Friday, September 11, 2009

what I remember

I remember signing on to AOL, which was my main source of morning news at the time, since we didn't get cable out on the prairie and weren't set up for satellite. I remember seeing the picture of two really tall skyscrapers in NYC, one of them emitting an enormous plume of black smoke. I remember seeing the headline: America Under Attack, and thinking little more than, Huh?

I remember doing a quick brain calendar check to make sure it wasn't April Fool's Day. But it wasn't: It was September 11th. I must have read the breaking news story and then gone into the kitchen and turned on the little counter radio. I must have called my family and then checked on my son, who was a toddler by then. Those minutes immediately after getting my bearings and starting to understand just what that headline meant are a little foggy. Probably because the information was still foggy at that point. I do remember wondering, "Is it an American who did this?"

A few hours later, the death toll was estimated at up to 20,000 between the collapse of the two towers and the Pentagon crash. From my family in the Bay Area there was talk of the Golden Gate Bridge being shut down, and of armed security everywhere. I stopped at the main Interstate truck stop in our area on my way to the Flagstaff Riding Center, which was managed by some horse trainer friends and clients at the time. It's also right near the Navajo Army Depot, the entrance of which was under heavy guard. A group of Middle-Eastern men was standing in the parking lot of the truck stop having an animated discussion, and I remember the red flags going up: By then, I'd heard the new name Al Qaeda on the radio at least half a dozen times. I'd heard the reporters talk about someone I'd never heard about, someone named Osama Bin Laden. I also remember thinking about all the Persian and Arabic friends I've had over the decades and wondering what it must be like to suddenly and out-of-the-blue be a source of concern and suspicion.

That day was a rude awakening. It was a hard lesson in shock and disbelief, followed by a sense of national fellowship and grief, followed by a national tearing asunder as the political and racial divisions began. It was too much to take in all at once. In some ways, I find that it is still too much to take in. And I was insulated. I was safe all the way across the country as the events unfolded. I didn't lose anybody that day. Today, my heart goes out to all those who can't say the same.

What do you remember?


  1. I began wondering what my children would tell their children. I remember my grandfather's account of Sunday, Dec 7, 1941 but my father's account was forgettable.

  2. Funny, Ken. I was thinking about Pearl Harbor today, too. I was also thinking about it on the "original" 9/11. It's natural, I suppose. What made your grandfather's account memorable?