I think we all have our own 9/11 stories. It’s one of those moments in time that everyone will remember exactly what they were doing when those planes hit the towers. This attack is my generation’s JFK assassination in that it will always be with us until we die. To this day, I still think about certain aspects of 9/11, its aftermath and how the ripple effect has been so costly to everyone directly and indirectly involved.
At the time, I was confused, angry, and scared. I lived about 45 minutes from Dearborn, so there was plenty of speculation and fear about that because of the demographic breakdown of the city. I wasn’t yet working in the book business, so I didn’t feel the anguish that my new found friends and colleagues in New York did, but I felt something.
While it’s not anything as horrific as others experienced on that day, I thought I’d take some time to talk about where I was when the 9/11 attacks occurred.
I was working an opening receiving shift at the Ann Arbor Kohl’s store and I had Howard Stern on the radio. He was up to his normal breed of raunch and filth, but suddenly the mood changed and he started talking about an attack on the city. Because I’ve never really known Stern to be a serious guy, I thought this was a radio bit. I couldn’t believe he would joke about something like this, so I went into the office to chat with one of my colleagues about it. Howard Stern had finally gone too far. When I got in the office though, I knew it wasn’t a bit because one of the office workers was red and puffy around her eyes – letting me know she had just been crying.
For the rest of my shift, I worked in a daze and listened to Howard Stern. His show turned in to a cathartic experience as he was letting his listeners just call in and talk about it. It was almost like an on-air therapy session. When he went off the air, I kept it on the talk radio station and just listened to hours of talk – new developments, new worries, etc.
I was in college at the time and living at the dorms, but after work, I drove home to check on my mom. The only TV she had in the house was a ten inch TV that needed tinfoil attached to it to get a halfway decent signal. We had it in the guest room so our guests would have something to watch. My Mom was sitting on the bed with her face about two feet from the TV. Her face was just covered in tears. She told me later that she just couldn’t stop watching it. She knew it was horrible, but she couldn’t turn away. I sat down with her and together we watched the North Tower collapse. We gasped in pure fear as we saw people jumping to their death in order to escape the flames. We had a sense of utter dread and helplessness.
When I got back to the dorm that night, my girlfriend (now wife) and I slept on an air mattress on the floor. It was hard to fall asleep though. My dorm was in a flight path to Detroit Metro, so I was used to hearing planes all night. There was an eerie calm and quiet that night because the FAA grounded all continental flights. At one point in the late evening, I did hear a plane and that scared me enough to keep me up for most of the night.
Like I mentioned in the beginning, my story is vastly different than those folks who were directly affected by those three fateful flights that day, but that doesn’t mean the events of 9/11 didn’t affect me.
Today, on the anniversary of this horrible day in US history, I choose to remember and honor those we have lost because of the events of 9/11.
This is my story. What’s yours?