Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Memories of 9/11

The recent release of oral and audio accounts of 9/11 have had me a bit on edge. Bringing up all the emotions I felt on that devastating day 4 years ago. I didn't personally know anyone that lost their life on that tragic day. But I did know some of the victims and their families in a round about sort of way.

In the mid to late 90's I worked for a small mail order company specializing in gourmet food. I was there for five years, the longest I'd ever held a job. I pretty much ran the place and was involved in all aspects of the business from taking customer orders, handling customer complaints to catalog design and product selection. We were mostly a seasonal business, being rushed from October to January with holiday orders, mostly distributed throughout corporate America.

The last three years I was there we had taken on a client that I believe was a brokerage firm. I remember most of the clients we had because I'd worked with them for so long. This particular company would send approximately 300 holiday gifts to various people across the country as a way to say thank you for their business. Two of the companies they would send gifts to were Marsh & McLennan and Cantor Fitzgerald.

There were numerous people from those two companies that we would ship gifts to. The first year, we were provided with mostly home addresses. Since a lot of our products were perishable, we would send notification about a week or two before a scheduled shipment to let the recipient know a gift would be arriving so they could make arrangements to have someone receive the package or provide us with a change of address so we could ship it to another location.

We received a lot of requests to have packages rerouted from people's homes to their offices in the World Trade Towers. While on the phone, we would make small talk because people would be wanting to know what was arriving and I'd usually ask them about working in the towers since I hadn't had the chance to go in them the one time I went to NYC to visit a penpal.

To this day, when I think of 9/11, I can't help wonder how many of the people I'd talked to over the course of those three years lost their lives that day. How many wives lost their husbands and vice versa. How many children lost a parent. How many people lost a brother or sister and so on.

I can still remember that day as if it were just last week. I think the guilt of being one of the last people to find out about what happened haunts me. I wasn't working at the time, but had just received a temporary assignment from an employment agency. Before I could start though, the company I'd be working for asked that all temp personnel submit to a physical and drug screen. Mine was scheduled for 9/11.

Normally, had I been working, I would have had the tv on first thing to check the weather and traffic. But since I didn't have to get my daughter to school til 9:30, I'd slept in and never bothered with the tv. By that time, I believe at least one of the towers had already collapsed because it would have been 10:30 am in NY. I'm not much of one to listen to the radio either, so when I got in the car that morning, there was a cd playing and I just left it on. This whole time a world of horror and death was upon America, and I was completely oblivious to it all.

So I get to the occupational health center and I can't understand why the woman at the reception desk isn't responding to me when I'm the only one there. It was as if she was moving in slow motion while listening to the radio. I couldn't hear it that well, but I could make out the voices of the dj's so I knew what station she had on.

We start the physical and she finally says something to the effect of that's just terrible what happened. From my expression she can tell I haven't a clue what she's talking about. For some reason I didn't hear when she said planes crashed into the World Trade Towers. Maybe I was too concentrated on the look of astonishment on her face that I was so clueless as to what was going on or maybe it was just so unfathomable that it wouldn't register until I actually saw it or heard the reports myself.

By now everything is being broadcasted live on tv and radio, both towers have collapsed, thousands are dead and I'm just finding out about it?? I have never felt so ashamed in my life. To be that out of touch with society and the world around me. I mean, people half way around the world probably knew what was happening hours before I did.

At the time I was living fairly close to O'hare airport. Our apartment complex was under the flight path of the northwest runway so we were always hearing planes whether they were landing or taking off. On the way home, while finally listening to the radio, they mentioned that all flights had been grounded. The weather was perfect that day so I had the car windows open and noticed the silence. It was the most eerie thing I have ever heard...complete silence, no planes at all. That silence would haunt me at night the rest of the week as I tried to sleep. I'd grown accustomed to hearing the jet engines and I couldn't fall asleep because it was actually too quiet.

I spent the next two weeks glued to the television. I'd watch it day and night, sometimes for 48 or 72 hours straight. Unable to comprehend the horror I was viewing. Afraid to turn the tv off for fear another attack would happen and I'd be clueless again. Crying over the loss of life. Astounded by the bravery of the firefighters and police, and even random citizens.

It saddens me to think that it's been nearly four years and so much has been shoved to the back of our collective memory. Seems like our country has just gotten on with our lives, tried to forget about what happened. Should we dwell on it day in and day out? No, but even last year on September 11th, there wasn't much talk of what had transpired on the day three years earlier.

Lest we forget.


Blogger Polar Bear said...

I remember that day very well too. I was still in Wellington at that time. I got up around 7am as usual, and turned on the TV as I usually do to catch the news and the weather forecast so I would know how to dress myself. The usual program wasn't on, instead it was this running news item on the twin towers - I couldn't believe it. I still remember sitting down on my couch, stunned that this was actually happening in NYC, in America!

When I got to work, it was all everyone could talk about - we checked the news websites constantly, some photos were already online. Even half a world away, we were all greatly shocked and affected by what happened. It was terrible - and we can't imagine what it would be like to actually have loved ones in those towers and the planes.

Has it really been four years already???

1:37 AM, August 21, 2005  

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