Saturday, September 11, 2010

Where Were You?

My parents' generation asked the question "Where were you when you heard the news" about the day that Kennedy was killed, and most of them could vividly remember the exact moment in history when their world changed.

The world and our perceptions of it clearly changed again on September 11, 2001, and I believe most people who were old enough to be aware of it remember where in their worlds they were when it happened.

Today, nine years later, my memories of that day are clear, yet hazy with the feeling of unreality that still clings.

I was working third shift security at the time, and had stopped at the store on the way home to get stuff to fix breakfast. Hunter was just over a month old, and I was looking forward to spending a relaxing morning with him and his mother.

The checkout clerk told me as she scanned my items, "Turn on the tv when you get home. They just said that a plane hit the World Trade Center."

Wow, I thought. I need to check that out and see what's going on.

When I got home, I told my wife to turn on one of the morning news shows so we could see what was happening.

When I saw the smoke and flames engulfing the WTC, what I had thought was going to be a small, terrible accident transformed into a gigantic, horrifying accident.

Less than two minutes after I sat down to watch, the second plane struck, and I realized, along with the rest of the world, that this was not an accident.

My world-view shattered in that instant, and my memories of the rest of that day are clear but broken and disjointed; they are images caught in reflections on shards of falling glass.

The sense of unreality only deepened as the towers crumbled and fell.

My mind literally could not interpret what it was seeing; it took several moments for reality to break through the clouds of smoke, dust, and ash and drive home that this is not a special effect.

This was reality, and I was seeing thousands of lives ending, snuffed out by hate and stupidity.

My strongest memory, however, is not the planes striking the buildings. My strongest memory is not those buildings crumbling into so many pieces.

My strongest memory is weeping for not only the thousands of lives that were being lost, but for the one life that I held in my hands.

I wept as I held my five-week-old son in my arms, looking at him and thinking, I'm so sorry. What kind of place have I brought you into?

Please, God, let his world be better than this.

Hunter is now nine years old. He has been joined by another life that I hold equally important, his brother, Blake.

It's my responsibility as their father to help them make their world better than this. To help them see past the pages in a history book that September 11, 2001 will be to them; to understand that though it is real, though it changed the world, it does not represent the world. The world is better than this.

Humanity is better than this.

I work hard every day to teach them that even though horrible things happen, life is good. It is full of wonder and joy and laughter.

My boys are with their mother this weekend, and I can't hold Hunter today like I did nine years ago, but that's okay. They're always with me no matter where they are.

I'm man enough to admit that the tears are flowing freely as I write this, tears shed in memory as well as in hope:

Hope that perhaps my sons' inevitable "Where were you" memories will be something good.
Thanks for reading my ranting,



  1. I was at home, while my fiancee (now husband) was at work. I got a call from one of our friends who told me to turn on the tv. Chris had called him, since the work phone hadn't let him connect to the apartment himself. I watched in shock as the second plane hit, the towers crumble, and talk about another plane that crashed before its destination through efforts of the passengers. I watched the replay over and over, trying to absorb the reality.

    The attack not only gripped my sympathy for everyone dead or trying to escape, but since it was one month before my wedding, it also made of our guests decide not to come to avoid having to take a plane. Someone my husband had really wanted to be there.

    I'm with you. I want our world to be bright for our children.

  2. Beautifully written. :) I was in the school parking lot about to get out of the car when they broke in on the radio and said the first plane had hit. I went into class thinking it was a freak accident. It wasn't until later that word trickled in about what happened. I so wanted to leave school and get the boys (3 yrs and 3 mos old respectively)but I couldn't so I had to keep teaching (kindergarten) and act as if nothing at all was wrong...the biggest acting job of my life...

  3. OMG. I didn't read this until after putting up my new post today, which details my "where were you" story. I swear I didn't mean to copycat. Your post is way better, btw. Thanks for sharing. :)

  4. No worries, Lydia.
    It just proves that great minds do indeed think alike.;)

  5. Oh my gosh, I just posted my 'where were you' story in reply to Lydia's post. :(
    I can imagine the feeling... even without 9-11 having happened anywhere near my daughter's birth, I still struggled with the thought of what a horrid world I was bringing her into. :/
    Oh, and thanks for the comment! :) That's my motivator, too. My daughter's not old enough to understand it yet, but I want her growing up knowing she can do anything if she puts her mind to it. :)

  6. I was in biology class and we basically vetoed the teacher in order to watch it. I distinctly remember one of my classmates saying, "No matter what you might think, this is world-altering and you're trying to keep us from witnessing it! What kind of teacher are you?" (I think I was in ninth grade.)

    It was crazy and shocking. And, really, mind-numbingly horrifying. I saw the second plane hit, heard the people screaming, saw when the building collapsed and our whole classroom gasped and wailed as one. And I thought, "How could anyone do this?" And when I learned that it was the work of Islam extremists I wondered, "How could anyone think this is what God wants?" I still wonder.