|A U.S. flag flies over New York Harbor.|
(Image by Stock.xchng vi)
They’ll recall their own reactions, as well as those of the ones around them. Or they may choose to avoid doing so, because their memories invoke such pain, regret, anger.
- Myself, in a robe as I headed to the bathroom for a shower, when my mother-in-law came downstairs, telling us to turn on the basement TV. I’d not ever seen that kind of anger in her face or in the tone of her voice before.
- The first image I saw on television with no words yet to give it context: One tower of the World Trade Center, with billowing black clouds of smoke bleeding from a jagged hole. I wondered what had started such a fire. Then a jetliner slammed through the second tower.
- Shock as understanding dawned that this was the second jet, and it seemed apparent that both had been deliberately flown into the twin towers.
- Sitting with members of my family, mesmerized by and terrified at the scope of the horror. And anger. Initial news reports that day indicated tens of thousands of people typically were inside the two towers each day. It would not be until later that I would begin to feel actually grateful — that the nearly 3,000 killed that day easily could have been much, much more.
- A new level of horror as it became apparent that people were jumping out of the towers to escape the smoke and flames.
- Trying to understand what was happening. At one point, after I’d broken away to shower and to dress, I sat down with my family in front of the TV. I grabbed a legal pad and pen and started watching, intently writing down each new fact, as well as the speculation that ran rampant among the media that day, hoping somehow that if I could write about what had happened, I could somehow understand it better. Ten years later, that understanding still eludes me on many levels.
- My oldest son was 14 at the time, and I was struck by the maturity and the intelligence he displayed as he shared his observations throughout that day and those that followed. It was not a surprise. Brian’s always been mature for his age as well as smart. Nonetheless, this stood out.
- Later over the next weekend, a long drive from Green River, Wyo., to Estes Park, Colo. The drive was punctuated by several stops to calm our baby girl, who was not accustomed to long rides. Our destination was Denver, but we did not know yet whether the flight we had scheduled months ago actually would depart. We stopped in Estes Park because my parents were staying in a cabin there, a drive they used to make each fall. They invited us to stay with them until the nation’s airports reopened.
- Arriving at Denver’s airport. It was quiet and there were few people about. Today was the day flights were supposed to resume, but no one was certain whether the president’s order grounding nonmilitary aircraft actually would be lifted. We did end up flying home that day.
- Back home in Elgin and noticing how empty the skies were. I had grown up in this city, and the sounds of airlines heading into or away from O’Hare International Airport had been a constant. Now, the occasional overhead flight didn’t seem loud enough to drown out the birds singing in the trees.
- Stopping to fill up with gasoline several days after we’d returned home at a gas station whose manager appeared to be of Middle Eastern descent. His accent might have been Pakistani or Arabic or something else, for all I knew. But his demeanor was somber, and his expression grew sad when I asked him if he was OK. He was bearing up, he said, but apparently he’d had at least one or two customers who had said something related to the attacks, and the words obviously had not been kind. “We don’t all feel that way,” I told him. “I hope you have a very good day.”