Thursday, September 10, 2009

Eight years on, and we're still affected...

The building I currently work in lies along the approach path to Charleston International Airport. Whenever I step outside the freezer to thaw out a bit, it only takes a matter of minutes before I have some sort of aircraft scoot past. The airport shares common runways with the Air Force base, so in addition to civilian traffic I get to see an awful lot of C-17s, and the occasional C-130, F-16, F/A-18, or even a stray E-2, P-3, or KC-135.

But most of the time when I hear the whine of turbines it’s either an Airbus 310 or that most ubiquitous of airliners, a Boeing 737. And as I look up into a bright blue Charleston sky and see it in a gentle turn, wheels already down, it often takes me back to another bright blue sky one September morning 8 years ago.

It was across town at another place of employment, and my co-workers and I had spent the better part of the morning gathered around the TV set that we used for watching training videos, stunned and horrified as we watched the coverage of the unfolding situations in New York City, Washington, and Shanksville, Pennsylvania. One employee was so shaken that she had to leave. She drove to her kid’s school, signed the child out, and went home. Back at work, gone was the usual grab-ass, tomfoolery, and light-hearted banter that were the stock and trade of the staff when no one was looking. No one really knew what to say, and we all just sort of numbly sat there collecting our own thoughts.

I tend to notice when things are out of their normal routine. Call it situational awareness if you want, but I noticed a few things rather quickly; the phones weren’t ringing, we had no customers in the store, and when I stepped outside I saw that there was virtually no traffic on Dorchester Road, one of the busiest thoroughfares in the Charleston area. Folks had ceased going about their normal business of the day, because there was definitely nothing normal about that day.

There’s nothing normal about people crashing hijacked airliners into buildings. There’s nothing normal about people jumping to their deaths rather than be incinerated. There’s nothing normal about watching two 110-story buildings crumble. There’s nothing at all normal about watching the fabric of sanity torn asunder.

One of the things that really spooked me though was how quiet it had become. And then it hit me; there was no more air traffic. No air force, no civilians, no nothing. I correctly deduced that they’d grounded all air traffic. And maybe 30 minutes later, I heard a jet.

I felt a momentary dread, wondering if some hijacked plane was headed towards a local target. And I looked up into that bright blue Carolina sky and saw that lonely 737, the last flight left airborne inbound to Charleston. And after it passed, the sky was dead silent again for a few days…

Here we are 8 years later, and it affects me still. I was hundreds of miles away, and I didn’t personally know anyone who perished that day. But when I look up and see a 737, it takes me back to that moment. I can’t even begin to think of what it’s like for the people who were there, and for the people who lost loved ones, friends, co-workers. I know that at least three of my regular readers are New Yorkers (Angel, DD2, and A Guy From Brooklyn), and my heart really goes out to you guys tonight.

I want to include a video that shows the World Trade Center as we all like to remember it, standing proudly in the New York skyline. It’s a clip for my favorite song in the world, Depeche Mode’s 1990 classic “Enjoy the Silence”. It was shot for American release, but was shelved in favor of a more artistic and surreal video by Anton Corbijn. In fact, it was probably only 3 or 4 years ago that I found out it even existed. It’s not even a really great video, with obvious lip-syncing and the mimed keyboard parts not quite matching the various parts of the song, but it was such a bright blue New York City sky when they filmed it on top of one of the towers, and like I said, it’s my favorite song.

And this is why we shouldn't close Gitmo. This is why you don't negotiate with terrorists. This is why you don't let convicted terrorists go free. Those who forget history are doomed to repeat it. Don't repeat this...

My 2008 Tribute

My 2007 Tribute


Z said...

Wow, you had me right there with you while I read.
About 4 years ago now, I guess, I was taking a walk and I heard a plane overhead....I looked up startled and saw a woman on her morning walk looking up, too.
We both looked at each other from across the street and just kind of smiled in recognition that all was okay.
It was only then that I realized that they hadn't allowed planes over LA for a long time. The noise startled both of us only because our subconsciousnesses knew it was new.
Feels like America's never been the same since that day 8 years ago. I want her back so desperately.

j summett said...

I also remember the lack of air traffic. Where I live, you can always count on going outside to watch and listen to planes heading to all points east and west. The silence was eerie.

To me it felt like everything in the country just stopped. Like collectively the entire country held their breath and went on pause. I did not know anyone personally that perished that day, either. But I do remember feeling numb, and crying for all those who were lost, and their families.

My hope is that no one ever forgets that day. May God bless those that lost their lives, and their families, also.

Soloman said...

I live a handful of miles away from Luke AFB which is located in west Phoenix.

I realized the silence late in the evening, when suddenly out of nowhere was the sound of fighter jets overhead. At that time I realized I hadn't heard commercial planes - even though I knew air traffic had been stopped, the connection didn't happen 'till then.

Have a peaceful day.

Anonymous said...

We may still hurt may and we may be still bleeding, and we may never look the same, but we will overcome this cowardly act. And we will never forget it, but we will overcome it. We will not ever yield to terrorism.
Not as long as I can help.
God bless America and keep her FREE.

Randy said...

We watched from our office. A lady who had come in for the day from Charlotte had a brother who worked in the towers. She was distraught. Only after getting a call later in the morning that her brother was ok (he was a late arriver), was she able to function. We reached out to co-workers who were traveling to find out where they were. We even relayed one co-worker from DC to Atlanta as he was stranded.

Late afternoon a man with a clip board and a laptop came to get into the mechanical room of our building. No one could find out where he was supposed to be, so we contacted building maintenance. There was some confusion as the maintenance team thought he was in a different building, the one that housed the secret service office. Once they found what building he was in, he was allowed to proceed under a watchful eye.

Should have been a non-event, fixing something in the mechanical room, but because of the day, it was scary.

WomanHonorThyself said...

thanks for remembering me Steve..tough day indeed..........

Snarky Basterd said...

I've been making the rounds tonight and getting more emotional by the minute.

Here's a video you really need to watch.

Krystal said...

I remember we had just moved and our TV wasn't set up yet. My husband came in and told me that the first tower had been hit. I thought he had to be joking, but his face he wasn't. I ran out to the car to listen. We heard that the second building was hit. We heard the report of people jumping out of windows.

I have to admit I was pretty ticked off that he hadn't moved in the TV and set it up yet. I needed to SEE this to know it was real. I loaded up the kids and we went to my sister's house to watch all day. I was just bawling like a baby.

My three older children, 8, 6, 4, were just mystified. While my eldest dealt with it most directly by discussing it with us, our six-year-old hearing impaired asperger's child spent the next few months building buildings with blocks, knocking them down with a toy plane, and just shaking his head. He told me yesterday that he remembers that it hurt him.

Our four-year-old held it all in. For a full month he was hateful and nasty. So I asked him if he was upset about the new baby. He scrunched up his face and shook his head no. I asked him if he was upset about the move. He scrunched up his face again and shook his head no.

I asked him if he was upset about those building being knocked down. WOW! He burst into tears and cried out, "All those people died and they didn't all know Jesus!" I just wrapped my arms around him and let him cry it out.

Krystal said...

I forgot, my sister's husband and one of their son's were in the air flying to Texas when it all started. They had no clue what was going on until after they landed and disembarked. My sister was a nervous wreck until she heard from them and knew they were okay.

They ended up being stuck in Texas for a week from the planes being grounded and then the large number of people trying to fly home when they were finally allowed to fly. They couldn't rent a car or anything.

Steve: The Lightning Man said...

Thank you, everybody, for some amazing, heart-wrenching comments, and for sharing your memories with me and with each other. Hopefully we all healed just a bit more, and hopefully it tightened our resolve to take back our country and do the right thing.