Today is Tuesday, September 11th, 2012.
If you haaaappen to be coming across this blog for the first time - you should know this is not normally a place for seriousness or introspection of any kind. I am normally, as I often put it, a dancing bear. Tune in any other day and you will be tuning into ludicrousness and general shenanigans.
But, today is not really for ludicrousness and shenanigans. Today is a Tuesday, September 11th, much like it was 11 (Jebus I can't even believe it) years ago.
Since I have only had this blog for a few months, I've never told my September 11th story on here and in doing so I'm going to reveal a few things about myself that you might not know (look out ya'll, Stork is naked). But every year on this day, I watch/listen to other peoples 'where I was' stories because I'm fascinated, and I'm particularly fascinated this year because of my new bloggy universe.
I'm particularly interested in what it was like for people who were not on the east coast of the US when it happened. If you were on the west coast of the US - did someone wake you up and tell you, or did you wake up and the whole world was on fire? If you were in a different country, how was it perceived? What was it like if you didn't know anyone personally in DC or NYC?
Two admissions before I get into my story.
One thing you may not know about me - I consider myself from D.C. Fun fact for those unfamiliar - Washington D.C. itself is a teeny tiny spec of a diamond - if someone is driving you up the east coast and you take an inopportune 10 minute nap, you may miss it. Most people who say they are from D.C. (as I do) actually live in Northern Virginia (NOVA) or southern Maryland. I'm from Nova, but I always say I'm from D.C. - because I am. I grew up a few miles away from the Pentagon (which again, even though they always call it D.C. is actually in Arlington, Virginia to prove my point).
The second thing to know about me, as with most people who were raised in D.C., one of my parents worked for the government. My Dad had a very-important & odd position in the government, and for most of my life worked in a building that would most certainly be considered a 'target' place to work. (If this peaks your curiosity, message me! I will spill in a one-on-one conversation happily).
On Tuesday, September 11th 2001, I was 19 years old. My family still lived in Nova, and I was going to college a few hours away.
It had only been a few months since I had seen the world trade center in person. My friends and I took a road trip (it's a five hour trip to NYC from DC - it was a fun over nighter I've done many times) and for maybe the second time in my life I stood in front of them.
Something to know if you were never lucky enough to see them in person - the pictures you see on TV, the holes you see the planes left in them, it doesn't do justice to how tall these buildings were. I'm frightened of heights - and standing in the courtyard listening to muzak and staring up at them was enough to get my knees to shake. I had been to the top of them many years before, but for some reason summer of 2001 I was too scared of the height thing to go to Windows on the World.
I was in my dorm, planning on sleeping in because I didn't have a class until 11 something. I heard our phone ring, and then my roommate, who we'll call Amy, screaming and hollering and asking me to wake up. So I did.
Amy had a relative that worked in one of the towers, and her Mom called her because she was watching the Today Show and up came a picture of one of the towers with a giant, fiery hole in it.
So we watched our little TV. I tried to tell Amy that I was sure her relative was fine, and that I was sure it was just like they were saying - probably a helicopter crash or a private plane, the fire would be out in no time.
In the back of my head I thought about the bomb from the 90s... And I kept thinking of how enormous those buildings were, and that even though it looked like a small hole (alarming, don't get me wrong) on TV, that in reality considering the size of those buildings, maybe I wasn't seeing it in the proper perspective and maybe it was something much, much bigger. But Stork likes to keep positive. So I of course kept that thought process to myself, and tried to shut my thoughts up altogether.
Then after maybe 5 minutes of watching, there appeared a silver object in the right corner of my screen getting closer. I literally thought "what the fuck is that?" and then BOOM. It slammed into the second building.
Amy screamed, I froze. Amy's hands went to her face and she kept repeating "Oh my G-d" to herself. I said nothing - I was in shock, and just thinking along in sync with the voices on television that were suddenly saying 'okay, this is on purpose'.
I sat on my bed, and watched the story unfold. Amy went out into the now very loud hall and got people to turn on their TVs who weren't awake. One of my hippie guy friends came in and watched with me. Admittedly even with the horror unfolding on TV my thoughts turned to DC. I asked him if he thought they were going to hit D.C. and he said "nah", but his eyes were lying.
I tried not to think about my Dad. I tried not to think about the people who were above the floors that got hit. When someone on the TV said "you can see large bits of debris falling from the building" and hippie friend said "that's not debris" I tried not to think about that, either. At some point, Amy came back in and we all watched in silence - the only sounds I heard for a long time were the sounds of other people's TVs in my halls, playing different stations but all listening to the same story.
We sat like that, frozen, for who knows how long before Katie Couric cut to a picture of the Pentagon on fire. That's when, where I was, everything changed.
People rushed into the hall. RA's hurdled our entire dormitory into two groups - one, people who just wanted to watch the programming together, and two, people who had parents working in D.C. I fell into the latter category.
My group was ushered into a different dormitory. When I went outside, all I heard was the sound of fighter jets - that we went to school right next to - being launched into the air. As we were walking people kept mentioning my Dad's building 'you know that's what they're going to hit next, you know that's what they're going to hit next'.
We went into a study hall (I'm not sure what it was I never went back again - I just remember a large room with tables and chairs) and everyone went to work on our cell phones.
If you were in the DC area at the time (and I want to say the same for NYC) more than likely, after a certain time your cell phone was useless. So many people were trying to get ahold of loved ones that everything was jammed. I tried calling my Dad several times, but I kept getting "your call cannot be completed.."
After an hour or so, my Mom got ahold of me.
She had been teaching a few minutes from the Pentagon, and when they heard a blast, the earth moved. Being from CA her first instant fleeting thought was 'this must be an earthquake' before putting together the obvious. They were put on lockdown.
She told me that she was fine, my sister was fine, and she was sure my Dad was fine - but I wanted to hear his voice. Even though it's not where he worked, in my head it wasn't inconceivable that he would be at the Pentagon.
Most of our family was out here in CA - I had no idea if they even knew what was going on yet because it was so early. When I called my Grandparents because my phone obviously worked a lot better than my Moms - they were clearly awake, clearly panicked, and had woken up to rumors that DC was being bombed. I told them that Mom was ok, my sister was ok, and nobody could get ahold of my Dad but we were sure he was okay.
Turns out, he had chemotherapy that day and wasn't even in his office. His work was about to get crazy, but he wasn't there that morning. After my own family was sorted out, I thought about my high school sweetheart's Dad who worked in the Pentagon ( he once took us inside when we were younger for 'take your daughter to work day' because my Dad couldn't take me into his). My Dad got ahold of him later that day, and he was fine as well. Everyone I knew went to college in the DC area or in NYC. Much of my day was spent trying to track everyone down - luckily no one I knew went to school anywhere near Battery Park.
Others were obviously not so lucky. A girl in my dorm lost her Father who worked at the Pentagon, and two others lost people in NYC - my friend's cousin was an EMT, and a girl I didn't know had a brother who I want to say was a waiter.
The rest of the day was spent watching the TV in silence, and listening to our military's planes outside.
The 11th happened to fall on a stupid anniversary with my college boyfriend, and he thought it was a good idea to just get out for a bit, anyways. We went to a restaurant in town where they wouldn't serve us because he was 'muslim'. (He was muslim - in the sense that I am Catholic, which is to say ish at best. And not that it matters, but he didn't look middle eastern at all - he looked like a mixed person, which he was, so I don't even know to this day how they put that together). We didn't make a stink about it because horrible on top of horrible was too much to deal with, and we suddenly lost our appetites anyways. They did write a story about it in the school paper though, a few weeks later.
In the weeks that passed I remember reading about a man who spent 3 days searching for his wife in the Pentagon wreckage without stopping to sleep. I remember SNL coming back on and Lorne Michaels asking if it was okay to be funny, and mayor Giuliani saying "why start now?". I can't remember if we were hearing them directly yet or just hearing about them - but I remember learning of the phone calls people made from the planes. I remember thinking how strange it was that all the fictitious TV shows that took place in NY or DC didn't acknowledge it at all. I remember thinking about growing up close to Dulles airport, the millions of times I had taken a flight from there to L.A., and thinking the likelihood of me not having taken flight 77 at some point was pretty slim. I remember being scared for my Dad in an entirely new and permanent way.
Even though you know me well enough by now to know that I try to keep things light and airy, every year I make sure to watch a special, read a story, do something to stare at it. Others would think this is macabre and to remember people for the lives they led. But I'm one of those people if there's a viewing before a funeral, I go to the viewing. I need to see to believe, I need to face down the awful in order to accept it.
But tomorrow I'll go back to dancing bear.