I really did mean to post yesterday about the anniversary of September 11th, much as Carlos did in his recollections of the event. Yesterday was such a rough day though, that I really just didn’t find the chance or have the energy. I was watching a small child running around during the reading of names, and I started crying. It was too difficult to bear, to think that the child has lost his parent in the attacks.
If you haven’t read Carlos’ posting that I link to above, I would say go do so now, then come back to my remembrance, as in a sense, they connect.
As Carlos mentioned in his post, he was working in the Network Operations Center for America Online that day. While I hadn’t gone in yet, I was scheduled to work that day, and due to the critical nature of the NOC, I was one of the few people that had to go in for AOL that evening.
I remember waking up at about 9:00-9:30 that morning, which was a bit early for me (keep in mind, my shift was 2pm-midnight). My wife called me from work (she also worked for AOL, at a different site than me and Carlos) and told me to turn on the TV. The first thing I saw was a repeat of the first plane, I think – and I just remember hearing that two planes had struck the two towers. I was watching right then as news of the hit at the Pentagon came over the line.
I’ll be honest with you – at first, I thought that the rapture had started and I missed out, I was left behind. That was one of the worst feelings ever. As the news reporters kept talking, I realized that it hadn’t – after all, it was reports of just the planes, and nobody had disappeared.
The next few hours are all somewhat of a blur. I remember my wife being sent home from work, struggling with trying to reach someone at home, no use of the cell phone network. I was using our land line to dial up – I would dial my mom’s number followed by my mother-in-law’s number, and repeat as none of my calls were getting through. I finally got through to my mother-in-law, let her know that we were okay and that Lisa was on her way home, and asked her to call my mom I think. I think at some point I talked to Carlos and was told that I had to come in, although I’m not quite sure exactly how I knew I had to go in. I sat there with my wife for awhile and we watched the repetitious video of the planes hitting, and we were watching as the towers collapsed. I remember remarking at how different each station was in its coverage, particularly ABC and NBC. NBC was showing the national feed from New York, and as most people know, it was focused on the towers. ABC was broadcasting a local feed, as the local feed was Washington, DC – so it covered the Pentagon a lot more. It was almost as though we could pick which attack to focus on. I think we flipped back and forth a bit, and very reluctantly I went in to work. I couldn’t bear the thought of leaving my wife at home alone on a night like that.
I think at that time, we had been training a few new people on the NOC desk, but when we got in, my main coworker Jeremy and I sat down and just took over the desk, because we knew the night was going to be awful. Surprisingly, our desk had less issues than most, probably due to the nature of our monitoring.
That night was one of the worst nights of my entire life. As Carlos mentioned, they converted the stats screen in the NOC to a CNN feed. I basically had to sit there for my 10 hour shift watching the planes hit more times than I can remember and listening to the broadcasters discussing what was happening. I had my planner with me, and I remember penning a few thoughts, like a diary entry – at the time, I don’t think I had my old blog going, although I could be wrong.
AOL really knows how to take care of its own – we had meals catered for like weeks, since we really couldn’t afford to leave. I mean, we never had officially scheduled lunch breaks, but usually someone would run out and pick up some food, but that wasn’t an option after the attacks.
Living in the DC area was a unique perspective on the attacks that I don’t think was really mirrored anywhere else. I know that people remember that the attacks weren’t in New York only, and I know that’s where the greatest loss of life was, but at the same time, it was basically in my backyard as well as in New York and that was just awful.
Before we moved back, I remember that Lisa and I went to visit DC one last time in late October, and it was so different. I mean, the buildings were mostly the same (although that hole in the Pentagon was glaring and disheartening), but things were just different. There were no student tours it seemed; there were almost no tourists, period. We couldn’t even get close to the Washington monument, and I had hoped we’d be able to, as I wanted to stand next to it and stare up one more time. We were able to go into the Lincoln memorial though, which has to be one of my favorite places there; the spirit is humbling.
We had the opportunity to go to a ceremony at the Lincoln memorial shortly after the attacks, but we were too afraid. In retrospect, I regret not going to the service, as it seemed like such a lovely and beautiful spirit was there.
So, it’s two years later; Lisa and I have moved back to Albuquerque, Carlos is still out in DC, and Melanie has now moved out to DC as well. I know that Jeremy moved back, and have even found his phone number in the phone book, but haven’t called because I feel stupid calling someone out of the blue. Maybe today I’ll call, since he’s crossed my mind. He was a good friend out there, but we lost touch when he moved back.
I would say that the attacks left some real emotional scars on me – the combination of the fear of being left behind with the sheer horror of the events, and the exposure for so many hours to the coverage really messed with me for awhile. I remember in particular that there was this one video game that came out at the time called Max Payne, which was set in New York. It had a shot of the two towers, followed by some violence, and it just sent me into tears. Heck, a lot of things sent me into tears for a few weeks, and any coverage of the events relating to September 11th still tends to bring me to tears too.
In a way, I feel a bit self-centered and selfish to talk of my scars, as I lost nobody in the attacks anywhere, and only know one or two people who were directly affected. While my pain was nothing compared to those that lost someone, there was still pain. I have a Mercy band with the name of one of the people who was killed in the attacks, and I still pray for Jon Albert’s family often. It helps me to feel like I’m doing something for someone who was hurt, and there is therapeutic value in that.