Sunday, September 11, 2011

Remembering a September Morning...

The  media, and  the blogposphere   has  been  full of  all sorts of  remembrances and  commentary  around  today's ten year  anniversary of the attacks on  September 11, 2001.

To be honest  I  was trying to  avoid the  topic.  Not  out of  any  sense  of personal pain,  but  more out of respect,  for  those people I know who were far closer to  the events of that day than I was.

My experience  that day was a surreal one.    I had  gotten up  very early and  caught a flight  from  Chicago Midway to  Houston.  I was heading there for work.   It was about  20 minutes into the flight,  the  seat belt sign had just turned off,  and  people where  shifting about, getting  comfortable.   I had just  pulled out my laptop to work on  the presentation I was going to be giving  later that day.  Suddenly the  seat belt sign came back on,  and the  crew announced  that  everyone  was to return to their seats and  prepare for landing,  the flight would be returning  to Chicago.

The  Pilot then came on the  speaker system to say that there was nothing wrong with the plane,  and  we were returning  to Chicago because the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration)  had ordered  the flight to return to "clear air traffic".  He said that was all the information they had, and he apologized for the inconvenience. 

Everyone on the plane  thought the same thing.  (Not terrorism.)   Chicago Midway had upgraded to a new  Air Traffic Control System  earlier in the Summer and  a few weeks prior,   there had been a series of  glitches  that had delayed several flights.  Everyone  groaned,  made  comments about  "Government  Efficiency"  assuming   it was yet another  problem with  Midway's system that  was going to  mess up our day.

A assumption that  was  bolstered  by the fact that  we were not  returning to   Midway but rather  we were diverted to  Chicago's  O'Hare  International Airport.

The  woman  sitting next to me was happy about this  thinking  at least  it might be easier to get on the next flight out to Houston.   I nodded,  and said  "I hope so",  thinking of how I might salvage  the rest of my schedule  that day  and  make my afternoon meetings on time.

It took us  about  30 minutes  of circling over  O'Hare  before  we could land. Sitting in a window seat  I  watched as  the line of planes  waiting to land  stretched  to the far  horizon  and  oddly enough, no planes were  taking off.   I commented on this  to the  woman  next to me, and  she  said "wow Midway's  systems  must be really  screwed up!"  I laughed  and  said  that  what we get  for Ronald Reagan having fired all the  good Air Traffic Controllers.  She laughed and said she had forgotten about that.

We landed and had to wait  an additional  20 minutes  to get a gate.  but  finally  pulled up to  a jetway , and we all  lumbered off the plane into the gate area   I was getting annoyed because people were not  clearing the area  in front of the door  but were  all standing  around the  televisions  that were  tuned to CNN Airport.   I was  about to say a loud  "excuse me!"  when I happened to look up at the  TV  and saw CNN replay  footage from ABC  of  the  second plane  hitting  the  World Trade Center.


 CNN then cut to  live shot  of  a column  of  smoke and ash where  the World Trade Center Towers were supposed to be, but weren't.    I called my office and my boss told me not to come in,  The area in downtown Chicago  around the Sears Tower was being  evacuated.   I called my parents and  let them know I was not  in Houston,  got on the  CTA  Blue Line and  went home.

The rest of that day  I did what most Americans did,  watched  the news,  and when the images became  overwhelming,   I put on my roller blades and went blading  along the  Lake Michigan shoreline.

It was  brilliant  sunny day.   One of those  late Summer,  early  Fall days  that  you get  in Chicago that  make you appreciate what  a beautiful city it is.   As  I stopped at  Oak Street Beach and  admired  the  downtown Chicago skyline,  I didn't  think that  somehow the  "world had changed".  But rather  I found myself  thinking how  the United States now had finally,  sadly,  had joined  the rest of the world.

Before that that morning, Terrorism was  something that happened  in other places,   Israel, Lebanon  London, Belfast , places far away.  Even the first  World Trade Center bombing  for many people, didn't seem like international terrorism.   After all, the  people responsible were caught when they  tried to get the deposit back on the  rental van they had used.   (How sinister could people that  dumb be?)  

That is  what changed I think,  it  was the moment  America lost the  illusion that  somehow our  two oceans  would keep us safe  from global  terrorism.

For friends of mine who lived in  New York on that day,  I understand  that  this week is  a much different  experience for them.   A good friend of mine is  a New York City Police Officer  who  lost an arm in the attack that day.   Another friend of mine worked  for an investment bank housed in the  North Tower,  she had a doctors appointment so she didn't go into work  that morning.   For her, today  is a reminder of  the  15 friends and co-workers  who she lost  that day.  

For the numerous  friends of mine who have served,   and currently serve in both  Afghanistan  and  Iraq with the American and British Armed Forces, they deal with the effects September 11, 2001  on a far different level  than  most people ever will.

So this evening, I will attend  the 9-11 memorial  service here in London,  at  Westminster Abbey.   Where people will remember the events of that day,  pray  for  those  who were lost, and  show solidarity and support for friends  for whom this  anniversary is far more  personal than political.

God Bless America,   God bless us all.

1 comment:

Biki said...

A friend of hubby's called us early, and told him to go and turn on the tv, he wouldnt believe what had happened, and then hung up. Confused, hubby stumbled into the living room, found the remote and clicked on the tv, to see a nightmare.

From the middle of August until near the end of September is hunting season. The woods, hills and mountains are filled with hunters. Most of them got there by small planes. With all aircraft grounded, many many people sat confused as to why no planes were flying over, and where in the world is their pilot? Alaska got a special ok from FAA to allow flights to retrieve these hunters.