The news is full of reminders that the 9-11 bombings took place five years ago today. But I don’t need the reminders; I remember the day, what happened, the aftermath, without anyone hitting me over the head.
Five years ago I was taking the day off from work to go to the doctor and actually was in the gym watching TV and saw the planes hit live. It was surreal – of four big screens, two were showing horrific live scenes from NYC with planes hitting the towers and plumes of smoke rising immediately, while the other screens showed Tom Cruise flying around in Top Gun. I lost track of that and thought it was the military responding on one screen to what I was seeing on the other.
I didn’t know at the time that someone I knew was on the second plane to crash. He wasn’t a good friend but I knew him from choir. Two of the four planes that day left from Boston’s Logan airport and we carried heavy hearts, losing friends and family on the planes themselves and feeling guilty because we somehow didn’t stop the planes from taking off. That’s not logical but it was widely felt. Many people here have ties to New York as well, and the deaths in the towers rippled up and down the Northeast corridor leaving incredible pain and uprooted lives in their wake.
At one point on my way to work, I look down a long straight road and see a 50-story building on the Boston skyline. Immediately behind it is a takeoff trajectory out of Logan Airport and it’s not unusual to see a plane mid-tower level. For weeks I would feel my stomache clench when I saw that, believing the plane was about to hit the building in a repeat of the NYC attacks. Even though my head knew otherwise, my fear would rise up. But I had to be strong because I was a supervisor and had staff to support in their own fear and coming to terms with life after 9-11. When the anthrax scares came soon after, we had new worries and fears. Life changed in little ways and big ones.
We can live in the fear and uncertainty of September 11, or we can choose to live in September 12 and beyond – life after the attacks rather than being stuck in the middle of them. Cheryl Richardson wrote in her weekly newsletter this week about priorities and remembering what really matters. Her words are eloquent and powerful and the list of questions she asks herself on this anniversary are important.