Friday, September 09, 2011

Mardi Septiembre Tizenegy Zweitausendeins

My first day back to work full-time was Tuesday September 11, 2001. I had been working a reduced schedule due to my stroke. By September, I had made pretty decent progress. My speech was still horrible - getting mangled on hard consonants and left sided feeling was weird. The day started at 8:30 and I settled into my desk as an admin at a local college. Not many professors had come in yet so I logged into the web forum that had become an internet home for me. A member who was known as a jokester/jack-ass/ pseudo-troll posted a topic titled "Plane hits WTC" Because he posted it, I didn't even bother clicking on the topic. A professor came in and while he walked past my desk, asked me if I had heard about the plane hitting the World Trade Center. I stammered something and both of us thought it was a tiny sesna. Realizing something was odd, I decided to go to The website wouldn't load. In fact, every kind of news website would not load.

So, I finally went back to the web forum and started reading that topic. That is how I saw the first photo of the tower on fire thanks to an international news link in that topic. This is also how I slowly realized that accident = attack. I sat at my desk trying to think through what I had just learned. My first thought was "Are we at war with some country?" It was entirely plausible since I had been in my stroke recovery bubble, that the country had gone to war without my knowledge. Another professor came out of his office and announced that the pentagon had exploded. I decided to try to find a TV and swung by a couple offices. Downstairs someone had found a 7 inch black and white TV so a group of us huddled around a desk looking at a black and white image of the towers on fire. The image and sound were so lousy, I wound up going back to my office.

Then, I remembered the radio in the closet so I hauled that out and had it on all day. Reports kept on coming in about a lot more hijacked planes. I could not keep track of how many. I called my mom and brother. And the entire conversation was checking that they're okay and just saying holy shit a lot. I found out about the tower collapse from Peter Jennings on the radio. He was the guy I grew up getting the news from and hearing how shaken he was scared me to death. I begged for any kind of work from the professors so I could just get away from the horrible news. I remember xeroxing a course packet thinking that this must be what it feels like living through history. I knew I didn't like it. Oh sure as a history major, I had imagined what it would feel like. When I got back the office, President Bush was making a speech and professors were gathered around the radio. The pit of dread in my stomach grew bigger. Classes were cancelled and most of the faculty headed home early. I still stuck around at work in a zombie state until the end of the day.

It is amazing to think that the attacks were ten years ago. I remember how quiet the skies were that night. I also remember noticing that it was like the whole world had a stroke. I had been struggling for months with getting my emotions under control. After 9/11, it was perfectly fine to break down in tears in public. That was a bit comforting to me. I checked to see if I could donate blood even though I was on Coumadin. Those were the ignorant days where I thought we'd find people in the ruins.

I've had 9 jobs since 2001 and every one has some kind of tv system rigged up which I think is a direct result from the attacks. Since that day, I have to check news sites when I get into work. If a website doesn't load, I know we're under attack. I still get a spike of anxiety when I hear a low flying plane. The first time I flew after 2001 was in 2005 to New York City for a vacation. The attacks still reverberated even in 2005. One of our tour guides thanked us for overcoming our fear and spending money in New York. She had lost someone in the attack and wound up adopting his dog when he didn't come home.

In general, this is why 2001 sucked:

June 10 - massive stroke
September 11 - NYC attack
November 6 - father rushed to hospital

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