Thursday, September 11, 2008

9/11 + seven years

Each of us remembers where we were and what we were doing when the world as had had known it ceased to exist on that otherwise beautiful late summer morning. I've not talked much or written about that day, what one of my old psychology professors called a "flashbulb memory."

I was in our television studio / distance learning classroom teaching a teacher how to interact with students who were elsewhere (in the physical sense.) The first word was that there had been some kind of horrible aviation accident in New York, and so we continued the morning's lesson. Then another phone call from our receptionist a few minutes later ended any pretense of productive work that day.

I remember walking across the campus from the studio to my office. It was so still. Earily still, as iff the plants, the birds, and the wind all knew something big was happening. Back at the office, the conference room was full; coworkers watched the live feeds and tape loops from CNN, Fox News, NBC, and CBS. I saw the first replay of the second plane, and then the news out of Washington of a fire at the Pentagon. Within a few minutes, it was confirmed; a third plane into a building.

United Flight 93 had just a few minutes prior flown overhead (not directly above our campus, but nearly over my home about 20 miles away) - the battle for control of the cockpit apparently underway. We knew nothing of this at the moment. The telephone, cell phone, and Internet networks were straining under a massive traffic load, but I managed to get through to my wife. She was worried about our daughter who was driving back from Baltimore that morning. Then came word of a possible fourth hijacked plane; a plane that might be over Western Pennsylvania on a heading for Washington. A few moments later, the local TV station (the one where I had worked for 20 years) began reporting a plane crash in Somerset County. I knew this had to be that mystery fourth plane. Within a couple of hours, the local station was showing live shots of the crash scene. I watched the reporter doing what would have been my job three years earlier. Jon Myers was a tall kid; he grew up that day, reporting from the crash scene. It was at that moment I realized that I did not miss the news business; I was happy to be a consumer. And the news on this day was overwhelming. "Only" 3,000 dead in the collapse of the World Trade Center. It was miraculous that the toll was not higher, but even so, wrenching to the mind and soul.

Later we began hearing reports of heroism aboard Flight 93, while watching the columns of smoke rise above the New York skyline, seeing the beginnings of the effort that quickly transitioned from rescue to recovery, seeing the look on President Bush's face as he was informed of the attack while reading to the young schoolchildren, of hearing the fear in my daughter's voice as she finally got through on her cell phone, asking what has happened and what to do. So many images compressed into one large memory.

Now, seven years later, we hear the tinfoil hat crowd question the facts of that day. We see politicians wanting us to put that day behind us, lest we remember our resolve as Americans to rid the world of the animals who would do such a thing,

We must learn from the events of that day seven years ago.

We must remember.