Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Five Years Ago Yesterday

I turned off yesterday. I abandoned an attempt at a tribute. And writing about "9/11 and me" just didn't seem right. Instead, I approached September 11, 2006 as much like September 10, 2006 as possible. I went to work. I clocked in with Tom Petty's Wildflowers playing over and over in my head. It was another day of business people flying into my city and checking into my hotel. Some people were nice, some were tired and cranky from a day of travel.
People come, people go
Some grow young, some grow old
I woke up in between
A memory and a dream
-"You Don't Know How It Feels"

Business was being carried out just like any other Monday, except that today the flags were being flown half mast and we were aware that we were supposed to be searching within ourselves. "Where were we when we got the terrible news?" My answer to that is insignificant. I was safe and in my bed in Nashville, TN. Having fallen asleep the night before with my television on and turned to CNN, I woke up to it. Like President Bush, so chastised for seeming blankly unresponsive upon hearing the news from an aide, I just watched my TV screen and waited for it all to come together. Surely, my brain would wake up and normalcy would return. Certainly, what I was seeing was not real.
Broken skyline, which way to love land
Which way to something better
Which way to forgiveness
Which way do I go
-"Time To Move On"

Eventually, I must have grasped what was happening, but I have no recollection of the rest of my morning. I do know that I probably made some phone calls to family members and I went to work that afternoon, not quite knowing what work would be like. As it turned out, work was quiet. Certain emergency safety measures had been put into place, but for the most part it was a very solemn day. Any other details from my day are lost in the haze of it all by now. I wish I remembered better.

Time would reveal that a former coworker of ours who had transferred to the Marriott World Trade Center located between the towers was at work that day. Her hotel had become a triage center that day. She had survived the attacks and was now doing her part to help those who needed her. She worked in our At Your Service department answering telephones. On that day in September, 2001, the name of her department was more appropriate than it had ever been before. We were all so relieved that she survived and so proud of her for the role that she played that day.

Five years ago today was September 12, 2001. This was the day that the newspapers reflected on that day's catastrophic events. The front pages showed those terrifying images and the words were bold and large, reminding us that the day before wasn't just a terrible dream. Some of us had slept and had time to think about what had happened. The shock was slowly wearing off and we were starting to manage our pain and fears.

Conversations among us were full of compassion. We asked one another if we had known anyone who was killed in the attacks. We asked about each other's families and we weren't just being polite. We really wanted to help one another. The petty frustrations that would usually get us to arguing just didn't come up. No one complained about much of anything. We were not red states and blue states. We were One Nation. Thousands of us had been murdered and the rest of us had been kicked in the face.

Of course, we are still One Nation. We are still the Statue of Liberty. And we are still the United States of America. We just remembered how to complain again. It's just human nature, I suppose. Nothing is too petty to ruin our days. As a shuttle driver, I hear a lot of complaints from people who wait longer than they want to for a free ride to a hotel. If they have waited twenty minutes, they are sure to complain that they have waited for forty. I'm the guy they yell at and I'm the guy who has to take it, day in and day out.

So, when I remember 9/11, I remember what we all remember. I remember shock and despair. I recall going about my day and wondering what's next. But I remember the days following more clearly. Those were days of politeness and compassion. Those were days where we all acted the way our grandparents expect us to act.

I wish everyone a beautiful day. It's nice out.


Leesa said...

My memory is similar.
Someone called to tell me. I think I sat frozen for hours in front of the TV.
I also had to go to work, just like any other day.
It didn't really hit me until the next day, watching the family members searching for their loved ones.
I will always remember them.
Beautiful post.

greekchickie said...

Where I worked during 9/11, I didn't have a working TV. All I could do was listen to the radio & fear what was going on outside our walls. My brother was supposedly in DC that day. I couldn't get a hold of him. Finally, at the end of the day, I got him. He was safe.

How did we go from a nation united to a nation divided? Is it all a political tug-of-war?

I really like your words here. You gave me hope for a better tomorrow with your post.