Sunday, September 11, 2011

Remembering

On September 11, 2001 my roommate woke me to watch the news coverage of the events unfolding back East.  In my drowsy state it was hard to comprehend what I was seeing and what was being said.  My first class scheduled that morning was a media arts seminar.  We sat together in the room and watched news coverage over the projector.  There was comfort in the companionship of others.  In the afternoon I had a German class scheduled and returned to my dorm after checking in with the instructor.  I hadn't heard from my sister yet, and I wanted to be available for the phone call when it came.

Evelyn was in Washington DC on internship that fall, and she--as we all do as survivors--feels that pull to remember, to share, and to preserve her memories of that time in our country's history--for ourselves and our children.  Here are the words she has written.  Thank you for sharing Evelyn.  

Many thoughts are in my head and yet so few I can articulate enough to share. But I feel like I should say something, I was there after all and I too will never forget. Events like these shape our character, if we let them.

There are too many points to make, too many lessons to be learned, that to share one without the other seems incomplete. I was in DC that day, I watched as a proud city turned to fear and chaos. We watched from our apartment rooftop as the Pentagon burned for days. We passed the big gaping hole of wreckage where the plane entered and there was a similar one in our hearts. We lived in the threat filled days that followed with fear and sadness, because for us our world had changed. For all of us, as fellow countrymen, our world had changed. 

As I remember that day a flood of memories come rushing back and all the emotions that accompany them, working in the Smithsonian that morning when I heard about the first plane, listening to the events unfold on the radio as they happened, not knowing what was going on, thinking at first it was some sort of an accident but then learning the terrible awful truth, hearing of the plane in PA and then in DC, not knowing how many more there were and if so where they might land in a city I called home. Not being able to get home, not living in a time of ubiquitous cell phones when you could account for all your roommates and friends, not being able to phone home and assure them you were all right, seeing people running in the streets, the fear in everyone's eyes. Finally making it home, quickly turning from the Spanish Station that was showing the jumpers, watching the towers fall, still not knowing what more was coming, not leaving the house, going to the roof, watching the Pentagon burning and waiting, waiting to see if there was more to come. 

Pushing past the sad memories, there is one of courage and hope that has stayed with me. One of the hardest things in the days after 9-11 was passing by the Pentagon Metro Station. There was a solemnness that fell like a heavy cloth on the passengers as we passed by the now dark station. It was a reminder of the loss that so many were suffering and the utter helplessness we all felt at not being able to do anything. I remember the first day the station was open again, the passengers getting off in silence, passing all the guards with all their guns. Walking back into a world that would be forever changed. Going forward with courage and a belief in their country and their cause. I wanted to personally thank each one of them. That is who I applauded then and that is who I pay tribute to today. Those that lived and faced the loss, the fear, and the unknown, those that carried on.

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