Sunday, September 11, 2011

Marking 9/11

We all remember where we were - those of us who were alive and old enough.  I was up and getting ready for work at Hydraulics Unlimited (it was a low point in my archaeological career).  I turned on the Today Show (as I did 10 years ago ... I no longer do) and watched as the South tower burned.  I knew it was bad.  So I tried to wake my sleeping fiance who had the day off.  He didn't want to get up, so I watched it by myself as the North tower got hit.  I was glued to it until I had to go to work. 

I remember being at work and getting updates from my then-fiance (now husband) who had gotten up and was watching it unfold.  He called both times the buildings collapsed.  We had already heard, though, as we were listening to the radio.  No one breathed that day.

I knew it was bad.  But, like any disaster, the "bad" is really only understandable with proximity or time.  I was not close enough to fully understand it.  And it was too soon to understand exactly what was happening - or what would happen because of it. 

We all knew that day would change the world.  We all knew that something truly horrible had happened.  But today when I was watching the documentary "102 Minutes That Changed America" on History Television (on The History Channel in the U.S.) it sunk in deeper than it has until now.  Although this horrendous thing had happened and impacted so many lives, for me personally it didn't have huge repercussions.  Don't get me wrong - I cried that day and for days afterward.  But I wasn't there.  No one I knew died.  I didn't even have friends in NYC.  Today, when I watched that documentary ... I cried again ... and understood a little more.  The reality of it hit me.  It happened.  Thousands and thousands of people were affected.  It just took on a new reality for me.

The film makers took video and audio from that day and put it all together chronologically.  There was no narration, just the raw footage.  And it was just that ... raw.  They showed firefighters headed into a place that a lot of them wouldn't come out of - and they didn't know it, but I did.  You could see them facing this incredible disaster that no one was prepared for.  Standing at the bottom of a building that would soon land on their heads.  Then we saw the "lucky" ones (was anyone lucky that day?) emerging from the nuclear winter that was Lower Manhatten that day.  They did their best, but I don't think any group of men could have planned for something like this.  We didn't know "THIS" could happen.  There are some things you just can't plan for and "this" was one of them.  Watching it and knowing what was going to happen to these people made it more raw.  I wanted to yell at them to run away.  Don't stand there.  There isn't going to be a "there" in a few minutes. 

It was particularly poignient for me because my father was a firefighter.  I now think I might know a fraction of what he felt when he was watching this unfold.  I understand his anger after so many of his commrades were killed (although he didn't know one of them, they are all brothers ... for life).  I know the heart-wrenching fear that their wives and children were feeling. 

It's a gift to be able to see these images 10 years later.  A gift to be able to understand what people went through, where the anger came from.  When you aren't there, you don't understand.  But maybe I understand a little better now.

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