A ranty, funny, dead-serious intersectional feminist blog.

Where Were You?

Asleep until Mom woke me and said words that made no sense: “Somebody flew a plane into the World Trade Center.”

We shared a house on the West side of Queen Anne hill in Seattle, and from the balcony we’d soon note the utter lack of planes in the clear blue sky–all except one lone AWACS jet that probably lived at nearby Boeing Field. The sky seemed so blue in those days after, and my job downtown ensured that when planes flew again, I’d see them framed with the buildings of my city in ways that never bothered me before but were now NOT OKAY. I never wanted to see another plane and building together again.

We watched the news together that morning, Mom and I, while my daughter fought traffic to and from the airport to pick up a passenger who wouldn’t fly today or any day soon. She listened on the radio and we watched on t.v. as the buildings fell. Then we all came together and wondered what we should do. We drove to the local Red Cross office hoping we could be of some help to someone, somehow. They were…clueless. Not sure why we were there. “Oh, that. Yeah, we don’t know.”

I don’t have any conclusions to offer. I’ve watched my country become a security state, if not a police state. I have written, I have spoken, I have occupied. I don’t know what the answers are, but I believe that working together, we’ll discover them, or reveal what we already knew.

Don’t give up.

3 responses

  1. Seb

    I was hung over, disoriented and with another mans wife in the Middleton Heights Hotel, Cleveland Ohio. And I got called into work to man a desk at the Plain Dealer. It was what we would classify a big news day.

    September 13, 2012 at 10:00 am

  2. I didn’t even know what the “World Trade Center” was. Was that in the states? Was it a big plot of land with many buildings, like a giant mall? I was a teenager. I had never been to New York, still haven’t (save a layover at JFK), though interestingly enough, as I write this, I recall a dream I had last night–I was wandering the unfamiliar streets of New York with friends.

    I got up much earlier than usual that morning (I am NOT a morning person) to take my friend to the airport. I dropped her off, we said our goodbyes with smiles (I couldn’t wait to get back to bed…), and I made the trek back home where I crawled into bed and pulled the covers up to my ears–Septembers get cold here–and began to drift back off to sleep.

    No sooner had the melatonin kicked in did I awake to my phone ringing. It was my friend asking to be picked up from the airport. They weren’t letting planes off the ground, something about the World Trade Center? Whatever that was. Sigh…wine, pout (quietly to myself), “Ok, I’ll be there as soon as I can…”

    I got back in the car, in my pajamas, and drove back to the airport, we’re in Seattle btw. I got most of the way there when traffic hit a near standstill. I finally reached my exit only to have a flagger direct traffic, including my vehicle, away from the airport with no explanation and no alternative. At the time, I was terribly unfamiliar with that part of Seattle, it’s not even Seattle anymore down that far south. I soon found myself utterly lost. I had managed to get into a lane I couldn’t get back out of that shot me out onto another highway heading in I didn’t know which direction. Every exit was another highway. I was getting further and further away, and I had no way to reach my friend, as I’d left my cell phone at home in my groggy and resentful rush to get back to the airport.

    By now, I had turned on the radio to see if I could find out more about what was going on. It seemed really strange that you couldn’t even drive into the airport and that they weren’t letting planes take off. It must have been something major. I got nervous, but nearly as much as when I started flipping through the channels and just about every one of them was talking about planes flying into the World Trade Center. I still had no idea what this place was, but soon deduced that it was a building, no, two buildings, and the planes, commercial flights? My stomach was in my chest. I thought, this is it, America managed to avoid war on its own soil for so long, since what, Pearl Harbor? Even then, the mainland, when was the mainland ever attacked by another country? I couldn’t think of a time in my review of my history classes at school (which, btw, I retained very little knowledge from).

    I was absolutely terrified. I was lost. I kept looking over my steering wheel at the sky above wondering if jets, fighter or commercial, were heading into the city, getting ready to bomb us or fly into downtown Seattle like a scene out of Final Destination. I was really starting to panic. I was alone, new to driving around in the city. I knew Tina was waiting for me and would have no way of knowing what it was like trying to get TO the airport. I didn’t even know where she would be waiting for me if I did get there. I was worried about her. What if there are terrorists at the airport? Maybe they have it on lockdown and are holding people hostage…

    Suddenly these thoughts weren’t ridiculous to be entertaining, and that was madness, and so scary.

    I finally found an exit that wouldn’t put me on another unfamiliar freeway, just a few minutes had past, but time had slowed as fear and disorientation swept over me. The exit took me right to Southcenter mall (at the time, I had no idea where I was mind you), which was completely dead at that time of the morning. The city was like a wasteland. I felt like the apocalypse was on the horizon. I wondered if I’d ever get back to my warm bed, my dog, my family. To hear the story unfolding on the radio, the sheer audacity of it all, the reality of it sinking in and wondering what it all meant, what on Earth was happening? My mind was racing and I was so afraid.

    I drove around the empty parking lot around buildings with darkened windows. I was looking for another human being, someone who could tell me where I was and how to get back to where I needed to be, someone with a cell phone so I could call Tina and let her know that I was coming, that I was trying to get to her.

    Eventually, I found a pay phone, but guess who didn’t bring a wallet either? It was the year 2001, and I had no way to make a phone call or connect with another person, familiar or not. I may have banged the heavy black plastic against the receiver a few times in my frustration, or perhaps that part was only added to my memory later.

    I scrounged every inch of my car until I found the change to make a call. Or did I call collect? I honestly can’t remember. At the time, I didn’t even remember how to use a pay phone. It’s all blurry at this point. I think I was crying by now. I was waiting for the radio to tell me we were safe in Seattle and they never did. I felt completely stranded and wanted nothing more than to be at home with my family. Did they even know what was happening? They might not even be awake yet…

    I think at this point, I made the call, finally got a hold of someone, someone at home? I didn’t have Tina’s number on me, it was in my cell phone, with all my other numbers–who memorized phone numbers anymore? I must have talked to my grandmother. I asked her to locate my phone and call Tina, tell her I was coming, I just didn’t know when I would get there. My grandmother was watching the news with my mom. They were as shocked and confused as I was. They tried to calm me down, but they were also at a loss for how to help me. They didn’t know where I was because I didn’t know where I was, so they couldn’t help me get un-lost. They offered words of love and support and advice.

    I finally made it to the airport, somehow. I found Tina–somehow. I made it home and into the arms of my loving family. We all sat and watched as the planes flew into the two towers again, and again, and again.

    I would never be the same. I am not the same. I’m so grateful, immeasurably so, for those who fought that day, those who died that day to save others. I’m so grateful for every soul who made it out alive, and I will forever be heartbroken for those who didn’t and the families and friends they left behind. I’m so grateful it happened somewhere else–and so soberingly aware that it didn’t, not to mention guilty as hell that I even feel that way. I just…I thought buildings were getting ready to fall all over the country, and when they didn’t, well, I felt I had a new lease on life, though it took me ages to be able to enjoy it.

    I will never feel the kind of safety and comfort I felt before September 11th walking on the streets of downtown Seattle with planes flying overhead. I will never feel that sense of “it won’t happen here, can’t happen here.” And I’ll always feel a stronger sense of camaraderie for my fellow Americans. For that, I am grateful. For what we lost, I hold an empty space in my heart, a reminder, a symbol, a tribute–a pact with myself and everyone else: we will never forget.

    September 12, 2012 at 3:54 pm

  3. Things changed for the worse ever since that day. I was still in high school , and had an optimistic outlook for the future . Wow, did that ever change.

    “I don’t have any conclusions to offer. I’ve watched my country become a security state, if not a police state” Is so true. Sigh.

    September 12, 2012 at 11:09 am

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