September 11th, 2006

journal

Then

Originally written 11 September 2001:

I woke up suddenly and with some worry... I had the feeling that I'd overslept and missed class. I threw the warm covers off, climbed out of bed, squinted my eyes and walked toward the clock until I could make out the digital reading. Whew. 8:43 a.m. I had another hour or so to sleep. I crawled back into bed and found the warm spot in the middle of the mattress. I laid on my left side and then rolled onto my right. Sunlight from the blinds hit me in the face. I pulled the comforter up to block the rays. In seconds, I was asleep.

Ring. Ring.

I climbed from my bed again and was a little miffed that someone had ruined my bonus hour of sleep. It was Jessie. She apologized for waking me before saying, "but Washington is being attacked." In a single moment, I went from nearly asleep to fully awake. She chimed in again, "and they've bombed the World Trade Center."

I looked at the clock. It was a few minutes before 9 o'clock. I hadn't been asleep long. I fumbled with the buttons of the television and searched for a channel with coverage. I found Headline News, thanked Jessie and hung up the phone to watch. In less than 10 minutes, I was calling her back.

"Oh, dear God, Jess. One of the towers has collapsed."

And so it was that one of the nation's darkest days was upon us.
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Expensive Meals


I'm at the firehouse today. It's the first time since my rookie year here ('02) that I've worked September 11th. There are two tables worth of food downstairs that folks in the community have brought by. We've been fed breakfast and lunch. A group is supposed to drop by in a few hours with dinner, too. One lady and her children brought by a pan of cinnamon rolls so fresh from the oven that they were still warm. In the note she attached to the pan, she called us God's angels. Wow.

Of the 16 career guys in my department, I think I'm one of only five that were firefighters before September 11, 2001. That puts me in a unique position... Or, at the least, it provides a unique perspective. I joined the fire service when we were just guys on big, red trucks. We were the ones that led the local parade. No one hosted parades for us. We were only heroes when one of us died -- and when we died, we only did so one or two at a time. Fires killed us... Heart attacks, too... But never terrorists. Some of us felt unappreciated, but we did the work anyway... Not because we wanted to "protect the homeland," but because we liked helping our neighbors. Oh, how so much has changed.

I made the comment to the guys that I wish people would bring food on August 11 or October 11. I hate that we -- just your average, small-town firemen -- get free food because of the very real sacrifices made by our brothers more than 1,000 miles away from here. We appreciate the recognition, but wish it didn't come on this day and that it didn't come with the price it did. Of course, there is a flip side to the coin. What will it feel like when folks stop recognizing this day? What will it feel like when people start to forget? And it will happen. Just think... What did you do that was special last December 7? Like I said... People will forget. Let's just hope that it's not any time soon.
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