A Decade Later
I remember that the only reason -- the only reason -- I knew it wasn't a joke was that WEBN, my local rock station, had interrupted Lynyrd Skynyrd with an announcement about a plane hitting the first tower. If it had "interrupted" some disc jockey banter or been in the middle of a string of commercials, I might've just thought it was a gimmick ad for a suspense movie.
I assumed, like so many others, that it was an accident at first. A terrible, mind-numbing, accident...but accidents happen, right? Planes crash, sometimes. Life goes on. The world keeps turning. I finished my drive, and got to the campus of Northern Kentucky University. Walking in the general direction of my 9:00 class, I noticed the students. No one else was walking anywhere. Or, at least, not the normal Underclassman Saunter, drifting from place to place, chatting with friends.
They were all drawn to the tvs. They were clustering around friends with cell phones and radios and laptops. They were moving like ants, with invisible but undeniable purpose, visible patterns in the normal chaos of motion.
I looked over a coed's shoulder at the screen of a big tv in the student center -- screw my Ancient Chinese History class, this was history -- and I saw Flight 175 fly headlong into the South tower. Like everyone else in the world, my heart skipped a beat. I didn't wake up that morning thinking I'd watch 65 people die by fire on live tv, in the blink of an eye.
I went to my buddy's apartment, just off campus not three, four, miles from school. I sat down in his living room, I turned on his computer, and I turned on his tv. I watched the events of September 11, 2001, unfold like every event since in my generation's history; on line and on tv, a multimedia moment for a multimedia age.
I was logged onto the Shadowland BBS, a role-playing-game bulletin board system, with friends of mine from all over the world. None of us talked about rolling dice and telling fun stories. None of us talked about a cyberpunk dystopian future, or elves, or dragons, or magic. A dozen of us sat through that day typing to one another, sharing numbers from each of the different news channels we were watching. CNN said a thousand. NBC fifteen-hundred. BBC talked about another plane. Chatting, real-time, we each kept one eye on our tv screen and the other on our monitor, sharing information to try and stay "in the loop."
I watched people run down the streets of New York City, choking on clouds of smoke and air thick with ash that was their neighbors. Their neighbors. I, like so many others, watched people tumble out of the sky, leaping or falling from burning windows and offices. I saw the hole torn in the side of the Pentagon. I watched the towers fall. I heard about a Pennsylvania coal mine that had United Flight 93 slam into it like the fist of an angry God, and I prayed that, if I'd been there, I would have had the courage to say "let's roll" and go down swinging.
One thing I'll never forget from that footage? Dead air. It's a radio term, not a tv one, but it's the same idea; you're never supposed to be absolutely quiet, during a broadcast. Even, or especially, a live one. Normally dead air happens when there's a technical problem. I remember dead air on 9/11 because so many reporters just couldn't find the words. Professional talkers, who blather on about tragedies and triumphs every day, behind microphones and fakes smiles...had nothing to say, time after time, during those first few hours.
Ten years, already. Jesus. 2,996 people died ten years ago today. More and more since then, as we sent our country's finest out into the field to try keep it from ever happening again.
RIP. All of you. Please. You people, from 2 to 79 years old, were taken away for nothing at all that you did wrong. Rest in peace. Be more peaceful, be better, than the world you left behind...sleep sound, watch over us, and accept our apologies for how you died. Look over your families, know they're still missing you.
256 of you were just flying a plane, or riding on one, or doing your job in the air. 2,606 of you were just everyday people of New York, doing your jobs -- but for 422 of you, "your job" was to run into the fire, and we thank God for you and those like you.
9/11 casualties of the FDNY, NYPD, Port Authority PD, EMTs: rest easy knowing, if nothing else, that your bravery is appreciated, that you've been an inspiration to so many since you fell, and knowing you're not forgotten.
Soldiers, Marines, Airmen, Sailors, who have fallen, fought, deployed, been torn from your families, spent time away from loved ones, lived with the fear of being next and the pride of doing your part, in the last ten years especially: thank you. For your service, for your sacrifice, I thank you.
This has been my signature here on GT for a while now. It deserves to be resposted today, of all days, I think.
"It seems that the least we owe the hero is that we remember him. Without remembrance, without honor, we cannot expect to have such men when we need them. Without an awareness of what has been done, we do not realize what can be done, nor are we inspired to do that which should be done. "
Posted 09-10-2011 at 23:38 by Tim151515