Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Six Years Ago

I was at a small conference in Rindge, NH when I got the news. It was about 9:10 in the morning and details were still pretty sketchy. My assistant had called me on my cell phone while I was out for a walk enjoying the late summer New Hampshire stillness. She asked if I had heard the news that a plane had hit the  World Trade Center in New York. I hadn’t, but was pretty sure it was just an accident, a Corey Lidle-esque moment of bad flying.


I wandered back to the meeting that I was already late for and folks were milling about, talking on cell phones and wondering what was up. The atmosphere was unconcerned. Some of the folks got the meeting started, but I wanted to see if I could find a TV. We were staying in an older summer resort, and the only large (19”) TV around was in the lobby. 

By the time I got to the lobby, Flight 175 had hit the second World Trade tower and the mood was much more somber. A dozen or so of us watched the coverage as Katie Couric and Matt Lauer anchored the coverage and bits of video came in showing the chaos in Lower Manhattan. Tom Brokaw joined the broadcast. There wasn’t a whole lot of analysis going on, but the emotion was clear.

When they started to get reports of explosions in DC, even before knowing about the Pentagon, I decided it was just about time to start thinking about driving home. It was unclear if the airports were open, if the highways were Ok to travel, or if we should just stay put where we were. 

I don’t sit still well, but I was mesmerized by the coverage. Fires at the Pentagon, billowing smoke in
Manhattan, confusion on the air. When Katie Couric was unable to determine what was happening as the first WTC tower fell, and I knew that history in America had changed; I went upstairs and packed my bag. I was on the road for the 6 plus hour trip when news that Flight 93 had gone down came sketchily out of western Pennsylvania. I was driving when news came that President Bush was in Louisiana, his leadership team in a DC bunker. I was almost home when word came that he would address the nation that night.

I listened primarily to NPR affiliates, Robert Siegel, Melissa Block and Noah Adams among others. I would switch up now and then for local traffic. I kept trying to talk to my wife and parents, but cell phones were jammed and I was only able to get through a basic message that I was OK and headed home. From what I could tell, everyone else who I knew was ok too. I stopped for lunch at a bar somewhere in Connecticut, watched some more coverage on TV  and decided that I would take a wide loop around New York City,  way out to the Thruway and then down into New Jersey on 287.

I knew that meant I would not see the smoke, but I didn’t really feel the need. I don’t want it to see like I am reading too much into this, but as I had driven north for the conference a few days before I had taken special note of the New York City skyline and the Twin Towers in particular. I had called home to tell John, then 15 months old, that I was looking at New York. He wasn’t particularly impressed.

Driving back, I didn’t feel like I needed to see what it was like. I also just wanted to be home and hold my son and feel safe.

In re-reading everything that happened that day, I am amazed at all the things that went wrong. I am amazed at how unready we were. It is truly unreal how little we still know as a nation about all that went on behind the scenes. If this was Bush’s finest hour it’s only in the perspective of some of the truly horrible moments he has had since then. 

I’ve never written about the horrific events of 9/11/01. I didn’t think I had much to add. And I probably don’t, but I have this to say I and I hope others hear it:

Monuments and memorials are not the way to honor those who died that day. The heroes and the innocents of 9/11 and all of those who have died in the “War on Terror” since then deserve more. Much more. They deserve our honest interpretation of and staunch defense of the Constitution. They deserve a nation ready for any threat, mobilized to protect our freedoms and defend our nation. They also deserve to know that their government will work to protect every American, while also safeguarding our freedoms.

And we need to remember. They deserve as much.

Six Years Ago


PCole said...

I've come to grips with the fact that nobody outside of journalism cares about my full 9/11 story but let's just say -- as a copy editor at USA Today Baseball Weekly, we had Tuesdays off. When my wife woke me up and told me what happened, I knew it would be an all-hands-on-deck day at USA Today. So I high-tailed it into the newsroom and worked a 13-hour shift on the news desk.
Disappointed that none of my fellow BW employees understood the sense of urgency and followed suit.

Chris said...

I thought a few times in the week following the attacks of all of the news people who were working so hard to bring us the stories. Seeing them even get emotional on the air, you knew how invested everyone was. This was home and were were under attack.
Thanks for helping let us know what was goingon.

PCole said...

No problem. Believe me, it was better to be there ... even in a tall silver tower three miles from the Pentagon and five miles from an airport ... than to be sitting in front of a TV worrying. Working let me feel like I was not helpless.