The Therapy Sessions
Thursday, September 11, 2003
September 11th, 2001
I remember the beauty of the day. I think everybody does, but for me, it was especially obvious because I was seeing it for nearly the first time. Our company had just moved us to a new site, and the new campus was especially nice in the crisp September morning air. When I was walking from my car, I was savoring the breeze coming in off the fields and the pond, and probably thinking about my commute – which in those days was quite hairy since I had not yet figured out how to avoid the traffic.
We were unpacking and setting up a chemistry laboratory, which is a laborious and boring process. We were listening to the radio as we worked, and the DJ’s at the local rock station (Y100 - a truly boring radio station) were trying to keep their audience entertained with their stupid anecdotes, anything to avoid playing music.
It was just before 9:00 when the one DJ told us that a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center. We looked at each other with confused looks. We thought that he meant a small plane, a Cessna or something, had crashed into the building. A coworker said that he thought that the area around the WTC was restricted airspace, and it seemed especially odd that an aircraft would be there. One of the DJ’s mentioned that he believed that it was large airliner.
Things moved quickly after that. The news director came in and they were describing the horrific scenes over the air when the second aircraft struck. Soon we heard that several aircraft were unaccounted for, and it was all a blur after that. I remembered dazed looking coworkers, one in shock and one thoroughly infuriated. A coworker came in looking happy, but her face fell when I told her what was going on.
I remember the shock of watching the collapse of the towers in a crowded conference room, as some anchorwoman screamed in fear at what she thought was a huge explosion. They were interviewing the fire chief just after the collapse: "Lord knows how many firefighters just lost their lives down there," he said.
I remember myself saying repeatedly “nothing like this has happened before…” over and over again – not noticing what an obvious and trite thing it was to say. I remember the fear when I could not call my wife, and my relief when I finally got through to her. I remember getting her when she was finally at home, safely with our young son, and I only wanted to be home with her. I remember calling my parents just to make sure that they were OK. It was a night where the TV was on continuously, and it was a night where I got almost no sleep.
A few days later, sadness had turned to anger. The Inquirer ran a cartoon that summarized my thoughts pretty well. It was a picture of bald eagle looking hurt by the world, while it methodically sharpened its claws.
Two years before, I had stayed in New York with my wife and another couple. We stayed at the Millennium (?) Hotel, which was right next to the WTC, and it practically looked into its windows. I remember thinking how silly it was to think that you could knock something that big down with a truck bomb.
A few weeks after 9/11, I was driving to a conference in New York, and we could see the city from the Garden State Parkway. There was still dusty smoke coming from ground zero. In the car, we talked about friends who had worked in the buildings and their near escapes.
A few weeks after that, I visited New York with my wife and son. There was a smoky, dusty smell in the air. It smelled like wet cement, but it was mingled with the smell of distant fire. As you got near the WTC, crowds increased and filed toward the site. Pictures of people who never came home were everywhere,and loved ones were begging for information. They all had put up phone numbers to call.
The site was walled off, and you could barely see anything. But people stood and stared anyway. Several cried.
When I was a baby, my parents held me up in front of the TV to watch Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon. I held my boy up in front of the ruins of those buildings.
We can never forget why this happened.