Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Sept 11th- where were you?

I have to join the masses today and be unoriginal (which is a word) and talk about September 11th and what i was doing and what it means to me.

The NYT printed this in part: “On Sept. 11, 2001, suicide hijackers crashed two airliners into the World Trade Center in New York, causing the 110-story twin towers to collapse. Another hijacked airliner hit the Pentagon and a fourth crashed in a field in Pennsylvania.”

In clinic today i asked my patients where they were 11 years ago today.  4 people, 4 different responses.  But all of them said, "it doesn't feel like 11 years ago because i can remember it so well."  I guess kinda like JFK being assassinated, the 1st steps on the moon, or the Challenger blowing up.  It is something we will all never forget.

For me, on Tuesday, September 11, 2001, I was a senior in college at Duke.  That morning, I took my daughter (who was 4, almost 5) to pre-school at 7, ate breakfast at Elmo's Diner with my mentor from church, and was home by 8 and got back into bed.  I had been up late the night before and didn't have a class until 11 am (i was auditing a literature class with my best friend Kaitlin), so i thought i would get some sleep.  Well, i think i slept about 20 minutes because soon, my cell phone was ringing with people telling me to turn on the tv.  I went to the living room and turned on the tv in time to watch the 2nd tower be hit.  I kept on watching, in disbelief, at the images being shown and the horror that ensued over the next few hours.  I took a bus into West Campus and while we were headed there, two guys were talking about how the Duke President, Nan Cohan, was suppose to be in the twin towers that morning for a meeting and gleefully hoped she had died (she wasn't well liked because she kicked fraternities off campus).  Nan, by the way, had her meeting cancelled that morning and unbeknownst to most of the Duke community, she had flown back to Duke the night before.
Classes were cancelled for the rest of the day, and there were vigils held on campus.  Everything else was a blur that day.  I know i picked up Taylor from pre-school and then sat in front of the tv for the rest of the night with her, watching what had happened, over and over again.  The irony of watching it with her, was the next day, the parents of her pre-school got a letter going over how to talk with children about difficult situations, like 9/11 and the twin towers.  #1 rule: don't let them watch the violence (the planes crashing into the buildings or the buildings falling).  oops.
I don't regret letting Taylor watch the news.  Although she was 4 at the time, she remembers sitting there with me, watching the events unfold....and she wasn't scared.  It was a part of history that she remembers and will never forget....much like me with the Challenger when it exploded.  I was 7, in 1st grade at Saint Anne's Bellfield School and we were watching the shuttle lauch because of Christa Mccullough, the 1st female civilian (a teacher) was going into space.  One minute it was rocketing up towards the moon and the next it was not. I always joke and say i wanted to be an Astronaut until then, but it is true.  I wanted to go to space camp (like the movie Space Camp with Kate Capshaw and Lea Thompson) and go on space missions, and all of that was ruined with the thought of blowing up.  It might be why i don't like to fly too.....

We now live in a post 9/11 world.  There is more discrimination and more suspicion.  In the U.S., many activities of foreigners or American citizens, which, prior to 9/11, would be viewed as innocent (or as just eccentric), are now viewed with suspicion.   The attacks lead to significant and widespread changes in U.S. politics and foreign policy. Domestically, both parties (BOTH- we actually all got along for once!!) rallied around President Bush after the attacks, passing the PATRIOT Act and supporting the war in Afghanistan. Likewise, Americans have always considered themselves among the most patriotic people in the world, and that love of country spiked when we, the nation was attacked.  Some joined the military, often derailing careers to answer the call of country (Pat Tillman is a famous example as he put his football career on hold to join the Army, and then tragically lost his life in Afghanistan). Others lined up to donate blood.  And the American Flag was flying everywhere.

For me, I had never visited NYC before 2001, and when i finally did in 2002 (and again in 2004), i was told the skyline was "different" but bond between the city and its people was stronger than ever. I just had to believe them.  And while that day that changed our nation didn't change my core, it made me realize that i am so thankful for the men and women that support our country, both past and present, and that their sacrifices make it possible for me to have what I have today- freedom.  I couldn't do what they do (or have done) but i am grateful for them.  This, by the way, is one of the reasons why I love working at the Veteran's Hospital.  I am able to give back to those who have given to us and their country.

It was eleven years ago today, and on 9/11 our lives changed- the mighty towers fell and many lives were lost.  And here we are – eleven years later.
We remember those who are gone and we remember that day.  We remember that freedom comes with a price.

September 11th.  Where were you?

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