It’s a beautiful late summer Tuesday morning. Good Friend and I finish our checklists and head out for bagels in the A9. GF’s news pager buzzes. He ‘harrumphs’ and hands it to me.
A plane has flown into the World Trade Center.
We assume it must be some idiotic private pilot with a Cessna, who somehow couldn’t see the gigantic building looming in front of him. Another customer in line behind us says, “No, I heard it was a DC-3.”
A DC-3?? Are there any of those still flying in metro New York?
Both of us are firefighters and history buffs, and our conversation drifts to the bomber which struck the Empire State Building in 1945.
Soon we find out the truth.
We arrive at Local Suburban Hospital for the transfer. We catch the replay of the second plane striking the towers on the TV in the ER waiting room. No one knows what is going on, but fear, shock, and anger begin to compete for dominance.
Being in public safety, our minds are racing in two directions: the brothers in NYC are going to have a bad day; and will it spill over into our little metropolitan area? Along with the shock, we must plan.
And there are still patients to transport.
We both find time to call home. The calls serve no rational purpose, but they allow us to touch our families. Yes, yes, we’re fine. No, I don’t know anything more than you do. Gotta go, stay safe, call if you need anything from us.
The order comes to fuel up. We’re not sure how big this may get, and we need to be ready. Rumors are drifting in about the Pentagon, a plane crash in PA; planes headed for the Capitol, the White House, the Sears Tower in Chicago, the Prudential and Hancock in Boston.
We’re headed for Local Dialysis Facility when we hear the news of the first tower falling. We now know that hundreds of our brothers have been murdered; we don’t know how many or by whom.
We hover in the waiting room at LDF and watch the second tower burn. And fall. I distinctly remember the TV tower wobbling just before it went.
The afternoon is a blur. We huddle around the TV, watching events unfold. The collapse of WTC 7 is anticlimactic; a side show. Who would have ever thought that watching a 47 story building fall would be a minor memory from any day?
We go down to the beach for a late dinner. Sin City is within sight of a major international airport; everything is quiet. Even the traffic is sparse and muted.
We stand in the parking lot for a long while, munching fried goodies and staring out to sea. We can hear the sound of a pair of F-15s flying patrol off the coast. If we stare long enough, we can eventually see one of them eclipse a star as it orbits in search of something, anything, to shoot at.
Eight years on now, the scenes are still vivid in my mind. The images of the attack share memory with the images of friends, family, and co-workers. I still can’t watch aircraft on low approach to Big City International Airport without a chill going down my spine.
2974 people were murdered on 9/11/01. 343 were my brother firefighters. Others were soldiers, medics, and police officers, and all were simply living their daily lives.
I have a new concern this year, however. How do I explain this to a school age child? She has no memory of these events, and I fear her reaction will be similar to my reaction to the Kennedy assassination. To me 9/11 is a traumatic event; to her it will be history.
I will never forget, but will she ever understand? And do I want her to?