Friday, September 9, 2011

Remembering September 11, 2001

In 2 days, the nation will be observing the 10th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks. It's hard to believe that 10 years have passed because that day is etched so vividly in my head. For my generation, asking someone where they were on 9/11 is almost like asking our parents generation where they were when JFK was shot. This was one of those events that changes the heart of a nation and a generation.

The morning of 9/11 was like any other Tuesday. I was working at Sprint in their call center near Cumberland mall. We were taking our usual customer service calls like we did every single day. Around the center were monitors that updated us whenever their were any network issues so that we can be prepared for the influx of calls that may come in from certain areas. A little after 8:30 AM, I noticed that we were getting a lot of calls from the New York area. We got calls from all over the country so it usually wasn't a big deal to get a New York customer but it seemed like every agent was getting nothing but New York calls that would lose connection. The monitors flashed the latest update saying there were reports of network outages in the NY Tri State area.

That's when everything fell apart. That's when I heard the muffled screams in the background of the few calls that did make it through. None of us had any idea of the sheer pandemonium that was going on as we listened to callers saying they couldn't make calls and that the city was under attack. For us, we realized that because people couldn't make calls, some were able to get through to customer service. I remember the call from the young woman with the sound of fear and panic in her voice that said a plane hit one of the Towers. I could hear people screaming and things crashing in the background. I knew it couldn't be a real call. Who flies a plane into a building?

Then I heard someone say the word "hijack."

After that startling call, I looked around at my co-workers and saw the looks of confusion on many of their faces. What in the world was going on in the New York area? A few of us headed towards to the break room to check the news channels. People were already crowded around watching the CNN coverage of the first tower in flames. Not 2 minutes after I walked into the break room, I witnessed the live feed of the second plane hitting the tower. Everyone gasped and it seemed like we held our breath for an eternity.

This could not be real. I just watched a plane fly full speed into a skyscraper. A skyscraper filled with people. People. Flames. Smoke. Debris. People. Death. Destruction. People. People. People. What was going to happen to all those people in those towers? For the next several hours, I sat still and watched the footage. I watched both towers fall. I felt my heart literally breaking in my chest at the idea of all those people in those massive towers. I watched the images of people jumping to their deaths out of buildings. So many people. So much destruction.

Why? How? Why? What had we done to deserve this?

I don't remember much else of that work day because all of the calls stopped. No one was worried about a late bill or overage charges because every thought was on what our nation had just experienced. I went home that afternoon, turned on the television, and sat and watch CNN until the sun came up that next morning. The towers had fallen. The Pentagon had a gaping, flaming hole from another plane that was hijacked. A forth plane was in a million pieces in a field in Pennsylvania. I watched it all. I had to make sure what I was watching was real. I felt like if I got out of my seat, or turned the channel, or even blinked too long, I would realize I was dreaming and that I had made it all up in my head. I was frozen in time. If I went to sleep I would hear that woman's voice in my ear saying a plane hit the towers. I would replay the footage of the second plane hitting the tower over and over in my head. I couldn't sleep...and I didn't for the next 3 days.

For the next few days, I felt like I was underwater. I couldn't see clearly. I couldn't hear clearly. Everything felt jumbled. I was on auto pilot. You would have thought I was in New York and had witnessed everything first hand. You would have thought I had lost my whole family in the towers. I was that shaken up. Not where it was noticeable on the outside, but in my mind and heart, I was a wreck. After 3 days, I decided I couldn't torture myself with the round the clock commentary and gruesome images. I stopped watching TV cause every channel in the nation was talking about it. Even the Food Network went off air. I was brokenhearted for my nation and for every person who lost their life and I was fearful of what was to happen next. The US was at their weakest point and open for move severe attacks.

At some point, life started getting back to normal for me. The fog lifted though never completely went away. The anxiety and sleeplessness decreased. Atlanta went back on with business though people were a bit kinder in the days and weeks to follow. People smiled at you more. People said hi a bit more. People donated blood and collected supplies. People started to develop a sense of pride and honor for the US and for that brief moment in time, everyone was on the same page.

This was our country and we were going to stand strong and united.

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