Anniversarys are usually a good thing and a time to celebrate. The 10th anniversary of 9/11 is a time to reflect and, for me, to really appreciate what we have in so many aspects of our lives. It also makes me think about all the lives lost and wars fought in the name of religion and 'for a higher purpose'. Is this what God (or whomever your god is) wants? Just doesn't feel right.
Like many others, I think of where I was, the people I was with and the times and days the directly followed it. Here is my story. Thank you for reading, and if you feel like it, thanks for sharing your story, too.
I was in Portland, Maine. Some of you will remember that as the location that the terrorist departed from on that infamous day. I was in a meeting for work that would have kept me away from home for another 2 days. We were all sitting around in a huge conference room with what seemed like a 30 foot projection screen, waiting to hear sale presentations and get geared up for 'another great year of selling!'. As the meeting started, I got a text from my roommate, who was back in New York City. She was working on 23 street, as she was walking from Penn Station to her office, she sent me, "Plane hit WTC". She saw the first plane hit the first tower. Then minutes later, the second text said, " OMG another plane hit 2nd twr."
I was the only one that I know of who got a text during that meeting. That was before everyone had blackberries and mobile devices. There were a group of my team that was off in a side room preparing cupcakes for the VPs birthday. I think they heard it on TV. So a handfull of us knew something big had happened. They went on with the meeting but my mind was reeling and I have no idea what they said. Once the bosses were informed and conferred, they decided to end the meeting part, let everyone contact their families back home in New York City and the outlying areas. They kept the giant screen on and streamed live news coverage. It made everything seem that much sharper seeing it unfold so large, on what seemed like dolby surround sound. We watched the planes hit over and over. We watched the ashes and debris fall over and over. We heard the cries and scream over and over.
Then the hotel came in and asked us all to stay put because there was someone in the main part of town, with a rifle - and I don't even recall anymore if he was shooting randomly or just standing there. We didn't know what had happened - why it happened. This was a sleepy town in Maine. It felt like, to me, that the entire coast was being attacked simultaneously. I panicked for my family in the beach town of Myrtle Beach, SC. I panicked for my boyfriend in NYC and my roommate - who was either in New York or, hopefully, heading home. And I worried about our nation; the land of the free. And I worried if we would still have that freedom.
I had my laptop with me - it wasn't a time when everyone had a portable computing device - and I was able to instant message with my roommate and boyfriend. All the phones were down, actually jammed with calls. The only way most of us got to communicate out of Portland - out of the hotel - was via IM. My room was off of the conference room and I left the door open so people could sign on and find their friends and families. It was a slow parade of people stream in all day, hugging me to thank me for letting them use my computer/room/connection, crying when they finally got in touch with people. Everyone was so emotionally raw.
Later, AT&T got sporadic service and I was able to call out. I will always remember that they contacted all of their customers and erased all charges for the 2-3 days surrounding 9/11. I will always be loyal to them for that reason. They had amazing customer service and made a really difficult time, a little easier.
Everyone felt helpless, our town was being invaded (as far as we knew) and we were hours away, not being able to do anything - not even being able to leave the town. Many were stressed out about how to get home with airports closed, rental car agencies emptied. Somehow, someone decided that they'd try to get to a local Red Cross to donate blood, time - whatever. They weren't ready or equipped to take all the volunteers that poured into their space. Everyone wanted to do something.
We kept up with the dinner part of our meeting, but instead of doing a working dinner, we all spoke and reflected. One man, a vet, stood up and started singing, "God Bless America". We all joined in, standing - and cried. We were in a beautiful town on a docked dinner boat. It was gorgeous and surreal. All of it. All of it was a disconnected mass of events, emotions, visions.
The amount of lives lost was astounding. After we returned home and got back to work, we'd hear everyday of some who lost a loved one, friend, former colleague, neighbor. It was heart-wrenching. I remember listening to the news to see if I recognized anyone, afraid I would. I remember reading the list of names and seeing, at one point that a bunch of people on one of the planes were all from one company, heading to a company-wide meeting; and I remember thinking; 'that could have been us'.
I talk a lot. I type a lot. I could say much more but I don't need to. We all have vivid memories of where we were and how it affected our lives. If you'd like to share yours... I'd love to hear it.
God Bless you all and God Bless this country.
...and one other note, God Bless the emergency service people who helped, those who lost their lives helping, and those that are still battling illnesses as a result of the dust, ash and other contaminants they breathed in trying to help.