This year marks 15 years since the events on 9/11 unfolded in real-time in the American media and changed our view of the world forever. Seeing the events unfold on documentaries, I’m still hit with the same raw emotion I felt on the day it actually happened. I’ve consistently not liked this day since this happened, and it being a Sunday today, leaves me without the distraction of being at work. The vivid detail I can recall is unsettling, which is something we can all do that lived through these events.
I’ve received some negativity from family and friends on this, however I have allowed my daughter to watch several of the documentaries including “102 Minutes That Changed the World” because I want her to understand the true gravity of the actions that took place. I want her to understand why it was such a pivotal point in our history. She asked a lot of questions to better understand what happened and I’m happy she did so that she understands everything they’re not going to show or talk about in school. I don’t believe in shielding our children completely when there is a life lesson to learn, within certain limits of course. Some things are better left to when she is older.
Life is raw, graphic, and tragic at times. I would much rather my daughter have the foreknowledge and tools to handle life in her own way from me. As her parent, it is my responsibility to pass onto her all the wisdom, knowledge, and experience I have had so that she can be the best person she is able to be. I’ve adopted this approach, not because I want to be harsh, but because I want to be honest. I want to be the person that she knows she can reach out to in times of trouble and confusion and know that nothing I say will be anything but truthful (to the best of my ability). My extended family and friends don’t have that responsibility to her and do not have a right to express their negative opinion in how I choose to raise her.
I have purchased tickets from the local fire company for a day trip to New York scheduled for November 12th to visit the 9/11 Memorial and Museum for the family. I’m already anxious for the trip in regards to my reaction to the physical location of the tragedy as I have not been to lower Manhattan since before 9/11 over 15 years ago. Watching it online and seeing pictures of the progress pales in comparison to being there in person. At some point in the coming year, I will be visiting the memorials in Washington D.C. and Shanksville, PA. It is my responsibility to remember all the people that died on this tragic day for the rest of my life. It is my responsibility to ensure that my daughter understands the true scope of this tragedy with the hope that it will never happen again in her lifetime.
I’m often not a hater when it comes to how people articulate their words to others. After all, I’m not perfect in my execution of the English language so how can I judge others on their execution? There is one exception though, and this exception is an observation I’ve made over my current lifetime. Not necessarily poor english or grammar, rather in what people say when they don’t know what they’re talking about. It was a communication skill I picked up in one of multiple classes I had been sent to early on in my career for saying the wrong thing at the wrong time which was often taken out of context. The skill was simply listening to what the other person was saying, analyzing and processing, then determining that a few or several phrases were repeated. Here’s an example of something I just read yesterday in my lunchtime. I’ve removed names to keep it anonymous, but I think you can figure out who actually said this. Felt if fitting based on what tomorrow is.
There were people who were cheering on the other side of New Jersey, where you have large Arab populations. They were cheering as the World Trade Center came down. I know it might be not politically correct for you to talk about it, but there were people cheering as that building came down — as those buildings came down. And that tells you something. It was well covered at the time. Now, I know they don’t like to talk about it, but it was well covered at the time. There were people over in New Jersey that were watching it, a heavy Arab population, that were cheering as the buildings came down. Not good.
Here is an overview:
4 times, people cheering in New Jersey
2 times, arab population(s)
4 times, World Trade Center, building, or buildings
2 times, Not politically correct
2 times, well covered in the media
There are only 8 sentences in that one paragraph that had only 5 items repeated over and over again. Each time slightly different, but this is the point I’m trying to make. This was clearly not the truth as the points being made were over emphasized to prove a point, almost like they were trying to convince themselves it was truth instead of answering a question. The interviewer called them out as well for saying that these reports weren’t true in the United States, rather they were true in some isolated pockets in the Middle East that were known to sympathize with terrorist organizations.
A repeating idea or phase in a conversation is often done for two reasons. The first reason, which is legitimate, is emphasizing an idea or concept that is known to be difficult to understand. A good way to describe this is a math teacher explaining the concept of area to a group of students that are new to Geometry. Or a science teacher trying to explain the Theory of Relativity. The second reason repeating ideas or phrases are used, which indicates a lack of knowledge or fallacy, is covering up for the fact that the person has a lack of knowledge or is making up false statements about something. As you can see, hopefully clearly from my example, this was a false statement of events for shock factor. I say shock factor as these statements were made in 2015, not in 2001. If these were stated in 2001 or closer to the tragedy, they would have been dismissed as rhetoric or anger driven statements.
Trying really hard to not judge someone who clearly is making false statements is difficult to near impossible. The problem I’m having is that the entire political system is full of people who continually repeat the same statements over and over again. There are even YouTube videos that consist of several minutes of them saying the same statement over a span of several years. The hairstyles and outfits may change, but the basic statement remains the same. Am I the only one that has seen this pattern?
Already preparing myself to sit and watch “102 Minutes that Changed the World” with my daughter, I’m aware that this is something she will never experience as I had experienced it. The profound loss I felt for all the people that died that day is more than words can describe even 14 years later. I, along with millions of others at that time, was a mess of emotions. I still can’t think about that day without tears welling up in my eyes, which I’ve come to accept as an involuntary reaction not to be suppressed.
My 9/11 story (we all have one)
At work, figuring out what I didn’t want to do that day, my wife called on the phone as she usually does so we could go get coffee (we worked in the same building). This time it wasn’t to head down. She almost screamed “A plane just flew into one of the Trade Center buildings in New York.” I thought it was a joke and laughed. I told her I would meet her at the steps, as usual, to go get the morning coffee. I focused on an email that just came in and then received a phone call. I never got to the steps as around 20 minutes later she called again, crying, and said “Another plane just flew into the second tower. I saw it, the fireball, what’s happening!?” This wasn’t a joke anymore.
I told her to meet me down in the conference room with the television as it had cable access. Surprised to be the first one in the room, I turned on the television to one of the news stations to see both towers on fire. I literally said out loud “What the fuck?” just before my wife walked in, still crying. I sat down and just watched. I couldn’t believe it. I didn’t feel anything, didn’t talk. Others had come into the room and there was now a standing crowd in the back as all the seats had been filled. Some were crying but most were silent. We were all in a state of disbelief.
As the morning progressed, we learned about the Pentagon attack and the crash in Pennsylvania, however the majority of coverage was obviously on the towers in New York. We had friends in New York. Were they okay? Neither my wife or I could reach them as the island was practically isolated from anything related to technology. We could see people jumping from 100 stories. Clearly see people jumping. I thought to myself how bad is the situation up there that jumping out the window is actually the better choice. The room started to light up, people were now getting angry as more details about potential theories started to emerge, despite them being fantastical.
Then it happened. The south tower collapsed. We were watching ABCNews, I remember because Peter Jennings didn’t say anything. I’ve been watching him for years, since I was a pre-teen, and never NEVER had he ever been speechless. He cleared his throat, and said just “I have no words.” I was numb, couldn’t focus, the room was disturbingly silent to the point all I heard was my own breathing. I turned to my wife, tears rolling down her face, and took her hand. It was the only thing I could think of doing at that moment that felt familiar.
The news started talking again and it snapped my focus back to the television. The helicopters were pushed back to 5 miles so the Airforce jets could patrol over the city. Would they shoot a plane out of the sky over New York I thought? Did this have the potential of getting so bad that the President would authorize a plane, with American citizens, out of the sky over a populated city? Then they said it with certainty, it was a terrorist attack. The United States of America was attacked on their own soil. Anger welled up inside me.
I thought what couldn’t get any worse just as sure as hell got worse. The north tower collapsed. The news we were watching was trained on the spire at the top of the north tower, it was almost as if they knew it was going to collapse. My heart stopped when I saw the spire start to tilt and then disappear below the smoke. Seeing one tower fall was devastating, seeing both of them fall was too much. I lost control of my emotions and tears started flowing down my face. I couldn’t take the silence anymore. I got up and left the room. My wife followed. I told her we were leaving and to go get her things. I went upstairs, sent an email to my manager that I was leaving, logged off then packed up my things.
The drive home was surreal as neither of us said anything the whole ride. No one was speeding, no one was aggressive, no one did anything but pay attention to their driving. Everyone was as shocked as we were. I don’t remember the drive home other than noticing how calm everything had been. As my wife and I got home, I turned on the television and started my three day obsession with all things related to this tragedy before returning to what would be the new normal. America was no longer immune to this type of horrible violence.
“Never forget” became the single most important statement in recent American history. It summed up, in two words, the entire event as it unfolded. I can’t speak for everyone else, but I know with every fiber of my soul, I will never forget and always use September 11th to reflect and revisit the events and emotions of that day until I die.
I’ve tried several times to explain how I felt and still feel about that day, but my words always fail me. Words aren’t enough to describe the loss, the pain, the anger, the pure hatred I felt. All of those emotions have tempered over the years as I’ve learned to accept and express my thoughts. For those of us that didn’t experience this first hand, its hard. For the ones who did experience this day, all that is required is a single look and both “just know” how the other feels. Schools don’t routinely teach or talk about this day. Perhaps its too soon, who knows.
As we get one, two, three generations away from this tragedy, will we start to forget? Not if I have anything to do about it.