September 12th, 2011

test pattern

Writer's Block: 9/11

Where were you?

Written September 11, 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.

The first moments spent watching the television coverage were filled with anger. How the fuck could someone do this to my country? I asked myself this question aloud. I asked Jessie in our on and off phone conversations through the early morning. This is the United States of America, dammit. Perhaps our arrogance is also our ignorance, but you just don't mess with America. Everyone knows that... Don't they?

As the anger subsided, the disbelief set in. How can buildings 110 stories high -- buildings strong enough to withstand hurricanes and bomb blasts -- collapse? And how is it that thousands -- not hundreds, but thousands -- of people could now be dead? If we thought the Oklahoma City bombing was devastating... The scenes we watched Tuesday morning were beyond the realm of comprehension. At least, they were for me.

Finally, the mood of sadness -- the mood that remains with me as I write these words -- set in. The media is reporting that between 200 and 300 firefighters were trapped in the collapse and are presumed dead. Entire fire companies have been killed. For the first time since I became a firefighter more than a year ago, I feel the brotherhood of the fire service. I feel a connection to those killed, to those injured and to those trapped in the rubble...

I think about the radio calls for help from trapped firefighters and wonder if they knew help wasn't on its way immediately...

I think about the firefighters and dispatchers who listened to those calls and supported their brothers and sisters but could do nothing to help...

I think about the apparatus bays that sit empty -- missing apparatus and firefighters that left for a call and will never return...

I think about the goodbye hugs and kisses from wives and girlfriends and moms that will have to last an eternity instead of just one shift...

I think about the lockers where civilian clothes still hang waiting for the end of a tour of duty that won't come...

I think of the children that used to beam with pride when uttering the words, "my daddy is a fireman"... And how some of those children don't have daddies anymore... And how those that do should feel especially proud to make that claim.

The enormity of the tragedy is too much to consume. I think about those guys and gals and their families and that's my connection to the madness. To attempt to soak it all in and take it personally would be foolish and probably impossible. But so would trying to ignore it. The events of today should carry with them some sort of meaning for each and every American. Every now and then, we sort of forget that with all our differences, we're really all the same in some way. We share a common thread. And today... we were all attacked.