11 September 2011

10 Years...

Last 24 August was not the first time I realized that life can forever change in just an instant.

I first truly realized this on 11 September 2001, as I sat in a conference center hearing news of some planes slamming into the World Trade Center of NYC, the impenetrable (or so I thought) Pentagon, and a field in rural Pennsylvania. This was a world before Twitter, before Facebook, before true smartphones. Information was spotty, at best, and rumors ran rampant.

It's hard to believe this was 10 years ago. Over the years, I've often thought about my experience on 9/11, as I am sure all other Americans have. Would my experience have been different had I been here in San Francisco? I would have just been getting up when the first plane hit, and the TV would not have been on yet. But, I likely would have seen it all happen far earlier than I did that day -- because I was already working and didn't have access to a TV, I didn't see the footage until much later that day.

Would I have gone into work? I am not sure what happened here, if people were sent home, or they toiled away for the day, but what would have happened?

Would I have felt safer or more connected? This is probably the one I wonder about the most. I was across the country, with some coworkers. I was far away from my friends & family, and wondering how I would get back home, and when. We had no clue what the next hours would bring us, much less the next few days (rumor had it that Atlanta, where I was, was also a target due to the CDC being there... looking back, I think it may have been one of the safer places, since CNN was just blocks away and these terrorists knew they needed the media to truly accomplish their mission).

All I knew at that point was that I was scared, & felt small and far away from everything.

Everyone's experience on that day was intensely personal, yet we are all connected by it. We went through a collective grieving process; the roller coaster of fear, denial, anger, and acceptance was one ridden by all. And here we are, 10 years later, and the ride has not ended. We continue to battle with our fear and demons, every time we get on a plane we wonder...

I wish we could recapture the spirit of unity that really glowed in those desperate days. Strangers were kind to one another. When I finally did get to go home several days later, despite the security line being almost literally a mile long, it was quiet and no one complained or was rude. I met a local firefighter who had travelled to Ground Zero and helped in the recovery efforts; he carried the spirit of giving back with him and bought the homeless dude in the Mission a pizza at 2am. We had perspective, 10 years ago.

Amazing how things change. Someday, I hope, we will get back there. I'd like to have faith that we will.

Never forget. #911

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