I learned something today. I learned even though I live more than 6,000 miles away from the World Trade Center, I was almost profoundly, personally affected by 9/11.
That’s not to say that the people who didn’t have relatives that died on the site weren’t profoundly affected. I remember being in elementary school, and sitting in class on that fateful day, when my teachers turned on the television. My teacher, Mrs. Smith, cried out as we watched the crumpling of what looked to be a rather set of twin buildings. All of my classmates were very confused. A lot of us started crying just from vicariously experiencing the stress of watching our beloved teacher weeping openly. She kept the television turned on quietly in the background as all of our parents were called and we were picked up from school early. She explained the tragedy to us as best she could, in the terms that we could best understand without having to go too far into death and hate and politics and the afterlife, and gave us a pen and paper and allowed us to write about our feelings.
My essay went like this, verbatim:
This is how I feel about I feel about what’s happning in our country. I feel sad because a lot of people died. I also feel sad because a lot of people died, like friends and family.
September 11, 2001
day of sadness
I didn’t have any friends and family that died, but even then, I understood that those people had families that were waiting for them to come home, families that longed to hold them in their arms and tell them everything is okay and that all of the chaos of war and hate is far from them. There were countless people that never did come home, and I learned today that my grandmother was almost one of them.
I was talking with my mom on the phone this morning, and she told me that she had talked with my grandmother, and said, “Every time it hits September eleventh, I think about what could have happened to her.” I didn’t get the reference, and I asked, “What do you mean? Grandmom worked in D.C.? How could she have died?”
I heard her suck in air and she sighed, “So no one told you? No one explained to you that those animalistic terrorists had more targets than the World Trade Center?”
I had never really thought about it, since it wasn’t something my teacher had explained to me at the time.
She told me about how my grandmother was rushed from the Capitol after a threat was discovered. By the time everyone was evacuating the Capitol and White house, the World Trade Center had long been partially crumbled. Everyone knew that it wasn’t a joke or a fluke or a fleeting threat, and my grandmother was already pushing on 65 as she hobbled down the stairs of the Capitol in a frantic sweat. She was winded by the time that a security guard grabbed her under her armpits and put her in the back of a congressional limo, where the driver erratically swerved on curbs, medians, and grassy parks to get to a point of safety. When the threat passed, she was driven home, traumatized.
“So, what happened? Was the plane diverted?”
That’s when she told me to Google Todd Beamer. He was the civilian that took charge on the plane and contacted someone on land after the brave group of civilians on board highjacked the plane from the highjackers. The people on board the plane that was scheduled to crash into D.C. made the brave and and selfless decision to take their own lives and wreck the plane far away from the terrorist’s target.
There are many accounts of his and the others’ bravery, and many where Todd is quoted as saying, “Let’s roll” moments before the plane hit the ground and all on board died. Forty civilians died that day that were aboard the crashed plane. Forty people that chose action instead of cowardice, that are largely overshadowed by the large amounts of civilian deaths at the site of the World Trade Center. All of them deserve to be recognized.
To the families of those that died on Flight 93 and at the World Trade Center, I am endlessly sorry for your loss, and I hope that you have found someone who understands your grief that you can talk to.
And to those that died on Flight 93, thank you for not making this day the day that I lost my grandmother. If there is a heaven, I know that you are in it, and I hope that I can one day join you and thank you personally. Thank you.