Sunday, September 11, 2011

Remembering the day that changed the world

In the past ten years, I have watched countless documentaries on September 11, 2001 hoping to understand why and how something like that could happen. I even read the 9/11 Commission Report. But in the end, I've concluded that my brain may understand the facts, but my humanity cannot and will not comprehend it.

I was running late to work because I was watching the Today Show talking about a plane hitting the World Trade Center. Suddenly another plane hit the second tower. It was the moment of realization that it wasn't an accident.

As I arrived to my office at Hamline University, our secretary was listening to the reports on her radio. We tried to focus on our work, but every 15 to 20 minutes, the situation changed. Another plane had crashed into the Pentagon. One of the tower collapsed. The second tower collapsed. There might be more planes.

I couldn't stay at work. I went home before noon and sat on my couch and watched the news. And I cried. I cried a lot.

I started emailing friends on the East Coast to be sure they were okay. I finally reached my best friend that afternoon. She was in St. Louis and trying to get home, but with all the planes grounded, she didn't know when that would happen. Mary and I had a long history of talking on the phone while watching history unfold on TV - first time was when Baby Jessica was pulled out of the well.  Talking with her provided a small piece of normal to an extremely un-normal day.

In 2001, I was a member of the Basilica of St Mary Cathedral Choir. We were asked to sing at the prayer service at the Basilica that evening. It was the perfect place for me to be since the choir was my family. I found a lot of peace being with them, singing together and from the words and the emotions shared at the service.

The Basilica was packed that night as everyone was needing the same thing. I remember walking to the back of the church during the recessional and seeing everyone was crying. And whenever I see someone cry, I cry. Crying came so easy that day.

In the days that followed 9/11, it were the news reports from New York City that impacted me the most.  Pictures of the missing were posted all over New York, asking anyone who may have seen their loved one to let them know. The TV reporters would let the people searching to talk about their loved ones and you could hear the pain and desperation in their voices. And I would cry.

I had a small obsession in the days following the WTC attack. I would look at all the photos of Ground Zero and search for office furniture in the rubble and debris. There were thousands of chairs in the tower, how could there not be a single photo with office chairs or desks among the debris? It was just dust and beams and paper.

In the weeks that followed 9/11, the New York Times started running short stories about the 2,600+ people who died at the World Trade Center and I would read them every day. And I would cry.

I didn't know anyone who died in attacks, yet I cried and it took months before I would stop. 

In the past week or so, I've been watching the special coverage of 10th Anniversary of 9/11 and I still cry, but not like before.

As I said, my brain understands the facts of 9/11, but my humanity never will. If I do, I think I'll be lost.

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