Monday, September 11, 2006

Where were you when the world stopped turning?

I'm not one to dwell on awful things. I'm generally living in the moment with an eye to the future. However, todays bombardment of 9/11 images has me remembering back five years ago...I think Alan Jackson's song sums up the collective feelings of that day.

It was a beautiful, warm, calm morning. I had driven down to Yankee Nuclear power plant in Brattleboro the previous day for a consulting gig - I stopped to see Nana and Baa on the way home - and was so shocked that the security at the plant was so lax - I walked right into the building without ID.

Crystal blue skies, I had noticed them when I took Kasei for a walk at 8:30. We came home and I was watching the today show - at that point today ended at 9. They broke off one of those stupid beauty segments to say that that a plane had hit one of the towers. I watched the events unfold as if I were in a trance. My brother was home from school that term and I called the house. My dad had flown into Newark that morning, the old continental route from Burlington to Newark used to fly directly over the twin towers. It was a route I'd flown many times going to New Jersey for work years before. Lee had tried to call my dad's cell phone only to find it ringing on the dining room table a few feet away. Before the second plane hit and before we knew that it was a large plane (not a 20 seater commuter jet) that had hit the tower Lee was convinced it was Dad's flight. That thought never occured to me until he mentioned it. It was of some comfort then when they announced the flight numbers and points of origin (Boston).

It was some time later that I became aware of the national guard activity at the airport - it's 2 miles as the crow flies from my house - the airport was silent and blaring at the same time - an eerie feeling. I went outside to get away from some of the pixels of horror. For the first time in a long time I felt alone - lonely even, somewhat empty. I had Kasei of course and he was as loving as he could be in his own way. I called a couple of friends on the phone, tried to get in touch with some friends I had in the city and failed. I was trying to remember where they lived in proximity to the trade center. I had interviewed at a firm on Church Street and had spent a Friday afternoon in the city on their dime - looking UP at the twin towers while listening to a concert in the plaza on a late August afternoon. I actually accepted my first job after college from a pay phone in the bowels of the trade center mall on that very day after deciding that NYC was not the place for me at that moment in time. If things had been different, if it weren't for Kasei I might have taken that job. I just couldn't imagine making him into a city dog.

Months after 9/11 the sounds of F-16 fighter jets became a predictable part of living here - taking off and heading south on patrol every 6 hours: 5am, 11am, 5pm, 11pm - like clockwork for 6 months after the event.

That day and week I was completely sucked into the news coverage - the horror, the thirst for revenge and the feelings of helplessness. Five years later the topic is still prime for discussion - where were you, what did you do, how did you feel, did you know anyone - It was the birth of 24 hour news, it planted the seed that we weren't so isolated - we weren't totally safe and invincible and we could never be naive to world terrorism ever again. We learned the lesson we should have learned in 1993 when those same buildings were attacked.

On the 5th anniversary of those events it's also the eve of primary elections here - it's an interesting juxtiposition - heartfelt testimonies of people who've lost their husbands and wives cut to a bitter senate race commercial. It's almost comical in a way. I notice that none of that ads tonight mention the war in Iraq, Oil, terrorism. All the politicians are sticking to health care and amber alerts...

And the world isn't the same - but time is change, time is heelng and we're stronger because of it.


Where Were You (When The World Stopped Turning)
Alan Jackson

Where were you when the world stopped turning that September day
Out in the yard with your wife and children
Working on some stage in LA
Did you stand there in shock at the site of
That black smoke rising against that blue sky
Did you shout out in anger
In fear for your neighbor
Or did you just sit down and cry

Did you weep for the children
Who lost their dear loved ones
And pray for the ones who don't know
Did you rejoice for the people who walked from the rubble
And sob for the ones left below

Did you burst out in pride
For the red white and blue
The heroes who died just doing what they do
Did you look up to heaven for some kind of answer
And look at yourself to what really matters

I'm just a singer of simple songs
I'm not a real political man
I watch CNN but I'm not sure I can tell you
The difference in Iraq and Iran
But I know Jesus and I talk to God
And I remember this from when I was young
Faith hope and love are some good things he gave us
And the greatest is love

Where were you when the world stopped turning that September day
Teaching a class full of innocent children
Driving down some cold interstate
Did you feel guilty cause you're a survivor
In a crowded room did you feel alone
Did you call up your mother and tell her you love her
Did you dust off that bible at home
Did you open your eyes and hope it never happened
Close your eyes and not go to sleep
Did you notice the sunset the first time in ages
Speak with some stranger on the street
Did you lay down at night and think of tomorrow
Go out and buy you a gun
Did you turn off that violent old movie you're watching
And turn on "I Love Lucy" reruns
Did you go to a church and hold hands with some stranger
Stand in line and give your own blood
Did you just stay home and cling tight to your family
Thank God you had somebody to love

I'm just a singer of simple songs
I'm not a real political man
I watch CNN but I'm not sure I can tell you
The difference in Iraq and Iran
But I know Jesus and I talk to God
And I remember this from when I was young
Faith hope and love are some good things he gave us
And the greatest is love

I'm just a singer of simple songs
I'm not a real political man
I watch CNN but I'm not sure I can tell you
The difference in Iraq and Iran
But I know Jesus and I talk to God
And I remember this from when I was young
Faith hope and love are some good things he gave us
And the greatest is love

The greatest is love
The greatest is love

Where were you when the world stopped turning that September day

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