland Security Agency – part of the government that didn’t exist 13 years ago today. Pat downs, luggage inspection, and getting body scans at airports. New vocabulary has entered our lexicon: Al-Queda, Taliban, “weapons of mass destruction,” ground zero (meaning where the twin towers once stood), and the war on terror. Children born after September 11, 2001 (and some that were young) will never know a world of “normal.”

This is a sad anniversary – the Last Day of Normal.

 

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Not long after 9/11, I wrote an article on my personal web site to express my thoughts and my actions on the events that occurred on that horrible day. Then five years later, I wrote an update. Here are my words:

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FIVE YEARS LATER
September 11, 2006: Five years after the attack that claimed thousands of lives and shattered the illusion of safety that America had strived to achieve for so long, the question seems to be “are we any safer now?”  Most of the editorials seem to believe that we are not.  The threat is still there around the next corner.  We have been fighting the war on terror almost as long now – on the battlefront, in a middle eastern country that some believe we are right to be fighting and some believe its wrong – we fight terror on the information superhighway, over the telephone lines, through our many forms of media, and for some people – in their own homes.  Measures the government and private industry has instituted in the last five years include: airport safety, immigration arguments, thorough background checks of some employees, the Patriot Act and much more.  More importantly – what hasn’t changed?  What safety measures are lacking?  Many entered churches (some for the first time) after 9/11 to pray for the country, for those who had perished, for comfort, and for themselves.  How many of those are still worshipping regularly?  How many have turned away from our Creator as the war in Afghanistan and Iraq continues?  How many mothers have listened in fear to news reports of roadside bombings in an area where their sons and daughters are deployed?  And the biggest question – how do we fight an ideaology that wants only death for free Americans?  We can push education – educate others to be tolerant and compassionate.  America, however, can’t dictate what other countries are teaching their young people.  What does it tell the world, when Americans can’t even begin to be compassionate to one another?  Each day there are still horrendous acts taking place – right in our cities, in our suburbs, in the rural communities, in our companies and industries, and right in our backyards.  Not only do strangers murder each other but parents and children talk to each other with venomous hate.  What do we show the rest of the world when we can’t even get along?
Are we safer today than 5 years ago?  Not really.  We all like to think we are.  We like to cling to that illusion that was shattered so instantly on 9/11 that we are a little safer.  Can we live our lives in fear and terror?  No – because as soon as we start – they have won the battle.  We have to live – go to work, to play, to worship, to school, to enjoy our families, create friendships and be friends – or we aren’t really living.  If we throw up our hands and say “why bother”, we have handed those terrorists our lives.

THEN
This page is dedicated to all those men and women, ordinary citizens, police heroes and fire fighter heroes, airline pilots and flight attendants, business travelers and military personnel who lost their lives on September 11, 2001 in New York, Pennsylvania and Washington D.C. And for the families of the thousands of victims – not only has this been your tragedy – but a world’s tragedy – a nation’s tragedy – and for each of us, our own personal tragedy.

I grew up in the home of parents who had both lived through the Great Depression and World War II. They had lived in Japan after the war and saw the aftermath of the bombs. My grandparents had lived through World War I and had visited many cities in Europe and saw the aftermath of the wars there. My great-grandfather, James House, fought for the Union in the Civil War. My grandfather, Glen Johnson, served in WWI and was in the service during WWII and the Korean War. My father served in WWII. Several cousins and family members went to Viet Nam. Another cousin was active during the Gulf War. I grew up listening to stories about the tone of the world before December 7, 1941. I heard and have seen news stories showing the bombing of Pearl Harbor. My family relayed their own personal opinions and how that day affected them. Until September 11th, I never completely understood their words. And unfortunately – at 8:45 a.m. that morning – I realized exactly what their words meant. I realized how their world had changed – just as mine changed that morning. I realized from that moment on – nothing I had ever known would hold the same meaning for me. I realized that I had not been desensitized by the media. I cried and my heart wept for those who died, those who fought the hijackers, those who were left without spouses, those children who lost parents, and the world.

Less than two weeks previous to September 11th, I lost my brother to cancer. I was already feeling sorrow and sadness. As events unfolded on every television channel the morning of the tragedy, I was too numb to put down in words exactly what I was seeing, hearing and feeling. I emailed my husband with each new piece of information. A few days later, when my mind began to sort everything out, I wrote my feelings in a journal I keep.

Emails that I wrote to my husband:

Date: Tue, 11 Sep 2001
Subject: Bomb at Pentagon
Honey, Now I just heard & am seeing on NBC that a bomb has exploded at a heliport by pentagon. Lots of smoke – said a significant blast.  Looks terrible. Pentagon shook & windows rattled. Reporter said could smell acidic smell (like when a florescent light goes bad) – now they are saying highly sophisticated attack. Later, Love, Wendy

Date: Tue, 11 Sep 2001
Now they are saying – might be another plane – that crashed into heliport at pentagon. Getting too scary. White house has been evacuated – Bush is in Florida but he will be leaving soon to get back to DC – reporters are getting jumpy when they hear aircraft. Hope Cheney is underground – just in case Bush’s plane is targeted upon his return trip.

Date: Tue, 11 Sep 2001
Supposedly the people they’ve heard that are claiming responsibility is people for Palestinian Liberation. One of the airplanes that hit World Trade Center was an American Airlines jet hijacked going from Boston to LA (I’m glad you’re not traveling right now!)

Date: Tue, 11 Sep 2001
FAA has shut down ALL air traffic Nation Wide

Date: Tue, 11 Sep 2001

Subject: Another one
Reporter just said & just showed on NBC – another explosion at WTC – don’t know if this is residual or not. Another explosion on both sides (left & right) buildings of WTC. Felt 2 blocks from there. Manhattan is covered in smoke right now. Pictures are horrible. People are running – reminds me of Independence Day when everyone starts running away.. Now showing from harbor view. Confirmed that a plane was what went down at the Pentagon. Can’t even see one of the WTC buildings – only smoke & flames. Evacuating all critical buildings (probably in DC as well as NY).

Emails I sent others:

To my sister – Date: Tue, 11 Sep 2001
Watching the news this morning – very disturbing. Pretty scary as well.

To my sister – Date: Tue, 11 Sep 2001
I know this will sound horrible – I’m glad none of this happened last week or we would have had to figure out another way there.[referencing our brother's funeral] Very hard to comprehend. People are filling reunion arena to donate blood.[referencing the big arena in the area] My mother-in-law called while I was at work to make sure Charlie wasn’t traveling. I called her back & told her we were all here & okay & no one was in the air. Later, Wendy

To my sister – Date: Tue, 11 Sep 2001
Emailed one of the Johnson cousins – Virginia – she’s an atty in DC. She’s okay & emailed me about leaving one courthouse & going to another one when they closed it & listening to the military jets overhead. Charlie has flown on Flt 11 from Boston Logan before – I thought it was one of those that he’s been on before. Told him I was glad today that he’s not with Nokia or traveling at this point.

To one of my genealogy cousins – Date: Tue, 11 Sep 2001
Thanks for replying, Virginia. I’ve found out everyone I’m related to or know who are in / around NY or DC or flying are okay. My niece is a flight attendant with Frontier & she was on the ground in Portland when all you know what broke out. Wendy

To my sister – Date: Thu, 13 Sep 2001
Well – I had to get out of the house for awhile today. This morning during a lull in getting stuff done around here – everything just hit me from the past couple weeks, . . .  what is going on in this country. Went to the library & looked at all their genealogy stuff. Just needed to do something else with my mind.

To my sister – Date: Fri, 14 Sep 2001
Only worked until noon today. My heart just isn’t in it. The church was also opened for anyone to come in during the noon hour for prayer. I went into the sanctuary after I turned my computer off & there were already several people there including a couple who just happened to wander in – glad they felt they could.

From my Journal:

14 Sept 01
Three days ago the world fell apart. 9-11. After dropping [my son & daughter] at school & getting gas, [my youngest daughter] & I were at Main St. crossing the bridge over I-35E when the breaking story hit KLUV that a plane had crashed into one of the World Trace Center towers in NY. First they thought it was a small plane & not even a jet. I immediately told [my youngest daughter] that terrorists had struck the center again. That they’d tried to bomb it in 93 and now this. She wanted to know what that would do and why there. Tried to explain world economics, etc. No way could I believe it was an accident. Once back at home I called [my husband] to give him news & then turned on NBC news. The pictures were bad. Smoke pouring out of the #1 tower not quite at the top. Then horribly as I & the nation watched 20 minutes after the first crash came a 2nd one into the 2nd tower. How many had died just in those 2 crashes? As I typed on the email my thoughts could not begin to comprehend the destruction. 20 minutes from that 2nd attack came a 3rd – directed this time in DC at the Pentagon. Bush had already spoken to the nation from his stop in Sarasota, Florida. My concern was to get the Pres. someplace safe as well as VP Cheney. If terrorists could strike the Pentagon, they could hit other DC places. Air travel was stopped. All planes grounded. Then word came that a missing flight had crashed in PA. In an empty field. People on board that plane had decided to stop the terrorism at the cost of their own lives but not taking the lives of other innocent people. I hadn’t been at work too long when not only the 2nd building that was hit collapse to the ground but so did the 1st one. How many rescuers were already in there? How many lives lost? The reporters kept calling it surreal because that was the only description. It looked like something out of a spy movie. Except it was all real. No Spielberg behind the camera. No Bruce Willis or Rambo who was going to take out the men responsible. No good guy to win over the bad. The 1st name on everyone’s lips was Osama bin Laden – the mastermind. Not Carlos the Jackal this time unless he was doing this from wherever they have put him. No Harvey Keitel in a movie costume. Just pure evil. I wasn’t alive when Pearl Harbor was attacked. I’ve heard about it all my life from parents who were alive then. But I don’t think this could compare. Then we knew who had hurt us. We had a geographic location to strike back at. This is not a country who has struck. It is a faction. I wasn’t sure if Hollywood had desensitized me against such brutality, destruction & evil but it hadn’t. Yesterday it felt as if my life had crumbled. I lost Jim over a week ago on Aug. 31st. My family was emotionally torn by other stuff this week. I just cried & cried & cried. Keeping busy at home wasn’t helping. I left the house for the quiet of the library. No TVs there & no radios. For over an hour I poured over immigration lists and settler books. Those ancestors of mine, long dead – who faced war in the form of the Revolution – the war that created the Patriotism we are witnessing today. The Civil War – which tried to bring a nation torn apart by different political views together. The wars of the 20th century. WWI which Granddad was a part of. WWII – which my father was a part of. Korea – Viet Nam – the Persian Gulf War. What type of war will this now be? Can we stop the terrorism for future generations? Can we ever return to the carefree life we had before Tuesday morning? Can we ever see a plane overhead & not wonder or think about the 4 planes that were hijacked? Can we ever see a new picture of the Manhattan skyline & remember the twin towers that graced the picture & remember those who lost lives & loved ones in that terrorist massacre?

16 Sept 01
Sunday morning. I’m sure the church will be full today. There was a prayer service Friday at noon. Pres. Bush declared that a National Day of Prayer and Mourning. I stopped work at noon & went into the sanctuary. There were already several folks there. I prayed and cried. Then I went home. We watched “Independence Day” – at least in that movie we know what & who we are fighting. Couldn’t get to sleep last night. Tossed & turned. Last night took me a long time to get to sleep.

30 Oct 01
This weekend will be 4 weeks since the US started bombing Afghanistan. That really doesn’t bother me. I’m just hopeful that all the “new” security measures we are implementing don’t go too overboard & encroach on the freedoms we do have. Isn’t that the reason we are trying to defeat the terrorists? So we can keep our freedom? Feel like October has just whooshed by. People are still rasing money to send to the victims of the 9-11 terrorists attacks. Only problem is that it becomes such a normal part of every day life that people may start to forget the terrible thing that brought us to where we are. At least I’m back to sleeping at night.

11 Nov 01 Veterans Day.
Time to think about all those military persons who have gone before us making sure our nation is safe. My g-grandfather, James House, who I never knew, fought for the Union in the Civil War. Granddad – active roles in WWI, WWII & Korea. Dad who served during WWII – his brothers doing the same. My cousin in Vietnam as well as [other cousins].

TODAY – 12 Years Later

Not long ago we were watching a program on the Smithsonian Channel about 9/11 and before too long I felt tears in my eyes. Even though twelve years has passed, I still feel the sorrow that I did on that day. Though I didn’t lose anyone in that attack, it was personal. Less than two weeks prior to 9/11, my brother passed away (I have referenced this above). I never wanted to lose my brother but if he had passed away at any time after 9/11, we would never have been able to grab a flight, get to the airports at the last minute and make the funeral the day after his death. My niece was a flight attendant for Frontier Airlines during that time. I spent that morning with my heart in my throat until I knew that she was on the ground and safe. The fall of 2000 my husband had accepted a job with another company. He really didn’t want to leave Nokia but the salary offer, benefits, and signing bonus was too much to walk away from. The job ended in 2002 – but – if he had stayed with Nokia, he quite possibly could have been on one of those doomed flights as he had flown on EVERY SINGLE ONE of them prior to leaving Nokia. My first born grandson – born just months prior to 9/11 – has only known America after 9/11. He will never know what it’s like to have loved ones see him off from the terminal of an airport. He won’t be able to carry a pocketknife – something most men just always did – even on an airplane. It was as common as carrying their wallets. The term “Al Queda” will always be a part of the world’s vocabulary.  Each time people see a low flying aircraft – especially over New York City or Washington D.C. – they will fear another 9/11.

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My Thoughts On 9/11

On my personal web page I wrote a Tribute to those whose lives were touched and changed on September 11, 2001. I then wrote a follow-up (which I added at the beginning of the page) in 2006. I won’t repeat that post here – but if you want to read, feel free.

And let us all remember those events which have now come to shape our lives in every thing we do.  Let us remember how we gained our freedom over 200 years ago and why we will always fight for that.  Whether we agree or disagree on politics, philosophy, or anything else – we must always remember we are AMERICANS – first and foremost! And we will not hand ANY terrorist our freedom.

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I won’t be the only one remembering those who were killed seven years ago.  There will be many articles, posts and tributes written today in memory of the lives taken away so violently and without purpose on September 11, 2001.  So today – like the strike at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 was to our parents’ or grandparents’ generations – we remember what we were doing, who we were with, our first reaction, and how we felt that day and in the days to follow.

September 11th wasn’t the start of the sadness for me that year.  I’d learned in mid-summer that my brother was dying of pancreatic cancer.  An illness that lurked deep inside him, causing him immeasureable suffering for two years, and created a deep chasm of anger and guilt between him and other family members.

On Saturday, the 25th of August I was able to fly to Alabama and see my brother one last time.  He lay comatose, a skeleton of the person that he used to be, and unresponsive to our words.  My sister and mom had also come in so we all shared a hotel room not far from my brother’s home.  All weekend we waited for the inevitable – not wishing it to be – just knowing it would be . . . sometime.  Before I left on Monday, I kissed him one more time, soaking in the warmth of his skin, and running my hand over his hair, memorizing the feel of it on my hand.  I had spent hours just talking to him, hoping that he heard not only with his ears but with his heart.  That he knew how much he meant to me and how much I loved him.

That next Friday, August 31st, I received the call that I knew was coming but didn’t want to answer.  He had fought hard, but had begun in the 10th round instead of sooner.  Once again, I found myself on an airplane – this time with the rest of my family – as we made our way east toward Alabama and a funeral.  There were so many people who told us how he had touched their lives and they were better for knowing him – it made me proud that I’d had a brother like that.

Several days later we arrived home still in a state of grief and sadness.  And so I still felt that weight on my heart the morning of September 11th as I was driving my youngest daughter to school.  Here is an excerpt of what I wrote in a journal three days later:

14 Sept 01

Three days ago the world fell apart. 9-11. After dropping [my son & daughter] at school & getting gas, [my youngest daughter] & I were at Main St. crossing the bridge over I-35E when the breaking story hit KLUV that a plane had crashed into one of the World Trade Center towers in NY. First they thought it was a small plane & not even a jet. I immediately told [my youngest daughter] that terrorists had struck the center again. That they’d tried to bomb it in 93 and now this. She wanted to know what that would do and why there. Tried to explain world economics, etc. No way could I believe it was an accident. Once back at home I called [my husband] to give him news & then turned on NBC news. The pictures were bad. Smoke pouring out of the #1 tower not quite at the top. Then horribly as I & the nation watched 20 minutes after the first crash came a 2nd one into the 2nd tower. How many had died just in those 2 crashes? As I typed on the email my thoughts could not begin to comprehend the destruction. 20 minutes from that 2nd attack came a 3rd – directed this time in DC at the Pentagon. Bush had already spoken to the nation from his stop in Sarasota, Florida. My concern was to get the Pres. someplace safe as well as VP Cheney. If terrorists could strike the Pentagon, they could hit other DC places. Air travel was stopped. All planes grounded. Then word came that a missing flight had crashed in PA. In an empty field. People on board that plane had decided to stop the terrorism at the cost of their own lives but not taking the lives of other innocent people. I hadn’t been at work too long when not only the 2nd building that was hit collapse to the ground but so did the 1st one. How many rescuers were already in there? How many lives lost? The reporters kept calling it surreal because that was the only description. It looked like something out of a spy movie. Except it was all real. No Spielberg behind the camera. No Bruce Willis or Rambo who was going to take out the men responsible. No good guy to win over the bad. The 1st name on everyone’s lips was Osama bin Laden – the mastermind. Not Carlos the Jackal this time unless he was doing this from wherever they have put him. No Harvey Keitel in a movie costume. Just pure evil. I wasn’t alive when Pearl Harbor was attacked. I’ve heard about it all my life from parents who were alive then. But I don’t think this could compare. Then we knew who had hurt us. We had a geographic location to strike back at. This is not a country who has struck. It is a faction. I wasn’t sure if Hollywood had desensitized me against such brutality, destruction & evil but it hadn’t. Yesterday it felt as if my life had crumbled. I lost Jim over a week ago on Aug. 31st. My family was emotionally torn by other stuff this week. I just cried & cried & cried. Keeping busy at home wasn’t helping. I left the house for the quiet of the library. No TVs there & no radios. For over an hour I poured over immigration lists and settler books. Those ancestors of mine, long dead – who faced war in the form of the Revolution – the war that created the Patriotism we are witnessing today. The Civil War – which tried to bring a nation torn apart by different political views together. The the wars of the 20th century. WWI which Granddad was a part of. WWII – which my father was a part of. Korea – Viet Nam – the Persian Gulf War. What type of war will this now be? Can we stop the terrorism for future generations? Can we ever return to the carefree life we had before Tuesday morning? Can we ever see a plane overhead & not wonder or think about the 4 planes that were hijacked? Can we ever see a new picture of the Manhattan skyline & remember the twin towers that graced the picture & remember those who lost lives & loved ones in that terrorist massacre?

And then another piece I wrote to mark the 5th anniversary:

September 11, 2006: Five years after the attack that claimed thousands of lives and shattered the illusion of safety that America had strived to achieve for so long, the question seems to be “are we any safer now?”  Most of the editorials seem to believe that we are not.  The threat is still there around the next corner.  We have been fighting the war on terror almost as long now – on the battlefront, in a middle eastern country that some believe we are right to be fighting and some believe its wrong – we fight terror on the information superhighway, over the telephone lines, through our many forms of media, and for some people – in their own homes.  Measures the government and private industry has instituted in the last five years include: airport safety, immigration arguments, thorough background checks of some employees, the Patriot Act and much more.  More importantly – what hasn’t changed?  What safety measures are lacking?  Many entered churches (some for the first time) after 9/11 to pray for the country, for those who had perished, for comfort, and for themselves.  How many of those are still worshipping regularly?  How many have turned away from our Creator as the war in Afghanistan and Iraq continues?  How many mothers have listened in fear to news reports of roadside bombings in an area where their sons and daughters are deployed?  And the biggest question – how do we fight an ideaology that wants only death for free Americans?  We can push education – educate others to be tolerant and compassionate.  America, however, can’t dictate what other countries are teaching their young people.  What does it tell the world, when Americans can’t even begin to be compassionate to one another?  Each day there are still horrendous acts taking place – right in our cities, in our suburbs, in the rural communities, in our companies and industries, and right in our backyards.  Not only do strangers murder each other but parents and children talk to each other with venomous hate.  What do we show the rest of the world when we can’t even get along?

Are we safer today than 5 years ago?  Not really.  We all like to think we are.  We like to cling to that illusion that was shattered so instantly on 9/11 that we are a little safer.  Can we live our lives in fear and terror?  No – because as soon as we start – they have won the battle.  We have to live – go to work, to play, to worship, to school, to enjoy our families, create friendships and be friends – or we aren’t really living.  If we throw up our hands and say “why bother”, we have handed those terrorists our lives.

And so this morning, just as I was pulling into the drive to drop my grandson off at school – on this September 11th – the radio babble was shattered by words that were spoken seven years ago: ” . . . disturbing images . . . plane crashed into one of the World Trade Centers . . . ” and then silence.  A silence that was filled with pain, anguish and sorrow.  Tears welled up in my eyes as I felt everything I did seven years ago.  I was once again back on Main Street with my daughter in the car driving on the bridge over I-35E.  Grief over my brother’s death flooded back just as if it had been as recent as it had seven years ago.  Then “New York Minute” by Don Henley began, and I felt the tears slide from my eyes. 

May we always remember.

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