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Sunday, September 11, 2016

Fifteenth Anniversary of 9/11: Where Were You On That Terrible Tuesday?

Composite by Jennifer Semple Siegel, created on 9/12/2001

My story is unremarkable, but my horror was not.
At 8:46 AM, I was asleep when Flight 11 hit the North Tower.
My husband nudged me awake. “The World Trade Center is on fire,” he said as he flipped on the TV, an old black and white portable. “A plane crashed into one of the towers.”
I jumped out of bed, memory of the 1993 WTC bombing smoldering in my brain.
“When I went into the shower, Katie Couric...,” he said. “By the time I was out...this.”
“Terrorism,” I said.
“They're not saying. Could be an accident.”
But I knew.
I could feel the hate vibrating in my bones. A sense of panic.
I dressed without showering and went into the living room. I flipped on NBC.
In living color, we saw the second plane slice into the South Tower.
9:03 AM, Flight 175.
Yes. Terrorism.
Jerry had classes and left for school. On a Monday-Wednesday schedule, I stayed home alone.
I remember looking out the window as Jerry backed the car out of the driveway.
As the world ends, I will die here at home, all alone.
Our college did not cancel day classes, which was kind of odd – I still think so – but they did cancel Tuesday night.
On NBC, I heard Jim Maceda’s firsthand report from the Pentagon as an explosion rocked in the background. “What was that?” he asked – at least that's how I remember it.
9:38 AM: Flight 77.
9:59 AM: South tower collapses.
10:10 AM: Flight 93. Pennsylvania.
10:28 AM: North tower collapses.
It was an eerie disconnect; it was an absolutely stunning fall day, brilliant blue sky, about 70 degrees and yet the world, filled with roiling black smoke and collapsing buildings, was ending.
I looked to the sky for answers.
What other horrors remain in flight?
Three-Mile Island, 20 miles away, a logical terrorist bull’s eye.
I recalled TMI, in late March 1979.
A mass exodus out of central Pennsylvania.
But where does one flee when the world is ending?
I did the typical things people did that day: I cried; I shook my fist at God (“How could you allow this?”); I surfed CNN, NBC, ABC, MSNBC; I proclaimed my hatred for the perpetrators, whoever they were; I watched as American flags on cars began flapping in the wind and –
God Bless America.
– I waited for the end.
To my relief, Jerry came home, and the world hadn’t ended – yet.
Like millions of other Americans, we decided to donate blood for the survivors who would surely be dug out of the rubble.
The blood bank asked us a few questions: they rejected Jerry because of a medical issue and gave me a number.
“Come back in two hours.” The line was long and not enough blood collectors. I later learned that subsequent donors were told to come back the next day.
We didn’t act like people anticipating their last day on earth; we ate dinner at a Chinese buffet, but our taste buds were numb. We ate because it was time to eat, and, besides, I couldn’t give blood on an empty stomach.
After donating my pint, I still had to do gurney time and drink plenty of Gatorade, despite my full stomach.
Back home and recovering, I tried preparing for Wednesday classes, though I knew both I and my students would not have Freshman Composition or Creative Writing on our minds
Later in the semester, students would begin writing about this day.
I called my aunt in Iowa, and Jerry called his mother in Florida; we just wanted to be sure no one we knew and loved was in those planes or in those buildings.
In my dreams, I made an uneasy alliance with the God who had allowed this day to happen; I dreamed of CNN, news crawls, fire, smoke, rubble, dead bodies, grieving families.
Still, I began to suspect we would live another day.
And so we did.
See, I told you my story was unremarkable.
How about your story?


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