• Home
  • About
  • Articles
  • Contact
  • Illustrations
  • Poetry
  • Prose
  • Archives
  • Categories
  • 9/11 and a Midwesterner’s Story

    2011 - 10.21

    *originally published on Yahoo! as part of 9/11 ten year remembrance.

    A decade ago, Americans watched with horror and bated breath as two commercial airliners slammed into the Twin Towers of Manhattan. I have never been to New York City, but I always wanted to visit. But on September 11, 2001, I was making a 45 minute drive to my community college in a futile attempt to beat the clock in the hopes I would not be late for my first class of the day. I live vicariously through my car’s radio, as I often prefer to have some good, loud rock music cranked up first thing in the offensively early morning.

    As I drove with my head bobbing abstractedly to Linkin Park and Chester Bennington’s screaming vocals, the music was suddenly interrupted and the deejay came on to inform the listeners that a 747 jumbo jet had crashed into one of the towers of the World Trade Center in New York. My brow furrowed and I glanced down at the radio. Surely that was not right. A plane had just randomly slammed into one of the tallest skyscrapers in New York? I thought briefly of my husband of whom I had only been dating for a little more than a year at the time. He was a flight instructor at our local airport then, and even with my limited knowledge in aviation, I knew that a pilot had to fly at least 1,000 feet above the tallest tower or building when flying over a populated area. How could a pilot make such a devastating error? Something was definitely not adding up.

    I arrived at the college, found a place to park, and hurried to my class. I was late, of course, but that did not stop me from barging in to discover that class was cancelled. My teacher never cancelled. It was lucky for me, so I made my way to the Baptist Student Union building where I usually hung out until my next class. Inside, I found my fellow Christian friends congregated around a small television whispering in awe, some locked in prayer. Displayed on the screen was the video on Fox News of the Twin Towers; the South Tower had thick, black smoke billowing from a gaping hole in its side. I knew immediately there was no way anyone on those floors had survived that. I had been skeptical when I heard the news on the radio, but the image was simply too unsettling for words. When the news scrolled across the screen that the Federal Aviation Administration had grounded all air traffic across the country, I felt the need to drive out to the airport. My boyfriend was more than likely flying with a student at that very moment, and I wanted to find out whether he had heard the news yet.

    Fifteen minutes later, I found myself opening the gate that led out to the tarmac where the airplanes were parked. Our airport is not towered, has only two runways, and it is so small that the handful of people who worked there knew me well. I saw the subject of my thoughts extracting himself from the red and white Cessna 150 he flew with students, I asked him, “Jesse, did you hear what happened?” He nodded and said, “Yeah, Jim radioed me to come down. The FAA just closed the airspace across the United States.” I could see the concern written all over his face. He knew something momentous had happened. “How long will you go without flying?” I asked. He shrugged. “I don’t know, Diane. I have a feeling it might be awhile. Thank God for line service.”

    We entered the terminal building and headed for the pilot’s lounge. There, gathered around the old television set were the linemen, mechanics, receptionist, and his boss, Jim. They were all watching the same newscast I had seen at school. Smoke still billowed from the South Tower, and the news replayed images of the plane slamming into the side of the tower. Suddenly, on live television, a second plane slammed into the North Tower, and all of us let out a collective gasp. We sat in stunned silence for a long moment before Debbie, the airport receptionist spoke. “Did…did you all see that?”

    Moments later, the towers collapsed one after the other. I covered my mouth as we all watched in wide-eyed stupor; I knew I was watching people die — good, innocent, hard-working Americans just like me who started their days off not that differently from how I began mine. I remember thinking, “How can God let something like this happen?” Then I thought about all of the loved ones they would be leaving behind, how nothing would prepare them for their loss. Wives would never again see their husbands. Children would never again see their parents. The hand of death in the form of a senseless terrorist act rended these families apart. They would never be the same. An entire nation would never be the same.

    I cannot say that I live my life differently ten years later, but I sure think about the world differently because of 9/11. I never used to pay attention to the goings-on of foreign countries because I was only 18 at the time. I never imagined that there were people out there who hate Americans. I was naive enough to think that Americans were loved everywhere because we embrace peoples of all different cultures, including those of the Middle East. Our nation was founded upon the principles of freedom of religion and cultural diversity. We the people of the United States of America are hated. The rose-colored glasses I had always worn were abruptly torn from my face as I realized that there are those out there who seek to destroy us and our way of life.

    Today I pay attention to the news more than I did back then. I often wonder how men of a ‘peace loving religion’ can use the name of Allah to condone their actions, and I want to understand why they did what they did, but I just cannot. I do not hate Islams as a people, though. I am a Christian, and I believe that hating all Islams for what zealots do is wrong. Jesus did not hate the Romans when he was crucified on the cross. He said, “Forgive them father, for they know not what they do.” Hating Islamic people is not what Jesus would want me to do, so I will choose to pray for them instead. But I will never forget. We will never forget.

    Your Reply