Saturday, September 11, 2010

9 Years

I'm not even sure I'm awake. I'm trying to shake the fog out of my head, it's not even 9am yet. The owner of the firm, Dave, walks into my office and quietly says, “I'm sorry to bother you so early, but you may want to say a short prayer. There's been some kind of major accident in New York.”  I grunt a response and look back down at my file.

Something is nagging at me, though.

I turn to my computer and pull up some news websites. Well, I try. I'm not sure what's going on, but it must be big. All the news sites are down. Dave comes back in, “It's a plane. They say some kind of plane has crashed into a building.”  The hairs on my arm stand on end.

I turn on my radio and try to find a news station. Another employee walks in.  Her face is pale.  “Another plane has crashed into the World Trade Center in New York.”

My throat is suddenly dry. “I know.  Dave told me.”

“No, its another plane. Into the other building.”  She's fighting her emotions.  And losing.

I try to swallow.  Stupid websites! Why can't I pull anything up? I find a radio station and my life changes. 

Dave and I look at each other. I don't remember who, but one of us decides to cancel all appointments for the day. The receptionists are sent to the task.  There is a dark silence in the air.

I have to get home.

It's only a few minutes away, but no matter how hard I push the accelerator, the car does not want to move. There are three stop lights, and today, they stay red forever.

I finally make it to the apartment, taking up two spaces as I park.  There's no one outside.  I run up the stairs, two and three at a time. I pound on the door while trying to fit the key in the lock. The key is three sizes too big. Did someone change the lock?

My wife, holding my 5 month old daughter, comes running to the door. My two year old is playing on the floor.

No greeting, no fanfare. “Have you talked to your sisters?” I can barely get the question out.

“No, why?”

“Call them. There's been some kind of accident in New York.”

“What is it?” She's impatient, and my mouth can't speak as fast as my mind is moving.

“Baby, you have to turn on the television. I think it's bad. I've got to get back to the office.”

I grab the small TV from the spare room, yank the cord from the wall, and rummage through a drawer to find the old rabbit ear antenna. I jump down the stairs. I barely make the last step, almost falling. I throw the TV in the car and race back to work.

I get to the office and bring the TV into the conference room. Everyone follows me in.  I plug it in and try to adjust the rabbit ears. Stupid TV. Why won't it work? Do we have cable in here?

Finally, I bring up a snowy, grainy news broadcast. I move the antenna around, trying to get a better picture. All of us are gathered around that small television, with different degrees of disbelief registered in our faces.

Then, we see the buildings begin to collapse. Behind me, someone screams out in horror and begins sobbing loudly. It's contagious. As the buildings collapse, most of us have tears in our eyes. All I can think about is the thousands of people who are in those buildings. I can't see them, yet the knot in my stomach is paralyzing. I am watching people die.

After an eternity, I walk back to my office. My feet weigh a hundred pounds each and I feel like I'm walking through mud. I sit in my chair and stare. I don't know what I'm looking at, but it doesn't matter. My eyes can't focus anyway.  I keep replaying the sight of those buildings collapsing.

So much changed that day. So much will never be the same.

I was not there.  I lost no relatives or friends that day.  But, I lost something just the same.

We have grieved.  There was time for that.  We have nursed our anger.  There was time for that as well.  But, eventually, it's time to put the tissues down, take the bandages off, and take our post, ever vigilant, at the guard tower.  Freedom worth having is freedom worth protecting.  At all costs.

They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.
Benjamin Franklin

Never forget.

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