I found myself up until 3 a.m. this morning, viewing videos of 911, after reading an AC article by theBarefoot. I don’t know why, but once I started, I couldn’t stop (until my husband yelled at me and said I was still recovering from bronchitis and needed my sleep). It made me remember that day as if it was yesterday, sorry to be so clichéd about it. In my early morning searches, I found sites that insist 911 was an American conspiracy, clips of people jumping, shots of bodies on the ground, of a man calling for help from 7 WTC, the more I explored, the more I remembered. And I started getting sick to my stomach.
I was at work at a law firm on the 10th floor of a building directly cater-corner from Philadelphia’s City Hall. Shortly after nine that morning, I heard a report on the radio that planes had crashed into the Towers. Then we heard about the Pentagon. For about an hour there were a lot of false reports that a car bomb had exploded in front of the Justice building, that there were planes in the air that were missing, that the military was shooting down planes, all kinds of what I now call preposterous stuff, but it didn’t seem so that day. At first, we didn’t know if it was just an accident or a purposeful attack. When we heard that two planes had crashed into the World Trade Center, though, and then that a plane had crashed in Pennsylvania, though, we all knew something was desperately wrong and that our nation was under some kind of attack.
September 11th was my daughter’s due date with my first grandchild, and she called from Erie and woke my husband that morning in a panic to find out where I was. A night-shift worker, he hadn’t yet heard about the plane crashes. When he told her I was at work, she got really upset and told him to make me come home, figuring if a plane was going to crash in Philadelphia, City Hall or our historical buildings, like Independence Hall, were probably the best targets.
By about 10:30 or 11:00 a.m., the Mayor ordered downtown Philadelphia to evacuate, and my bosses came around and told us to pack up and go home. In an exercise of black humor, I remarked that now I was really scared, our bosses, who made us work on Christmas Eve but who took it off themselves and it wasn’t even their holiday, were letting us go home!
A deposition was going on and when the opposing lawyer was told it would have to be rescheduled, he actually argued with my bosses, until someone told him point blank that our country was under attack, the Mayor ordered us to evacuate and “…we are closing the office.”
I remember walking to the train in a daze, on a brilliantly bright sunny day, just as today is here in Philly. It was eerily quiet on the streets and in the train on the way home. Everyone had a shell-shocked look on their face, but no one wanted to talk. When I got home, I clicked on the TV in time to see replays of the towers falling. “Those m-fing SOBs,” I screamed. I then called my daughter to tell her I was home, ascertained she was okay. She had panicked and thought she was going into labor earlier, but was fine now. I hung up and remained glued to the TV for the next three weeks.
On September 17th, six days later, my grandson Patrick was born. It is impossible for me to think of his birthday and not think of September 11, 2001. I’m only glad he wasn’t born on his due date. We drove up to Erie the next week to see the baby, and that was the first time I’d seen Fox News, because Philly cable didn’t have it yet. I was not into cable news at the time, 911 was my intro to that realm. My daughter and son-in-law, God bless them, had their new baby to occupy their time. When I made a remark to my son-in-law about why he wasn’t watching the news, he said something to the effect, “Well, we’ve been a little busy here.”
Barefoot’s article (here) was about how 911 hadn’t changed his life for the worse and it got me to thinking. As Barefoot mentioned, so many people seemed to get “patriotic” that day, but we always had flags out, were always patriotic. I, like Barefoot, didn’t know anyone personally who died on 911. Did it shake my spirit? I don’t think so. When the details came out and the attackers were identified, I was not surprised and remembered what I said back in the ’70s, when the world recognized Iran as an Islamic Republic — I predicted that more Arab countries would follow suit and that Muslims would eventually attempt to take over the world. I was laughed at.
Do I consider the extra security our nation has adopted an infringement on my liberties? I don’t think so. I think they do go too far sometimes, searching children and little old ladies in wheelchairs, to say nothing of making a little boy take off his leg braces, while people who fit the “profile” of a terrorist are waved through. Is profiling bigotry? I don’t think so.
I will mention something I noticed right after 911. Working in the downtown of a big city, I occasionally saw women dressed in Muslim garb. But after 911, it was like an explosion of robed and veiled women! And it wasn’t that I just didn’t notice them before, it was a definite increase in the number of women who were willing to announce to the world that they were muslim. It angered me then and it angers me now when I see one, my immediate reaction, especially if they are converted Americans, is that I want to slap them for embracing a religion which I see as especially oppressive to women. I feel that my generation fought for women’s rights, and here these women are embracing a religion with a slate of laws that calls for stoning, maiming and lashing for the most minute of infractions — unacceptable in the modern world. I don’t understand how people who recognize Islam as a valid religion, calling it a religion of peace, always seem to ignore the barbaric aspects of their Law of Sharia. I just don’t get it. Especially now that “honor killings” have traveled to this country with immigrant Muslims.
On the first anniversary of 911, we were on vacation in upstate Pennsylvania, traveling Route 6 to Erie for the baby’s first birthday, when our truck broke down in Coudersport. While my husband stayed at the repair shop, I explored the tiny town, stumbling onto their town square where a 911 memorial was underway. It was a textbook example of small town patriotism, I actually felt like I was in a movie. Aged veterans in their uniforms, fire trucks manned with firefighters, a mother with three little blond toddlers, old ladies with their portable chairs, the mayor making a speech …. After the ceremony, I wandered into a church. Don’t ask me why this recovering Catholic wandered into a church. It just felt like where I belonged. Slideshow of Coudersport Memorial Service.
Nine years later, I think of my grandson who will be 9 next week, and see him as a symbol that life went on after 911. But it was never the same.