Last year, the ten-year anniversary of the 9/11 attacks didn’t seem to elicit much of a reaction in me. I wrote one blog post that dealt with the physical, personal, and economic toll of America’s response to the attacks via the War on Terror … the war in Afghanistan, the number of wounded and killed American soldiers, the casualties suffered by the Afghan people, etc. But the decade commemoration itself was not as noteworthy for me, troubling though that may be to some people.
I think it was the higher level of attention the ten-year mark received from the media, the Government, the City of New York and all those smaller communities that the tragedy touched that might have muted my own personal reaction. These were people who were more directly and personally affected that rightfully deserved and received the attention of a country still mourning in many ways that tragic September day.
So I was a bit surprised to feel a bit more connected to this year’s anniversary – the 11th. Not uneasy exactly … pensive might be the better word. Why was a bit of a mystery to me.
Then I realized that this year’s anniversary would fall on a Tuesday. And that’s when it clicked. Due to that quirky 11-year Roman calendar cycle, September 11 this year would fall on the very day of the week it occurred in September 2001. Tuesday … a bright, clear sunny day … cloudless sky, Indian summer temps … a Tuesday in Manhattan.
I was at work that day. Had just gotten to my desk at the Naval Inventory Control Point (now NAVSUP Weapon Systems Support) at 8:30 that morning, and almost immediately heard about a private plane that had crashed into The World Trade Center in New York City. I remember thinking what stupid pilot could crash into such a huge building on a cloudless, crystal clear day. When I found one of the randomly placed TV monitors located throughout the work spaces, I was struck by the size of the hole punctured in the side of the North Tower, almost like an aluminum can pierced by a bullet. The hole didn’t look right. It was too big for a private plane. So when I heard it was a larger airliner, I wasn’t surprised … just more confused by the apparent ineptitude required to cause such a tragedy.
Then I saw the second plane hit, and the horror took on a totally different meaning.
I won’t bore you with my reactions to all the horrors that unfolded that day or the painful images we were to view over the following days and weeks. What I will share were two reactions that for some reason have stayed with me through this decade-plus-one since that Tuesday in September.
The first was related to a local event that occurred just the weekend before … the semi-regular airshow at the now shuttered JRB Willow Grove had just concluded the Sunday before the attacks. I can remember thinking that many of those pilots and ground troops that showed off their skills for the tax-paying public over those three days would soon be heading into harm’s way, actual combat, and the very real possibility of not coming home.
My second reaction was that Tuesday evening, taking a walk with the dog, and looking up into what’s normally a very active Northeastern sky. I was struck by the absolute absence of any moving lights in that dark, star-filled sky … no air traffic at all … The realization that “they” could hit us here and could disrupt our normal everyday lives. The thought gave me an empty, chilled feeling.
I just know if Tuesday morning opens with clear blue skies and Indian summer temperatures that empty chill will be back cold and hard in the pit of my stomach.