Sunday, September 11, 2011

9/11

My computer has been going a bit haywire. Currently I can't attach pictures anywhere. :(

I wasn't going to write anything today. I don't know why. I guess typically I am a private person who guards emotions.

Several people had asked me if today was going to be a hard day for me. I replied with a "No. 'Dates' don't really mean much to me. It is just another day. I will always remember 9/11 but one particular day won't be any different than another."

I was being 100% honest when I said that. This morning however as I was standing on stage practicing for worship a fire truck drove by the open doors of the church. In that instance all the emotions and memories came flooding back. So here it goes... I am being real and honest... quite possibly this will not be the best flowing story but snip-its of things remembered and lost.

I remember exactly where I was and what I was wearing (a towel) when the first plane shook my bedroom window. "Wow planes just keep getting lower and lower around here" I thought.  I was dripping wet standing in the middle of my room about to get ready for my first day of internship.

I remember the "thunder" that instantly followed on that clear-blue-sky morning. "That is Odd" I thought. "There isn't a cloud in the sky." A few moments later my roommate Kristin knocked on my door and informed me that she just watched a plane fly into the world trade center. 
"So that's what that thunder was." I wasn't sure what to think. I walked across the hall and stood in Kristin's room. She said when she heard the plane she looked up. It was so low she thought she could have reached up and touched it's belly. She watched it heading towards the towers. She said "I was sure this was someone trying to pull a stunt. At the last second they were going to twist and go between the buildings. But they didn't" 
Then it happened again. The second plane hit. At that point we knew it wasn't an accident. That is when we began to get scared. What was going on? The fighter pilots started making circles around the city. At that moment we didn't know what was going on except that two planes had already crashed and now there were a dozen more!

I remember watching from Kristin's window. We watched the fires burn and people fall. Those are pictures that will be etched in my mind forever. I remember thinking "Why are helicopters not getting people off the roof?" and "How will they ever be able to repair those buildings?" Then without warning the first tower began to crumble.

I remember how the ground shook as those pillars of strength fell. I had often times looked at those buildings from the windows of our apartment. Late at night lights flickered on and off. They were beautiful. Almost like giant Christmas trees. I had often prayed for the people of NYC. I prayed that Christ would become real to all. I used to have nightmares of people trapped in ruble and debris. In my mind those people were earthquake victims. None-the-less I would pray for the people in my dreams and pray that God would reveal himself to them. I never imagined that those dreams would become a reality. And I never imagined that my faith would be shaken like the ground. But it was.

I remember the silence of the city broken only by sirens. After both towers had fallen we had nothing to do but sit and wait... wait for what? We didn't know. We did know that if anything else exploded we were blowing up Kristin's air mattress and paddling to NJ. (All the bridges and tunnels out of the city were closed.) As each tower fell you could hear and feel the simultaneous gasps echoing throughout the city followed again by silence. In the beginning there were many sirens. As the hours passed the sirens were fewer and further between. There just wasn't anyone to save. 
We had to get out of our apartment. We thought we would try and use a pay phone to call home as cell phones weren't working. 8 million minus several thousand people had the same idea. We weren't going to be able to use a phone that day. So we walked... Nurses and Doctors stood outside the hospital a block and a half away from our apartment. They were ready for triage... triage didn't come. People lined up for blocks and blocks to give blood but the blood wasn't needed that day. Many good Samaritans passed out water to ash covered people heading uptown. Some helped wash debris off others faces. Some held hair back for strangers as they vomited. One stood on a bucket holding a sign "Free Hugs". A long line of people waited for that strangers compassion.

The streets were filled only with people. Many were listening to radio's. At one point we heard a report that four more planes had been hijacked. We were terrified. Thankfully that was false.

After walking way to close to ground zero we realized it was pretty late in the day and we had eaten nothing since the night before. We headed back to the apartment. Several of us were hungry but what do you fix for dinner when your world has been flipped upside down? All stores and restaurants were closed. We pieced together spaghetti and toast. We sat on the floor of Kristin's room and watched the smoke billow. Between bites we put our masks back on.
I remember the smell... oh the smell. I don't know how to describe it even though I can almost taste it when I close my eyes. The mixture of cement, engine fuel, paper and flesh burning is a distinct unwelcome smell that can never be forgotten.

I remember the feel of the ash.
When the trains started running again that evening around 9:00 we packed our bags to spend the next few nights in upstate NY and New Hampshire. We stayed the first night at Kristin's parents house. Then we headed to NH. I was blown away by the kindness we were shown by complete strangers. I stayed in the middle of nowhere near Mr. Washington. My dad was teaching a photography workshop there so I "holed up" in a motel and came out mostly to eat meals. Several of the women who were there took me to Wal-Mart to get things I had forgotten to pack and mothered me as best they could. (Which I know killed my Mother as she wanted to be there to do it herself.) One evening while eating dinner at a local Chinese restaurant a man said to me. "I am just honored to be in your presence. Let me pay for your meal." I was a little confused. Maybe at that point I didn't understand the magnitude of what had happened. I understand it a little more now. After some of the natural disasters around the world I have felt helpless. I suppose if I was in a position to buy someone's dinner who had been through it I would have too. After several days Kristin and I headed back to NYC. We had to show our ID's to prove we lived within the area before crossing police barricades. When we returned to our apartment we realized we had left our windows open. When we left on the 11th the wind was blowing East away from our building. While we were gone the winds shifted. Our rooms were filled with a layer of gritty ash. My mind can't go there... but it was very gritty.

This is really where the story begins. NYC changed forever that day. The next two years I lived in the city. Everyday there were reminders of the events. For months we watched people line up outside our building waiting to file missing person's reports. Everyday we stared in the faces of those who were missing loved ones. Everyday we were faced with the posters of the missing. For months to come we heard bagpipes playing "Amazing Grace" as they headed to the church on the corner for another funeral. Everyday I wondered will this be the day of another attack? Many days my normal route to work was changed by a bomb threat or suspicious package. NYC was developing its new normal. It was a united front. Everyone wanted to pitch in. Everyone wanted to love their neighbor. It was the worst of times... it was the best of times.

I remember... I'll never forget.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

Powerful...thanks for being willing to share. ~Kate

Larry and Carol said...

Amazing recollection and remembrance of that fateful day.
And what wonderful work you did with the children following those days. XO's

Jordan Carl said...

Thank you for sharing what went on through this tough time. Your memories and writing ability paint a great and disturbing picture of a casual observer for those days. Love you Traci.

Grandma Shultz said...

My precious, Traci. Your words brought back the "helplessness" of a terrified mother that day. Knowing I couldn't get into the city even if I drove the 12 hours as fast as I could. And, yes, it was so disappointing - even hurtful - that you were able to find solace with others and I couldn't be there...at the same time I praised God that you were safely out of the city and there were people showing you love and giving support.

Remember you calling to say you were on the train and would call when you got through the tunnel (knowing for sure that you were safely out of the city). I was amazed that the trains even began running again so quickly. So happy that you and Kristin were on one!

I remember Lane and Nancy Fresh calling to tell me that Lane could get into the city because of being a doctor and that he was willing to go there and get you out. Praise God for them. You got out via train but he was willing to travel there and get you.

I remember phone calls from friends who wanted me to know that they were praying for you, me, families of those killed and our country.

I remember Kristi coming because we just needed to be together.

I remember the Mother's feeling of just needing to hug her children, to know they were OK...and the anguish that you weren't here with us.

I am so proud of the Art Therapy work that you did the following year with students and elderly in NYC who were so closely affected by 9/11.

Guess 9/11/01 changed individuals and our country forever.

I'm so happy you are home in Midland; with your husband and children.

-joy said...

i really enjoyed this post. Thanks.

Tristan Black said...

An amazing day, a horrible and terrifying experience. Thanks for sharing the ground eye-witness account. That day will forever haunt a lot of people.

It's got to be difficult to "relive" those times, but I'm thankful that you are able to express your thoughts and feelings of what happened to allow each of us a glimpse into what happened and what people went through, not just that day, but the days after.

Continue to inspire, uplift, and comfort those around you and thanks for sharing little bits of yourself with us.