(originally published September 11, 2011)
Ten years ago my life was very different than it is today. My husband and I were planning our wedding and living in Tulsa, OK. We worked for the same company and in the same building. Though I had been working in the HR department, I took a job in an accounting group as a paper pusher to escape the toxicity of the HR group.
In addition to working full time and planning our wedding, I was in rehearsal for “Lend Me a Tenor” with Theatre Tulsa. And recovering from surgery to repair a hernia (from scar tissue from previous surgeries). Life was not exactly boring.
On September 11, 2001, as I was driving in to work I kinda sorta heard something on the radio about something maybe possibly going on in New York, but it was very unspecific at that point. I had never been to NYC so I wasn’t very familiar with what they were talking about anyway. When I got to my desk I tried to figure out more about what was going on, so I went to CNN’s website. When I saw the image of the smoking building I knew this was more than a little something. From that point things started happening faster than I could get information – my husband and I were emailing back and forth, I was trying to find a live news feed somewhere online, coworkers were doing the same. Well, most coworkers. I distinctly remember people trying to carry on with their days work while all of this was going on and being very annoyed by that. As the events of the day unfolded, without the help of a television we got news very slowly. The internet was not as instantaneous as it is today. It was very hard to comprehend just what had happened. Just hearing the news, you begin to get it, but it wasn’t until I saw it that it really hit me.
I had to leave work early that day for a follow-up appointment for my surgery. They had a TV in the waiting area, and that’s when I saw the images I never want to see again. This was later that afternoon, so not live, but they were showing people jumping from the buildings. As much as I will never forget the images of the planes striking and the smoking towers, the images of people jumping are forever in my memory. That their situation was so dire that THAT was the best option… It is more than I can imagine.
The other thing I will never forget about that day is how I was introduced to evil in a way I could never have imagined. To that point I had never witnessed a result of a human being making a choice to do complete and total evil. Obviously this was not the first example of humans exhibiting evil on this earth, but this was the first time I saw it. Repeatedly.
Though I was 26 years old, I guess I still had some innocence left to lose.
I hope my daughters never have to witness anything like that happen in their lifetimes. What I struggle with now is how to explain 9/11 to them when they are old enough to ask. That time will come sooner than I will be ready to try, that is certain.
In the days after 9/11 it was hard not to think about what had happened everyday that I went to work in downtown Tulsa – the building next to the one I worked in looked almost exactly like the World Trade Center towers, except half as tall. Every person I encountered – at work, at rehearsal, at the grocery store – was so vulnerable that it felt like just being alive was a bonding experience.
That is not the feeling I get about people today. Though I am glad we do not have an open national wound today, I wish people would always remember that feeling of interconnectedness and try to achieve it again. Or at least make eye contact with me at the grocery store.