Sunday, September 11, 2011

September 11th - A Look Back

I remember that morning like it is frozen in time. I feel that, as I start aging and becoming more and more forgetful of recent events, I will never, ever forget that morning. We were living at the apartments back then. We had all four kids living with us. Sergio was 19. He had graduated the year before and was about to start fall classes again at DeAnza. Suhey was 13 and still at Hyde. It was before the trouble happened and before she had to transfer out. Alex was 6 and just starting 1st grade at DeVargas. Ms. O'Rourke was his teacher. Jacob was about to turn 3 and was attending the daycare on Stevens Creek while Juan and I worked. Almost a year had passed since he was hospitalized for that horrible, horrible RSV virus.

Tuesday, September 11th, 2001
7:15am, PST
Juan was already long at work. His shift started at 5:30. Sergio was in bed asleep. I was scrambling around, trying to get myself and the boys ready for school. Suhey was in the bathroom listening to music and getting herself ready as well. As I walked down the hall, she popped her head out of the bathroom. "What is hi-jacking?" She asked. "Um?" It was a strange question for that early in the morning, especially coming from her. I gave her a brief explanation and asked her why she wanted to know. "Oh, because they are talking about it on the radio."
Hmm, I thought to myself. I'll have to check the news later to see what she was talking about. Hi-jacking wasn't exactly "news." I mean, it was of course. But all the recent hi-jackings had taken place overseas and far away from my little world where, I noticed mid-thought, if we didn't hurry up, we would all be late.
"Let's go guys, we are going to be late! Alex, go get Ya Ya. He should have been here by now. Suhey, let's go!" I snapped out orders, the hi-jacking news temporarily forgotten. I loaded the kids in the van, including my nephew and the two of the neighbor kids and we headed out.
7:41 am
We drove to the elementary school first to drop off Alex, Ya Ya and Julissa. On the way there I got the first hint of what was really going on. The usually entertaining morning show was all business and was preempted with news reports. I soon learned that the "hijacking" that Suhey was talking about was a domestic airplane that had crashed into one of the World Trade Center towers in New York. Shortly after that, the report said, a second plane had crashed into the other tower. After hearing that, I changed the radio to an actual news station where live reports were coming in by the second. "At approximately 8:45 am, " a very shaken news reporter was saying. "What appears to be a jet airliner, crashed into the north tower of the World Trade Center.". His voice continued to shake as if he could not contain the brevity of the situation, much less report it over the air. "Then, about fifteen minutes later, at approximately 9:02 am, a second plane struck the south tower. Smoke is billowing out of the upper floors of both buildings." Oh my God, was all I could think. 8:45? Eastern time. I did the time difference in my head. That was just about 2 hours ago.
7:55 am
I had just pulled up to Jacob's daycare after dropping the other kids off at the elementary school and middle school. I couldn't stop listening to the news. I sat in the car for what seemed like only a few seconds, but was probably a few minutes when Jacob's voice shook me out of my daze. "Mama?" I turned around to look at him. "Yeah baby, we're going." I got him out of his car seat and brought him inside. I signed him in, gave him an extra tight hug and asked one of the teachers if she had seen the news. "No, what's going on?" She asked. "It is unbelievable," I said. "Turn on the news, when you get a chance. Away from the kids"
8:15 am
Devastating Impact
I'm driving down Lawrence Expressway toward my job in Sunnyvale. The sky was dark gray, which was unusual for that time of year. I continued listening to the news amid the morning congestion of commuters who were, most likely, doing the same. I just couldn't believe what I was hearing. I could not wrap my head around what was going on. Now they were talking about a third plane that may have crashed into the Pentagon. All I could think was, "what the hell is going on?"
8:45 am
I finally get to work. There is only one other car in the parking lot. It belonged to Damon, one of the engineers. I walk into my office and glance over to Damon's cubicle. He had is radio on. He glanced up when he saw me so I walked over to his desk. "Are you hearing this?" I asked him. "Yeah," he said. "What's going on?" I asked. "It's a terrorist attack, " he replied. "That's what they are saying. A planned out terrorist attack on the U.S."
9:00 - 11:00 am
I was glued to my radio. Report after report were coming in about the towers collapsing, death, destruction. People and reporters alike were crying, live, on the air. Eye witnesses were calling in from their cell phones reporting the collapses, they said that people were jumping from the upper floors. People were describing what it was like inside the building when they had evacuated. One man described a conversation he had with a first responder who was going up the stairs as he was going down. "I looked in his eyes," he said. "And I knew. I knew that, he knew. He wouldn't be making it out alive. But he went up the stairs any way. It was his job, he had said. He didn't have a choice." My co-workers drifted in to the office, they were all whispering and talking about the events. My husband called around 10:45. We talked about it briefly before he had to get back. I don't remember actually working that day, but I do remember the news reports and the first photos that were popping up on the internet.
12:30 pm
Second plane heading toward the South Tower
Sergio called me. "Have you heard what is going on?" He asked. "Yes," I said. "I've been listening to the news all morning." "I've been watching it too," he said. "This is crazy." I told him about the guy that ran into the firefighter as he was evacuating and got choked up as I repeated what the man said. He, in turn, told me about the television coverage and how they showed footage of when the towers actually collapsed. "They have video," he said. "of when the second plane crashed. It's quick, but you can see it." "And there was another plane," he continued, "a fourth one. It crashed somewhere. They said it was headed for the White House." There would be no more flights the rest of the day. All commercial and private flights were grounded. Air space was effectively shut down. The rest of the work day was a blur.
Man falling from the WTC
5:30 pm
I got home and the television was on. Juan, Suhey and Sergio were watching and the kids were playing. I remember sitting down and not wanting to move for the rest of the night as I caught up on all the news and pictures from the day. No one spoke. We just watched. At one point I glanced at the boys and was happy that they didn't understand what this was all about. I was glad that their sense of security was still in tact and wondered how this would affect them, all of us, in the future.

Alex had questions. Not really then, at that moment. But later, in the next few days following when everyone was processing what took place. I answered them the best I could and one day he brought me a red, white, and blue bracelet that he had made in school. "It's for the people that died," he said. "It is the colors of our flag. My teacher said, so we can remember."

3,446 people died that day. A few months ago in April 2011, a group of Navy Seals killed the man responsible in Pakistan. Almost 10 years later. A lot has happened in those 10 years, to all of us. But I still think it is important for all of us to remember. Even if we didn't lose someone in the tragedy or aren't from New York, we still lost something that day. And we need to remember why. We need to honor those whose lives were taken, who made the ultimate sacrifice and who had no choice in making that sacrifice. The ones that were left behind to mourn, whose lives would never be the same and the heroes who tried to save the lost ones, many who lost their own lives in the attempt. The bravado and courage of the citizens on flight 93 who took back the plane and caused that particular part of the attack to "fail." We will always remember.  We will never forget. United we stand.

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