It was a Tuesday like any other. I had just gone on Terminal Leave from 6 years in the Navy - I was technically still in the military, but about 3 weeks before, I'd taken my first and only helicopter flight off the Bataan (LHD-5) to get on my way back home to Northwest Indiana. I had a total of 6 weeks of Leave stocked up, and I was ready for some major decompression before getting into a new job. I'd spent the past 3 weeks having some fun, and that morning was in my room, doing some writing when, at 9:00, I received a phone call from my Aunt Kitty.
"Are you watching TV?" she asked.
|Both buildings struck|
"Naw, I pretty much lost interest in it while I was in the Navy," I answered, thinking maybe she was going to ask me to spend the day with her.
"Turn it on. Any channel."
I came out to the living room and hunted for the remote. It occurred to me she wouldn't ask me to do something like that unless something was happening, but I was expecting maybe a Presidential address or something. I had no way to prepare myself for what I saw.
|What I saw when I turned on the TV|
The first image was a medium-shot of the twin towers, with smoke billowing out of one of them. The other was obscured by smoke or the angle. It took a moment before I realized what the news was saying, that someone had crashed a jet liner into the building. Both, in fact. And as the coverage continued, something else finally made its way into my shocked brain: the other tower wasn't obscured. It was gone.
I watched, unable to tear my eyes away. Unable to stop hoping that some of those people would be all right. I saw something fall off the building, and the newsman said it was a jumper. He said it was ANOTHER jumper. Several people had already jumped.
|Immediately after second collapse|
Then the unthinkable happened. The second tower started collapsing. I couldn't believe it. The other building had been hit much lower; that it fell was less of a surprise, but this one had been hit toward the top. Only a few floors should have been lost. But no, the whole thing collapsed like a house of cards. I couldn't believe it.
|Two days to see the result|
I don't remember how or when my phone call ended. Did we talk? Did she just hang up right away to call someone else? I don't remember. All I know is that horrible feeling of dread as they kept showing over and over the impact of the second plane, and the collapse of each tower. I remember being too overwhelmed to feel anything about the Pentagon, or the flight in Pennsylvania destined for the White House. I do remember those brave souls who decided to take back their airplane, who refused to let the terrorists accomplish their mission.
|Recovering the flag|
Before 9/11, there were a scant handful of movies which depicted hostage takers giving the police a horrible choice: kill a bus/plane load of hostages, or wait until the terrorists drove/flew their vehicle someplace to kill even more people.
For a few years after 9/11, it looked like America was going to get serious on terror. Like we were going to kick the ass of ANYONE who tried to hold a gun on us. There is NO guarantee that someone demonstrating his willingness to shoot you WON'T shoot you. Better to deny him whatever he wants; you're going to die anyway. Even if he doesn't kill you, you're going to die anyway, so why help him kill others? It seemed like Americans felt that way, and they'd do what it took to rid the world of the scourge of terrorism.
It seemed like they weren't afraid, that they'd accepted that someone could intrude on their lives at any moment with a gun or a bomb or an envelop of anthrax. They could die at any moment, and so they need not worry about it. They would just live their lives, and if death should come knocking, they would defiantly go down swinging and try to take their killer with them.
Today, 10 years later, America has a Holy Site, no less important to us than the Great Mosque in Mecca, the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem, Lord Ram's birthplace in Ayodhya, or Vatican City in Rome. And today, right about now, it's being commemorated and the museum is opening. The Twin Towers site is receiving an overhaul, complete with new skyscrapers, and today the Freedom Tower has reached a height of 1000 feet out of the total, planned to be 1776 feet. The Freedom Tower is expected to be complete in 2013, and the other structures in the following years, while the museum and park are open now.
I wish I could be in New York City today.
Timeline of 9/11 attacks.