Will post for food
Join Date: Oct 2001
Location: Dublin, OH
Re: 9/11: What Do You Remember?
I know this is long, but I have so many feelings surrounding that day that I started typing (and typing) and it felt good. It's sort of therapeutic and I almost need it somehow documented because I don't want these feelings to ever be forgotten.
The first time I flew in a plane was in August of 1993. I was in route to St. Martin in the Caribbean for a family vacation. Being my first plane ride, I was just as excited to fly on the plane as I was for the trip to the tropical paradise. I made sure I took a window seat and, lucky for me, it was a perfect day to take in the view. We had to stop in Newark, NJ on the way. Upon landing there I remember looking out my window as the plane was heading towards our gate and seeing the two towers of the World Trade Center for the very first time with my own eyes. What a beautiful sight. I had always been fascinated with tall buildings and loved drawing the World Trade Center, Empire State building, Sears Tower, etc. as a kid. I also loved King Kong and it was on those towers that he climbed at the end of the 1976 version of that movie. I was five years old, but I remember the King Kong movie poster, with him crushing a helicopter in one hand while holding the girl in the other as he straddled the two towers. It was such an awesome visual image for me as a little boy. As we took off to head south from Newark, I got another great view of the towers as our plane rose. There was a kind of magic the whole image held over me. I knew someday I would be back there.
While on this vacation I met a girl on the beach who was from New York. A town called Valley Stream on Long Island. You know, where Snapple is from. Anyway, we fell in love right there in St. Martin and it was the beginning of a pretty serious long-distance relationship. Not long after I had gotten back to Ohio, I talked a buddy into driving to Valley Stream with me to visit her. The night before, my buddy and I had attended the Washington-Ohio State game. It was the first night game in the Horseshoe and we were pretty exhausted, but we were excited to get to New York. As we were approaching the city in the the early morning, we had somehow missed a sign somewhere on the NJ turnpike or whatever and instead of bypassing NYC and going around it (to get to Long Island) we found ourselves heading for the Holland Tunnel, going straight into mid-town Manhattan. I had studied maps before the trip so I pretty much knew where all the main landmarks were (in relation to each other), but once we got into mid-town, all bets were off and being the first time either of us had been to NY, we were a little freaked out. Anyway, we made a few turns and then saw a sign that said "Yankee Stadium". I knew we didn't want to go that way (the Bronx), so I looked around and what do I see, but the World Trade Center behind me. It was like they stood there like two lighthouses showing us the way. I knew from the maps that they were on the the southern most tip of Manhattan, so we turned around and followed them south and finally found our way across the bridge onto the Long Island Express to Valley Stream. I'll never forget the feeling I had when looking at those towers that night. It was like they were calling us.
The next day, we took the train into the city. The first place we stopped was Wall Street, to visit my girlfriend's best friend who worked in the financial district. After a brief visit, we decided to venture to the World Trade Center. I remember standing in the plaza and being overwhelmed at the sheer size of these two massive structures. I knew I looked like a tourist in my wonderment, but I didn't care. We sat by the globe sculpture in the center of the plaza and even took a picture there, before entering the South Tower. As we were heading up the elevator to the top, I remember thinking about the terrorist attack earlier that year, where a bomb had exploded underneath the building. Once on top, I forgot about that scary thought and was like a little kid taking in the sights on all four sides. To the east you could see New Jersey and the planes landing at the airport where I took my first trip. To the north, I could see the north tower on the left and the rest of Manhattan straight in front of me. The north tower's antenna reached into the sky, hundreds of feet higher than we already were. It looked so close that I felt like if I reached out I could touch it. Straight ahead toward mid-town, the Empire State Building stood there as if to say "Look at me, I'm pretty cool too" and seeing it with all the other buildings surrounding it made me think of the ending credits in All in the Family, where they would show the footage of the New York skyline. To the east, the Brooklyn and George Washington bridges looked so small as they connected the island we were on to the boroughs. Queens and Brooklyn were on the other side, with Valley Stream way out in the distance. And to the south, the Statue of Liberty looked like a tiny toy figurine hovering above the water. You could see for miles and miles on this September day and everything was so crystal clear. I couldn't imagine a better day to fully appreciate this view. I took dozens of pictures from every angle. I could have stayed up there for hours appreciating the view, but I was finally pulled out by my buddy and girlfriend and we headed to the Southside Seaport for lunch.
Afterward, we headed north to mid-town. I talked them into going to the top of the Empire State Building as my building appetite was not yet satisfied. The view from the top was beautiful as well and it was outdoors which made it even more special, but the day was winding down on a day I wanted never to end and the view wasn't quite as clear as from the World Trade Center due to the dusk settling in. To this day I have a picture my friend took of my girlfriend and I as we were looking south with the World Trade Center in the background right between the both of us. It was a disposable camera, so the cheapness of the camera, combined with it getting dark makes for a haunting picture of two silhouettes with the two towers barely recognizable in the background.
Eight years later, it was another beautiful September day, this time in Dublin, Ohio when I arrived at work. I hadn't spoken with the girl from Long Island in five or so years and she was nothing more than a good memory to me as I now had been married for nearly two years and my wife and I had had a little boy just seven months old. I was listening to sports radio that morning as soon as I got in. It was 1460 AM (The Fan) in Columbus and Chris Spielman and Kirk Herbstriet were pontificating on the Buckeyes and their recent struggles in Jim Tressel's first year. I remember it was Speilman that first mentioned that the TV in the studio had gone to a special report and something about a small plane crashing into one of the towers He thought nothing of it or so it seemed and so neither did I. I'm picturing some poor guy who lost control of his little twin-engine plane. Anyway, they started discussing the Buckeyes again and then something else got their attention. Little did they, me, or everyone else know what was in store for us in the next hour. That our world as we knew it would be flipped upside down. I called my Mom and she mentioned as she is watching the TV that another plane has hit the other tower. I'm was in shock. I think it was at this point when the whole office was up out of their cubicles and looking at each other. What the hell is going on? From there it got sketchy as our managers had their weekly meeting, leaving us all on the floor trying to figure out what was going on. All the while, some were still trying to work quietly in their cubes amongst the chaos. People were on the phone yelling across the room. Others like me were trying to pick up live reports on the internet as we listened for updates over the radio. I still had not had a chance to wrap my mind around what was going on. It had not settled in and when someone yelled across the room that one of the towers had collapsed, my initial thought was "what do you mean, collapsed? Seriously. How? There is no way" Nobody had a TV so we had no clue except for what friends and loved ones were telling us over the phone or what the radio and internet was telling us. So, at this point I wasn't sure what to believe. Our managers were still in a meeting. Then it was confirmed again that one of the towers indeed went down. My body was numb. I couldn't picture this enormous structure collapsing. It just did not register. It was at this time that I started panicking a little, thinking about my wife and child at home. What the hell is going on? Is this the end of the world? People were yelling about more planes missing. The Pentagon getting hit. I felt my blood pressure rising. I felt scared, angry, and unsure all at the same time. This was it. There was a group of guys in our office that were always joking around. Being sort of new I didn't know them very well, but I noticed a couple of them laughing about something. Nervous laughter. To this day, I have no idea what they were laughing about. It could have been anything. But in the heat of all this stress I snapped and yelled "What the F---are you laughing at? Shut the hell up?" I was panicked. Where were our stupid managers? Did they have no idea what was going on?
Then our managers came out of the meeting and when they discovered what had been going on, they told us to go home immediately. I bolted. When I got home, my seven-month old little boy was playing on the living room floor. The television was on in background showing the towers falling over and over again. He was just playing there, of course, oblivious to it all. It was at that moment that I was overwhelmed with emotion. I ran over to him, picked him up and squeezed him. I remember crying and thinking how horrible it was that I brought this perfect little being into such a messed up world. That's all I could think. I called my best friend and told him to meet me at my house. He showed up with the other co-owner of his company. They had no wives and kids of their own and this was a day to be together, so they came over. They brought a case of beer and we sat down and watched events unfold and drank. Honestly, it was easier to take it all in with a few friendly faces and a few beers. It was the only way to keep from having some sort of nervous breakdown.
Then, later on in the day we were out on my deck. It was so quiet. I have a large backyard and you can see the horizon pretty much all the way around the sky. Usually, at a given moment there can be 10 planes flying over out home going in all directions. I've actually counted as many as 14 before at one time. It was quiet. Sunny. Blue sky. Beautiful. Calm. Eerie. Then we hear a loud noise with a plume of smoke following it. It's coming from the west. It was Air Force One and it flew directly over my house. The news was just talking about the President coming back from a secret bunker somewhere in Nebraska back to Washington and he was now flying over my house. It was so damn eerie. That's the best word I can come up with.
Later that evening when my friends got up to leave, I remember this hesitation, like I was scared that night was coming and they were leaving. I just felt so scared. My wife and I watched the president's address to the country later that evening. Of course, we had been attacked. We were going to get whomever was responsible. Yeah, but I didn't feel any better about it. A couple of days after that tragic day, my mother-in-law invited me to a special prayer service at our church. I'll admit I'm catholic, but I would go to church maybe twice a year. Christmas. Easter. I did not hesitate to go this night. We lit candles and kneeled and said the rosary. My wife held our son and what was a few tears I shed on 9-11, exploded into me balling right there. I just couldn't get the images out of my head. I couldn't imagine how those that had died had suffered. How they had gone to work, just like me on a beautiful day and the horror that would await them. I felt so bad for the babies who lost mothers and fathers. For husbands who lost wives and wives who lost husbands. For parents that had lost their children. I couldn't imagine the pain of losing someone like that. Having a wife and child made me so much more sensitive to it all. I couldn't sleep for days. I didn't want to go back to work. What was the point? I was convinced the world was going to somehow come to an end. Why spend the last few days there? Every noise I heard at night made me jump. Honestly, I don't take any kind of medications. I just drink occasionally. But I tell you, I probably needed to be on something back then. If anything like that ever happens again, I will put myself on something. I think it effects people in different ways. I had just had a child. New house. New job. Recently married. I felt this sense of responsibility and then, all of a sudden, this happens and makes you feel like you have no power. No control. Those first few days back at work were torture for me. I just wanted to stay home with my wife and son.
Days later, I was back at work when I started thinking again about my trip to New York and the visit to the World Trade Center. It was such a similar day as 9-11. A beautiful late summer morning. Then it hit me why it seemed so similar. The trip was in September of 1993. We were in the WTC mid-morning before lunch, so it could have been eight years to the very second of 9-11. All I could think of was "Oh, God, please don't tell me I was in the World Trade Center on 9-11 exactly eight years prior to the very minute that everything happened. Please, God. No!" I raced home for lunch. I keep everything from vacations in a little storage bin. Any souvenir. Any meaningful scrap of paper. Finally, I found my stuff from my trip to New York. There it was. A little ticket stub with a picture of the twin towers. There was a serial number of some sort and a date on the bottom. I slowly lowered my eyes to focus on the date. It read 9-13-93. Whew. It turned out that 9-11-93 was the date of the OSU-Washington game that my buddy and had I attended just a day before leaving for New York. I have that ticket stub from that as well. I cannot explain the relief that I felt when discovering it was not 9-11 when we visited the World Trade Center. I don't know why. I just didn't need to be haunted in any other way by that day.
That Saturday, Ohio State had cancelled their football game just like everyone else around the country had done. I took my wife and son to the Horseshoe where they had a memorial and fundraiser for the victems of 9-11. It was in these bleachers so many times before we had screamed, cheered, and booed together. On this day we prayed and cried together. Thousands and thousands of Americans, not Buckeyes, praying and crying together. It was only a few days later, but it felt like healing. I had nobody I cared about that died in 9-11. I can't imagine what they went through. But as the days went by and football and baseball came back, the normalcy I so craved started to come back.
To this day, like many of you, I'm still haunted by what happened on 9-11. Even though I want to, I will make sure to never forget that day.