Nine eleven

Nine eleven. Two little words… I wasn’t going to write about the 9/11 anniversary, but I keep thinking of odd things,

  • The passengers trapped on those planes or in the WTC were able to make those last phone calls, all about of love…
  • Wedding rings were found in the rubble.  Undamaged.
  • All the people who missed their train that morning.
  • Three of those flights were bound for Los Angeles.  Only one flight was allowed into LA airport after the government shut down air travel across the country:  a plane load of grief counselors.

Of the millions of stories, I know just a handful. Even though I live on the west coast, thousands of miles away from ground zero,  I too have a 9/11 story….

https://i0.wp.com/upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/6/6b/911_victims.jpg/500px-911_victims.jpg

Photos of those killed (except for 92 victims and terrorists) during the terrorists attacks on September 11, 2001.

By Jeeny at en.wikipedia. [Public domain], from Wikimedia Commons

.

This is a copy of the email I wrote to my family that afternoon:

Our neighbor Janet phoned me about seven-thirty this morning, “My brother, Scott works on the 25th floor of the North Tower at the World Trade Center. Can I come watch TV with you.”

She knew he’d survived the initial impact, because he’d called his wife shortly after the plane crashed into his building and told her he’d made his way down to the thirteenth floor, but couldn’t continue because of thick smoke. He promised to call again as soon as he got out. 

Janet and I sat ‘glued’ to the TV,  drinking too much coffee, while waiting for her brother’s phone call. The live TV coverage showed too graphically the burning buildings, the people jumping out of the windows, and then the final horror as the buildings imploded and fell down. Through the long hours as they showed us the same footage of the buildings falling down, Janet kept repeating over and over that her brother was a survivor, that he’d be okay, how he and his wife were teenage sweethearts, that they had three children who needed their Dad. 

The last time I sat through a vigil like this was in 1968 when the plane my sister-in-law Di’s parents’ were traveling in, crashed in Namibia.   I sat with my family and waited that long day and into the next hoping for news of survivors.  Di was an only child, we were her only family. I told Janet that it reminded me of that time, “Did they survive?” she asked,

  When I whispered, “No…”  I wanted to kick myself. Some comforter I turned out to be for my lonely neighbor and friend: Janet’s mother lives in Florida, her father in Long Island, her one sister in Italy, the other one in northern California.

Janet and I didn’t say another word about Di’s parents, but we both knew that the likelihood of her brother having made it out safely was pretty slim especially after the second building fell down, and as the minutes turned into an hour and an hour into two, then three, we both knew it wasn’t a good sign. Why would it take three hours for a healthy athletic male to get down thirteen floors?

When the phone finally rang close to noon Janet was so nervous she dropped it and lost the connection! It was her father, he said, “Scott just phoned. He’s okay. Unharmed. Unscratched.”

Scott phoned around 2:30 pm . He told Janet that he was sitting at his desk when the first plane hit his building, and the impact threw him out of his chair onto the floor. When he looked out the window, and saw burning debris, chairs, clothing,  body parts floating past, he immediately ran out the door and down the stairs, but was stopped by smoke at the thirteenth floor. He found a phone and called his wife, “Put on the TV and tell me what the hell’s going on.” 

  I don’t know how long it took him to get down those final thirteen flights of stairs, but apparently, once he’d gotten out of the building he’d had such an adrenaline rush that he ran all the way to Penn Station (which I believe is many blocks from the WTC) before stopping at a bar to use the phone.  Although fit, he’s not a runner.

https://i2.wp.com/upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/5/55/September_11_2001_just_collapsed.jpg/500px-September_11_2001_just_collapsed.jpg

The World Trade Center on 9/11 shortly after the second tower collapsed.

By Wally Gobetz (http://www.flickr.com/photos/wallyg/159454993/) [CC-BY-2.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.

When you look at the thick smoke in the above photo, and see how it’s spread  over so many blocks, it’s hard to imagine people finding their way through it.

~ O ~ o ~ O ~

When the airspace over the United States was shut down, thousands of tourists who were stranded in Los Angeles poured into the Museum.

I noticed  a “camaraderie” among them that I hadn’t seen before, or since.

People had to wait in long lines just to get into the main store, but there was no yelling, no pushing, no rudeness. Every single person who came to my cash register was grateful to be safe and alive,  they didn’t mind waiting to pay, or that they were stranded in LA. They chatted to each other, asking the person in the line in front of them, “Where are you going…?” or  telling the person behind them, “I was on my way to Australia, just changing planes in L.A …”

It didn’t last long though. Unfortunately.

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About dearrosie

We think we need so much, when all we really need is time to breathe. Come walk with me, put one foot in front of the other, and get to know yourself. Please click the link to my blog - below - and leave me a comment. I love visitors.
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35 Responses to Nine eleven

  1. Priya says:

    This is a beautiful tribute, Rosie. I am still goosebumped.

    The two vigils must’ve been trying. I am glad at least one of them ended on a happy note for one person’s family.

    What I cannot get over, though, is your final line — “It didn’t last long though. Unfortunately.” It doesn’t, does it? Learning life’s simplest lessons like kindness and consideration take the longest.

    • dearrosie says:

      Hi Priya,
      It’s not easy to explain how one copes with the waiting during a vigil – the clock ticks and you sit and can only hope. The first vigil my sister-in-law Di wasn’t alone – she was surrounded by my parents and my siblings. Because Janet’s family live all over the show the 9/11 vigil was just the two of us. And cell phones.

      I speak to every single person I serve, but it was only for a short time after 9/11 that people spoke to their neighbors while waiting in the lines at our cash registers. Even during the period last year when the Iceland volcano (with that long name) erupted and planes didn’t fly over Europe for 5 days leaving many folks stranded in L.A, I didn’t hear them chatting to each other.

      It’s a shame!

  2. magsx2 says:

    Hi,
    A lovely post, I’m glad to hear a good story of survival out of this tragic day, so many sad stories, my heart and thoughts are with all those that lost someone on that day.

    • dearrosie says:

      Hi Mags
      Unfortunately there are way too many sad stories from that dreadful day, that’s why I decided to share mine, one of the few 9/11 stories with a happy ending.

      I also send my sincere condolences to all those men, women and children who lost loved ones that day.

  3. Liz says:

    Beautifully written…

  4. Sybil says:

    Here in Canada, there were various memorials of 9/11 this year. The one I love hearing about the most, is about the small town of Gander, Newfoundland. Once a thriving stop-over for trans-Atlantic flights, it’s little used now. But on that fateful day, when all flights were ordered to land, the population of Gander almost doubled. Locals opened their homes, fed strangers, shared phones, computers, showers.and formed life-long bonds with some of our American neighbours. I found this website which gives one person’s view of what happened at day. Scroll down to the blue box and read a heart-warming story

    http://www.truthorfiction.com/rumors/d/deltaflight15.htm

    …you’ll read a wonderful tale of humanity at its best. It’s a nice tonic against humanity at its worst. Peace.

    Sybil in Eastern Passage, Nova Scotia

    • dearrosie says:

      Hi Sybil from Nova Scotia,
      Thank you for writing, and for sharing the story by the flight attendant from DELTA Flight 15 which was forced to land in Gander. Although I’d read about it at the time, I wept now while I read it:

      “Gander had a population of 10,400…53 planes from all over the world with 10,500 passengers suddenly appeared out of the skies….”

      It’s encouraging to know that there are decent folks out there ready to help strangers, and even more encouraging to learn that the strangers have become “life-long friends.”

      I don’t know where Eastern Passage is. I’m going to look it up.

  5. Reggie says:

    Very, very touching. And was an extraordinary link posted by Sybil – lump-in-the-throat stuff – thank you!

  6. My daughter Jessica, a reporter for the San Jose Mercury News at the time, was in L.A. on 9/11, covering a story there. Her editor called her and told her to go down to LAX and interview family members of the flight that had been headed to L.A. but struck the Pentagon instead. It was horrible for her, she said.

    • dearrosie says:

      Hi Dinah,
      Every single radio station and TV station stopped all planned programs, and just showed live footage from the three crash sites all day so I’d imagine that everyone knew what had happened to the flight, but I guess some people still went to the airport to try get firsthand *news*? Whew.

      Journalists have to do what their editors tell them, but oh my god I cannot imagine how one approaches a family member at a time like that… Be respectful, but try to get a story? Whew.

  7. souldipper says:

    President Obama sent a letter to Canada thanking us for being a supportive neighbour. He said other kind things, but I really appreciated his gesture. I also loved what Gander people did for all those poor souls so full of fear and disbelief.

    • souldipper says:

      I’ve chopped too much wood today – am beat so forgive me for not getting my point across…what you did for your neighbour was exactly the same kindness as what Gander extended. Though it’s not my place…thank you for your beautiful and patient heart.

      • dearrosie says:

        I’m very impressed to hear that you chopped wood today. Really!

        I thank you for stopping by my blog and taking the time to comment and I thank you for thanking me.

    • dearrosie says:

      Hi Amy,
      I’m glad that President Obama thanked the Canadian people – that’s exactly what he should’ve done!
      The people of Gander sound like real human beings! I’d love to go visit their city and meet them.

  8. Cindy says:

    I have a huge lump in my throat after reading this …

  9. Sybil says:

    On the CBC they interviewed some Americans who had been on those planes that landed at Gander ten years ago. They now visited Gander every other year and their Canadian friends visited them every other year too. Gander is in Newfoundland (say it like “understand” not ” new FOUND land” ) 🙂 Newfoundlanders are known for their friendliness. They sure proved it that day !

    BTW – Eastern Passage where I live is near the city of Halifax. About 15 km (11 or 12 mi) away..

    Sybil

    • dearrosie says:

      Hi Sybil from Halifax,
      Thanks for updating the story for us. It’s almost unbelievable that folks living in way out Gander Newfoundland could become friends with Americans that day, and so heart warming to learn that over the past ten years their friendship has grown. I wonder whether one can listen to the interviews on the CBC?

      btw I’ve been to Halifax once about 20 years ago. I loved your city.

  10. Sybil says:

    Here’s the CBC’s 9/11 web page:
    http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/story/2011/09/11/canada-sept11.html

    There is a 2 min video posted there about the 10th anniversary commemoration at Gander. Some of the Americans came up and served breakfast the their Canadian hosts.

    Gawd. I hope this doesn’t start you guys all weeping again ! 😉

    Sybil
    Eastern Passage

    BTW — Newfoundlanders have very distinct marvellous accents.

    • dearrosie says:

      Thanks for this link Sybil. I watched it all. I loved the way the Royal Canadian Mounted Police walked into the memorial service wearing their red jackets and brown hats, and I love the Newfoundlanders accents.
      Interesting that the American ambassador went to Gander even though many other Canadian cities hosted hundreds of stranded passengers – your city included.

  11. Barbara Rodgers says:

    Beautifully, hauntingly written, Rosie. I’m glad your neighbor’s brother made it out. Waiting for news is always the hardest part, the not knowing.

    I didn’t know anyone who was in the towers personally, but my brother-in-law was in the Pentagon and we couldn’t reach him for the longest time. Thankfully he wasn’t in the part of the building that was hit, but we had no way of knowing that.

    I remember standing and staring at the TV, trying to comprehend what was unfolding. I couldn’t sit down. It was an utterly helpless feeling. My friend in Skopje, Macedonia called across the ocean to see if we were okay. I reassured her we lived 130 miles away from New York, and wondered why her call came through when we couldn’t call down to DC. All our children, who were already out living on their own, left work and came to gather in our place. We didn’t know what to do with ourselves, or how to respond.

    Another brother-in-law, living in Connecticut at the time, couldn’t stand not doing anything – somewhere he heard they needed socks, of all things – so he bought all the packages of socks in a local store and drove down there to help. They took the socks and told him they had enough volunteers.

    The thought that kept running through my mind that day was that each and every person who died there was the most important person in the world to somebody. My heart still aches with that thought, as it aches for all the countless victims of terrorism all over this planet.

    • dearrosie says:

      Hi Barbara,
      Everyone has such amazing 9/11 tales, thanks for sharing yours with us. Interesting that your friend in Macedonia was able to phone you but you couldn’t get through to D.C.
      It’s so nice that your kids lived close enough and were able to come “home” that day. I know how at a time like that one needs to be with family.
      I hadn’t heard about the call for socks. That’s lovely.

      I cry every time I listen to the stories, especially those of the victims’ families. I wonder whether those people who flew the planes into the buildings were really human?

    • dearrosie says:

      Barbara, I’m also really happy to know that your brother-in-law who was in the Pentagon when the plane flew into it, wasn’t harmed.

  12. bronxboy55 says:

    I’ve seen neighbors who had never said so much as “hello” emerge during a blizzard and help each other dig their cars out. It’s a wonderful thing that people draw closer during a crisis, but it does make you wonder why they can’t sustain it. Apparently, when the danger passes, so does that pressing need for connection and comfort.

    This is a beautiful post, Rosie. It’s still hard to see those pictures, though. By the way, Penn Station is three miles from the World Trade Center site. I wonder if he even remembers the run.

    • dearrosie says:

      Hi Charles,
      It’s great that we help each other during a crisis, but why do we only help each other during difficult times? Why don’t we help our neighbor clean his car, or mow the lawn? Why do neighbors help dig your car out during a blizzard, but tomorrow they act like they don’t know you and look the other way when you’re carrying heavy parcels out the car…?

      Thank you for telling me the distance from the World Trade Center to Penn Station. Three miles is a long run for someone who works at a desk, and isn’t a runner, and has already run down twenty-five flights of stairs. I also wonder what he remembers from the run.

  13. Janet Eckholm says:

    Dear Rosanne,
    Thank you so much for telling this story – certainly one of the most memorable in my life. I think the goal is to hold on to that “rarified air” – the term I use to describe the clarity that surrounds us when our lives are so profoundly affected by life changing circumstances, that we can see and feel what really matters, for a while. Stories like this help us get back into that rarified air without having to live through another tragedy. You are beautiful for helping us with this transformation.

    • dearrosie says:

      Hi Janet,
      I’m delighted to welcome you to my blog.
      Your use of the words “rarified air” to describe the clarity one experiences at times like that is *brilliant*. I will never forget those hours we shared.

  14. Floating Abu says:

    I’m honored to have found your blog. Thanks so much.

    • dearrosie says:

      Hello Floating Abu,
      It’s always a pleasure to welcome a new visitor to my humble home. Thank you for taking the time to leave me a comment.
      I look forward to reading more of your interesting blog.

  15. Floating Abu says:

    Thankyou again 🙂 Do you live near Mount Baldy by the way? (Don’t answer that :)) I saw you mention the place once or twice. I have been there for retreats and there is an old Zen Master living there. Thought I would just mention it. Take good care and Happy Holidays.

    PS I am a very irregular blogger!

    • dearrosie says:

      Hi Floating Abu,
      I think Mount Baldy’s about an hour away, but I don’t know for sure because I’ve never been there. All I know of the center is that’s where Leonard Cohen spent a few years. I mentioned it from time to time, because one can see the mountain from the museum on clear days – like today. It looked so lovely to see the sun shining on the freshly fallen snow.

      I’m really interested to hear that you’ve been to retreats there, and I thank you for telling me. I’ve been itching to go on a retreat somewhere and your writing out of the blue to share that bit of information with me, I take as a sign that I should go there. I guess you’d recommend the ashram if you’ve been there more than once? I think the ashram closes for the winter months?
      Thanks for writing.

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