September 14, 2001
I lay in the early morning darkness ~ listening to the morning routine ~ Charlie and the pups have gone downstairs. The shower is turned on. Then off. The clickity-click of eight small but mighty paws dancing on the kitchen floor ~ then the kibble hitting the metal dog dishes…I am comforted by the sounds of the routine.
My thoughts go back to Tuesday morning, September 11…
The day began with the regular routine…I dropped Whit off at the bus stop at 6:25 a.m. I return home and hear the phone ringing as I am unlocking the front door. I pick up and Charlie is on the other end ~ “Are you watching the news??!!!” He sounds anxious. “No,” I say. “ I don’t watch TV in the morning anymore.” He exclaims, “Two planes have just crashed into the
!” I momentarily stop breathing. My thoughts begin to scramble. “What?!!!” I hear myself asking. World Trade Center
So begins the infamous day of terror ~ September 11, 2001.
I tune in the news station on the radio as I drive to work. I am still grasping for coherent thoughts. Disbelief ~ stomach churning, heart wrenching disbelief. What is going on?
As I arrive at the school, I am mentally sorting my list of details on my to-do list. I go upstairs and unplug the black and white TV from the staff lounge and bring it to my office. Not just for me but for all of our staff. This will begin a three-day monitoring of updates and news briefs. I am numb.
The images focus on the screen…now there have been three planes that have crashed: two into the
and one into the Pentagon. It is now apparent, the newscaster says, that these were orchestrated terrorist attacks! World Trade Center
I check e-mail. Now we learn a total of four planes have crashed, the last in a field near
. President Bush, who was in Pittsburgh , is immediately evacuated to Air Force One. After one brief refueling and a short statement indicating that he is on it, he again returns to the air for a destination unknown. We later learn he was in a bunker in Florida . Nebraska
Airports are closed. All airplanes are ordered to land at the nearest airport. More pictures appear on the TV ~ many replays ~ lots are new.
Julie has just come to me and says her daughter has been released from school ~ the same school Whitney attends. I try to get hold of the office to give my permission. The secretary attempts to transfer me and I am cut off. I call back, connecting to the operator who patches me through the Attendance Office. Mr. Sorenson answers and I ask if he has seen whit. No, he tells me, but they are releasing the kids with verbal parental consent. He asks how I want to handle it. I tell him to tell Whit I will meet him in lot H! I tell him I will be there in 15 minutes!
I arrive a t the school in 15 minutes (traffic was very light, thank God). I pull around to lot H, park and wait. Just two minutes later I see Whit headed for the bus stop. I hit the horn ~ he looks up and is surprised ~ and relieved. As he gets into the car he tells me that he had called his dad (it was 1:30 by the time he got to a phone) and Charlie had told him to take the bus. He never got my message. I make a mental vow to work on the cell phone issue next week.
Darkness. Everyone is home safe, but extremely tired. We are wired ~ we are anxious ~ we are glued to the TV. Peter Jennings is reporting details I can’t even comprehend. Four planes have crashed ~ three bound for
Los Angeles; one for . I think: this has to be a movie! San Francisco
Replay after replay of explosions, destruction and people jumping from the
. Rubble ~ people running for their lives. World Trade Center
We have gone to bed ~ worried, scared, almost too tired to sleep. But finally, sleep takes over. In the wee hours of Wednesday, my breath catches. Aircraft is heard overhead ~ for a split second, I panic. All planes were to be grounded…Charlie stirs…I nudge him… “There’s a plane!” I whisper. He quietly reassures me ~ “It’s a military aircraft on patrol.” I exhale. “Oh.” We are both awake ~ listening ~ the silence is deafening. Not a car passes on the freeway a mile away. Not a chirp from a bird or a snap from a cricket. Nothing is moving.
We fall into exhausted sleep.
Wednesday morning arrives so quickly. We are beyond tired ~ Charlie snaps on the radio…I follow soon after, turning on the TV, hungry for updates. I vow to curtail my attention to the TV, but catch myself watching, waiting…
The morning routine continues ~ Charlie leaves, Whit shuffles to the shower ~ I continue to stare at “the box”. Reassurances are made regarding the flight activity overnight. Yes, there were planes ~ mostly military ~ but all with FAA clearance.
I drop Whit off at the bus stop and return home. I do a load of laundry. The washer is leaking so badly now that the cookie tray underneath catching the water has to be emptied after each load. What a hassle. As quickly as I think that, I chastise myself ~ big deal! The washer leaks.
is under tons of rubble. Ok ~ I regroup. I leave for work. New York
I am feeling quite helpless~ all those people still trapped ~ and their families and friends who are waiting to hear. What can I do? The plea for blood donors continues ~ I try to call for an appointment ~ but all I get is a busy signal. This is a good sign, but still frustrating.
The TV drones in the background as I check e-mail. Letters and essays are forwarded ~ one witness writes from his home in Brooklyn after leaving
. A reprint of an editorial from a Canadian newspaper urging Manhattan to “stand proud” crosses my e-mail several times. America
Teachers and staff are trickling in, their voices low, their faces tired ~ everyone compares notes so no one misses a detail. Jane’s official letter goes out to the programs for distribution.
Somehow, the day goes on. I find it difficult to focus on much of anything. Finally, 1:30 comes and I am out of there. I go home ~ I am restless. I turn on the TV for distraction and find myself watching.
I should do laundry, dishes and a multitude of other chores. I don’t want to do anything. I am glued to the TV.
The routine continues the best it can. I go to pick up Whitney at the bus stop. He is on time. We return, he goes to the computer and checks his e-mail. I decide we will have roast chicken and rice for dinner tonight. I run to Von’s for a cooked bird. I come home and put on the rice.
Charlie walks in shortly after ~ exhaustion written all over his face. He turns on KZLA on the radio and goes upstairs to change. The DJ reads an inspiring statement and the plays “God Bless the
”. I am crying. USA
By the time evening is here we are all ready to crawl into bed.
I arrive at work and turn on the TV. Peter Jennings is still there ~ does this man not sleep?
Jackie, one of our teachers, comes into my office and let’s me know she has been put “on alert” ~ as an Army Reserve. Ed is not coming in ~ he has “things to do”. I check my e-mail ~ candlelight vigils are announced ~ one nationwide tomorrow at 7 PM. “Fly Your Flag Day” tomorrow ~ for everyone. Everyone is urged to wear red, white and blue tomorrow.
More essays ~ one from the Seattle Times: “You don’t know what you just started, but you’re about to learn…”
I learn from Jose, our maintenance man, his nephew is missing. He was a waiter at the
. Jose’s brother lives in World Trade Center El Salvador and has no way to get back to . It has come home to us all. I send an e-mail to the P.O. community, encouraging everyone to keep staff and their families in their prayers. New York
I am tired of the TV ~ but no break is in sight. Mary sends me a “Nostradamus” prediction…not quite accurate (it was really predicting an event in 1999) but still causes me to stop and think.
I try to find the lyrics to “God Bless the
” by Lee Greenwood on the net. Several sites recognize the song and the artist ~ but I can’t find the lyrics. USA
The workday ends and I go to Horty Van to see if I can get a flag for my car window. They are out of American flags ~ have been since Wednesday. No biggy. I will pull one from the July 4th box.
The 4th of July stuff is right there in the media room. I select a flag ~ take it off the little stick and tape it inside of the back window of the van. Then I make a small sing that says “God Bless the
” and place it under my flag. I am ready. USA
I go to Target for a candle ~ I find three ~ a red one, white one and a blue one ~ for 99 cents each.
I then go over to Vroman’s to see if Newsweek and Time Magazines (special editions) are available. I am told “tomorrow”. I then look for the New York Times. They are out of these, too. As I walk towards my car, a lady comes up from behind me and tells me that they have the N.Y. Times across the street, indicating Bungalow News. I had forgotten all about that place. So, I go over to Bungalow News and, sure enough, they have the Times. And, they have the new People Special Edition on the recent terrorist attacks. I pick up both. I ask about the Newsweek and Time. They tell me “tomorrow”. They open at 7 AM.
I think to myself ~ I haven’t done this (collected newspapers and magazines of a major event) since Princess Diana was killed. I am formulating a journal/scrapbook on all this ~ I’m not sure how it will lay out ~ but I am thinking about it. I stop at Michael’s to look at scrapbook paper. Not much to select from with a patriotic theme. No stickers, either. That’s ok. And I go home.
After everyone gets home ~ we continue on with our routine. Charlie works on two American flags he wants to fly from his truck. I give him a copy of my sign for the truck window.
I go upstairs and crawl into bed. I drop off into a deep sleep. I don’t remember the dogs or Charlie coming upstairs.
Charlie needed to be at work early, and is gone by 5. I shower. Whit showers. Whit has his new dance bag and is ready early. I drop him at the bus and head over to Bungalow News. As I head south on
Lake, I see a huge American flag hanging on the MIndyMac Bank building. Chills run down my back.
I am early, of course, and the newsstand is not open yet. At the moment, I don’t have anywhere to be just now. I watch the sun peek above the buildings on
Colorado Blvd.A flock of birds are flying in formation over the buildings ~ so synchronized you could swear it had been rehearsed. Life is continuing.
Colorado Blvd.A flock of birds are flying in formation over the buildings ~ so synchronized you could swear it had been rehearsed. Life is continuing.
Soon, others begin to gather in front of the newsstand. Businessmen, a landscaper ~ we all wait quietly. 7 AM. The door is unlocked and we are invited in. Many of the others pick up a copy of each newspaper available. There must be a dozen or more, I estimate. Then, the magazines. Time. Newsweek. ~ there is a Business week and some other publications for the financial wizards. I just want the NY Times, Time and Newsweek. I pay and leave.
I see Gloria as I head down
. I pick her up and we chat. We walk together into the school ~ I get to my office. It is so quiet. I open my inner door and notice many large boxes. My day begins ~ I check e-mail ~ an essay by an 18 year old is forwarded to me ~ “You hit the buildings, but missed California ”. Very poignant. And, an email from my son which is an article written by a friend and ~ hooray! ~ the words to Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the America ”. USA
Awhile later, Jane comes in and tells me she will begin looking for a replacement for Jackie. She knows it’s just a matter of time before Jackie will need to leave for reserve duty.
This has been a long week ~ an incredible week. I just want quiet. I tell Julie I am leaving early ~ 12:30 (big deal) (an hour early) ~ I am exhausted ~ I want to be somewhere else ~ no TVs, no radios, no newspapers. I need to escape. My brain is on overload ~ probably no more than anyone else’s ~ but this week has been intense ~ I need a commercial break!
On TV we see Peter Jennings interviewing/chatting with a group of kids. He looks rested but tired.
More news: President Bush and the Security Council are bunkered at
Camp David. Bush vows we will win. As does every citizen interviewed on the street. I am reminded of the scene at Twelve Oaks in Gone with the Wind ~ they, too, were going to win! The charge came ~ and the loss unbelievable. I fear we face the same now. No matter how careful we will be, the losses will cost us dearly ~ for if only one life is lost in battle, the cost will have been too much.
But our country is united right now ~ and I think, while they want to avoid a “knee jerk” response, there will be a response very soon. The success of this mission will depend, in part, on the unity of the country. Our spirit is strong. ~
Whit has gone to volunteer at the Pasadena Playhouse. The distraction will be good for him ~ I’m not quite sure how he is taking this all in ~ he seems so disinterested. But, I remind myself, he’s 15 ~ he is interested in his own way. He just doesn’t want to talk about it. Yet.
Charlie and I watch a special Oprah and then the two-hour special
’s Most Wanted with John Walsh. He’s there with camera crew at ground zero ~ in the debris field. He urges anyone with info on the terrorists to call 1-800-crime-tv. I am exhausted. I go upstairs to watch the end of the show and fall asleep. Whit comes home and says goodnight. America
6 AM ~ the dogs are up. They are the routine this Sunday morning. Charlie has struggled with an allergy attack all night ~ he sounds like a chain saw and a percolator! In the quiet it is quite loud!
The pups and I are up and head for the stairs. Annie pauses to do her cat stretch at the top of the stairs, which nearly causes me to trip. The dogs and I make it downstairs like the herd of elephants we’ve become. I dish up the kibble and Pete eats immediately. Annie only wants attention.
I make a cup of tea and re-read my previous notes. Yes. We are at war. President Bush has said as much. He guarantees we will “smoke them out” ~ but it will be a careful and methodic procedure. A long haul. Are we, as a country, ready to commit to this? At the moment, we are. The blood banks are overwhelmed with the response to the call. But the response will need to continue. The shelf life of blood is not too long, and more will be needed. People are donating money, pledging support ~ they will need to continue, for this battle will be costly. There is no easy, overnight ‘fix’ for terrorism. Eventually, the fight will get old ~ but I pray that we will remain united. All of the “arm chair generals”, the weekend strategists, need to remain supportive and united. Those American flags must remain flying now and forever. We must never let our guard down.
It’s been over a month since this crisis began. We began bombing
last weekend. We are pinpointing terrorist training camps, ammo bunkers ~ anything that might house or hide terrorists. Afghanistan
Last night, we heard on the news that all of the food that we had been dropping to the civilians in
has been fed to their animals. They don’t know what to do with peanut butter. All they want is rice and beans. I picture in my mind a camel with peanut butter stuck to the roof of its mouth. Hmmm. Did we not include instructions? Afghanistan
Whit’s comment was “screw them”. Charlie explains why we are dropping food to them It’s the humane thing to do. Whit responded, “Humane?! Blasting into two buildings full of people was humane? They don’t have a clue what humane is. Screw them.”
Finally, we hear from our son.
That was the only news we listened to last night. A five-minute blip. It feels good not to be glued to the tube. I ask myself if this is not a denial tactic ~ not tuning in. No, it’s survival. We can only handle so much and then we must move on to daily tasks. To watch 24/7 will only cause more stress and tension, of which we have too much already.
May we never forget.