Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The Loss of an Attitude: 9/11/01 Then and Now; Part 1

9/11/01 Then and Now  Part 1 of 3 parts
Nearly 3,000 people, from 58 countries were killed in an organized terrorist attack, including workers, civilian and military personnel, people in planes and those on the ground. Emergency workers including firemen, police, port authority, and EMS workers were among the victims. Suddenly, there was a huge hole in the mindset of the country.

The Loss of An Attitude

As early fall days go, the morning of September 11, 2001 promised to be a nice day, but not one we would ever really think about later. Unfortunately, most Americans alive that day, DO remember the day. They recall what they were doing when they heard what had happened, and also the reaction of those around them.

My memories of the day are almost as vivid now as they were weeks after they occurred. After everyone else left for the day, I went to the computer to work on a volunteer task I’d agreed to do. It was pleasant work, calling every church in Louisville to talk to them about an upcoming youth rally. 

Not long after I got started, Keith called to ask if I the TV on, and I told him, “No.” He told me that a plane had flown into the World Trade Center. We talked about it for a few minutes, assuming that it was a freak accident. Rather than put the TV on, since I already knew what had happened, I went back to my phone calls. 

Not long after, he called back, again asking if I were watching TV. He told me that another plane had hit the other tower. Today, 11 years later, I still get chill bumps even thinking about that call.
Suddenly, everyone realized that this was an intentional attack.  As we spoke, another plane hit the Pentagon and they realized that a plane was missing. Airports were shut down across the country and planes landed at the nearest place they could. As I watched on TV, I saw the video of the plane hitting the tower over and over, the people running away, jumping out of the building, and later, the horror of the collapsing buildings.

Literally out of the blue, life was different. The complacency we had was shattered.  There hadn’t been an enemy attack on our shores since Pearl Harbor. For the majority of us, it was before we were even born.

The next hours were a blur as hours shifted into days. It was at once horrible, yet I couldn’t turn away from the coverage. Working adults weren’t the only victims, as these people had families. Young children lost parents and grandparents. It still haunts me remembering that in some neighborhoods, the majority of the families lost a loved one, in some cases, more than one. Some of those killed in the planes were children, the youngest, only 2 years old.

In addition to the known fatalities, there were many missing people. Images of people wandering the streets and putting up posters looking for their loved ones fill my heart. Makeshift monuments were put up, with flowers and teddy bears. Some families lost multiple loved ones and friends.  I kept checking the posted lists of located people, looking for my friends’ loved ones. It seemed I couldn’t hold on to my own children enough, as I thought of those that no longer had the chance.

The rest of the country stood by helplessly, some touched by loved ones living in the areas affected or in the planes, but everyone touched in some way. The Red Cross was flooded with offers to give blood, yet most of the victims didn’t make it. That night, we all met at church for a community prayer service. It seemed that there wasn’t much we could do, but praying seemed the most logical. 
It was scary sending children off to school. My husband’s work was taking precautions because the word, “American” was in their business name. No one knew whether or not it was safe. Sure, there were no more planes into buildings, but not because the terrorists had been stopped, but because the national air travel had been stopped. People spent more time at home, partly due to reminders about the importance of family, but partly due to concerns about safety. Months later, we still worried about large gatherings of people, from football games, the Kentucky Derby, or the Olympics.

As I remember the hours, days, and weeks surrounding the events of 9/11, I am saddened. Certainly, I am sad because of the deaths of almost 3,000 people, those that were on the planes over Pennsylvania, New York City, and Washington, D.D., as well as those in the World Trade Center and in the Pentagon. In addition to those people, I'm sad remembering the first responders and people on the street that were killed as well.

But being sad due to these deaths is expected. There was a unified national shock, as people dealt with the horror, fear, grief, and confusion.  Some were known to be lost immediately, but there were so many missing as well. I remember regularly checking the lists of victims as friends and I looked for news of missing people we knew.

As sad as it was losing people, that is only part of the tragedy.  The innocence we lost as a country changed us as a people, forever.

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