Saturday, September 10, 2011

September 11 Tribute

"I was at work, in my truck, when the newscaster broke in on the radio and said a plane just hit the tower.

At first they said it was accidental.  But when the second plane hit, the radio announcer said, “No, this was no accident.”

I drove to a local country store where they were watching on a T.V.  It was wild to watch our country come under attack surrounded by redneck country boys.  Dudes who have shot-guns hanging in the back window of their 4X4s, Skoal rings in their back pockets, and these dudes were pissed.  …Brings to mind the line where Hank Williams, Jr. says, “I’d love to spit some beech-nut in that dude’s eyes and shoot him with my ol’ 45.”

I think damn near every red-blooded American saw it that way.  Toby Keith went on to say, “We’ll put a boot in your ass – it’s the American way.”  Whatever gets the job done.

Personally, I thought I would give a moment of silence to pay respect.  Instead, I give you 23 hours-worth of ink pen scribbled on a piece of copy paper.  Much Love, New York!"

(Copyright M.S. 2011, All Rights Reserved.
...And as always, click on the photo for more detail.)

Mike asked me to write a piece about where I was at, and I may have gotten a little carried away...

"September 11, 2001 was the very beginning of my senior year of high school.  Government was the first class that day, and boy, did I have a hard time wrapping my tired brain around the electoral college first thing in the morning.  I never fell asleep in school, but I was much more vulnerable to doing such a thing during that class.  The teacher, bless her heart, was droning on and on, I was likely drawing cartoons on my notebook and sharing them with my neighbor in class.  The telephone in the classroom rang, and everyone’s ears perked up, because generally a call to a classroom meant someone was being called to the principal’s office.  I checked myself… Did I leave anything suspicious out in the ashtray in my car?  Did I dress like a hooker today?  Am I wearing my Miller High Life t-shirt?  Nope, nope, nope.  I’m alright, then, must be somebody else.

Our teacher cradled the phone receiver on her shoulder and attempted to turn on the TV set, which was hanging from the highest corner of the room.  She was one of the more petite ladies in the school, and the tallest kid in the class went to help her turn it on.  After flipping through several channels of ant-race fuzz, we saw the picture clear and beheld a shaking camera-shot of the World Trade Center towers, one standing intact, while the other looked like a burled tree with a fireball protruding from its side, dark smoke drifting up into the sky.  I had never seen New York City, and hadn't watched enough movies at that time to know its skyline, and I waited for our teacher to hang up the phone and say, “This just happened in New York City, a plane ran into one of the towers of the World Trade Center.”

We all sat quietly, staring at the TV screen.  Nobody really grasped what was going on.  The TV reception came in and out, big waves of fuzz washing over the picture. 

We were taken from our classroom, down the hall to the library, where another couple classrooms of kids were perched around a larger TV.  We quietly entered and took places around the room, some kids finding a friend from another class to sit with.  I was standing by a bookshelf, listening closely to the announcer, when the second plane hit.  Holy shit -that was not an accident.  My heart caved in, I choked on tears and ran to the girl’s bathroom across the hall.  I was bawling by the time I got there.  My teacher followed me.
That day in the library, when I saw the second plane hit, I decided This Is Armageddon.  The whole world is ending right here and right now, in front of my very eyes.  I might not ever see my family again.  Holy shit!  My Mom is supposed to be on a plane right now!  Where is she?

I was freaking out in the girl’s room, crying and not wanting anybody to know.  My teacher came in and gave me a hug.  She asked if I was OK and I said, “No!  This is the end of the world!”

I don’t know what other Christian homes teach, but I was raised in some fairly radical Christian churches (people ya’ll might know as “Holy Rollers,” a term, I learned when I was 22 years old, was a reference to me).  The entire emphasis of the churches I frequented as a little girl and as a young adult was this:

1.  Basically, everything you [Ester, specifically – I can’t speak for anybody else] do or want to do or think about or say is a sin.
2.  Armageddon is going to come during your lifetime, and if you haven’t asked God for forgiveness every single day of your life, you are going to be left on the Earth and tormented and your head is going to be chopped off, and you still will probably go to hell.
3.  You are pretty much definitely going to hell, Ester.

Can you see why Armageddon really freaked me out?

I figured out later that day, thanks to my very first cell phone, that Mom was OK, she wasn’t on a plane, she had not even left for the airport yet.  She promised me that this probably wasn’t Armageddon, it was just some people who were really messed up and angry who did a terrible thing, and that I wasn’t going to Hell today.

I left school at noon and went to a girlfriend’s house to watch the news.  We puffed down cigarette after cigarette, and I thought over and over and over, ‘Nothing is going to be the same.’

And it won’t be.

Just as our generation does not remember the day JFK was assassinated, wasn’t subject to bomb drills where school children hid under their desks, fearing Cold War threats of nuclear attack, our generation and its children will scarcely remember what the world was like before the bombing of the Trade Center Towers, what the world was like before 10 years of war in the middle east, won’t remember a time before phone-tapping, “no-fly” lists, body-searches at the airport, they won’t recognize the Trade Towers in older movies….  

Instead of these things serving as a daily reminder of the day when a great tragedy occurred in America, it has since become a new way of life, a new way of being, and now is just “normal.”    

We do have reminders all the time of 9/11, even if we don’t know one person personally who was in New York City that day, even if we don’t know anyone who was near the Pentagon.  We have [very] heightened security at airports, we have pat-downs and paranoia. 

I was listening to the radio a year ago, driving to school, and the talk-show host asked, “Does 9/11 still affect Americans on a daily basis?”

My hands were shaking.  I got tears in my eyes.  Because I think there might be millions of Americans who really only think about 9/11 around and on 9/11 every year.  However, if you were married to, or gave birth to, or loved in any way someone who became an American Soldier, you think about 9/11 on a pretty frickin’ regular basis.  When my husband spent 2.5 of our first 3.5 years of marriage deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan, you bet your ass I remembered 9/11, because it was the only way I could explain to myself why he had to be gone, why he was in danger, why I tossed and turned and felt sick all day and all night, wondering if he had food to eat and someplace warm to sleep, wondered if he was alive or dead, wondered if I would spot him on the news….  I know that military families think about 9/11 – we remember that it is at least one reason we say goodbye to our loved ones for a year or more at a time, sending them into the depths of hell without a promise in any way, shape, or form that we will ever see them again.  That's something we never, ever get used to, but it's part of our lives on a daily basis.        

...Families going to work at the World Trade Center that day did not sign the same contracts soldiers do.  We remember the mothers and fathers who dropped off the kids at daycare and went to work as they did every other day.  We remember rescue workers who gave their lives to save another's, the families who lost children, fathers and mothers, sisters and brothers.  We remember that the greatest city in the world, the state which harbors the Statue of Liberty, is resilient no matter what enemy tries to bring it down.

We remember the thousands of American soldiers and soldiers from all over the world who have sacrificed their own lives because they believe in taking down terrorists who not only plan attacks on us in America, but who terrorize, kidnap, torture and kill their own neighbors.  

We remember America as it was before and love America as it is today.

Though I spent many of the first years of my life thinking about Armageddon on a daily basis, I now spend a good lot of my time thinking about hope, about redemption and healing, about families and friends.  J.J. is part of what gives me hope for the future.  9/11/01 was a horribly hopeless day for me.  Looking back over the past 10 years, I am so blessed that somehow, life goes on.  We can rise above and beyond the horrible parts of our past and still have hope.

Where were you on 9/11?

What gives you hope?



Brooke said...

Wow, Ester! That was an emotional post. Mike, your 23 hours of work is amazing!

I was at work. I remember my boss came flying into our offices informing us that something very bad has happened. I walked out to a TV, where every employee in that building stood together that morning.

I remember gasping when the second plane hit. I remember the tears that welled in my eyes. I remember my hands shaking.

I remember how America came together and stood united. I remember all the flags, lighting of candles, and the volunteers lined up to help New York.

God Bless the families that lost somebody that day. God Bless the families that share their loved ones to fight for America. God Bless our soldiers. And, God Bless America.

sweetmelin said...


As I told you yesterday, I was so moved by your writing. You are a wonderful story teller. I think your buddy, Luke, said it best, "You can sure paint one hell of a picture." Thank you for sharing your memories of that horrific day, ten years ago.

My most vivid memories of that time were the days following as I watched families milling about the rubble, tears streaming down their faces, holding pictures of those loved ones they were so desperately searching for. I could not even begin to fathom the horror and sorrow they most surely were experiencing. It was thoroughly gut wrenching to me. I cried a lot ... I learned some of their names ... I followed their stories ... I cried a lot.

The loss of so many innocent and unsuspecting souls that day was overwhelming to me. It was difficult to even wrap my head around the gravity of the situation. At the same time, the level of dedication and commitment to and the sacrifice for our country that day was awe inspiring. From the first responders, to our military who were given a renewed sense of purpose, to those young men and woman moved that day to enlist and serve our country ... they all made one proud to be an American, for sure.

My memories will always hold a special place for those on United Flight 93. These were simply men going about their daily duties, which that particular day happened to include traveling on that fateful fight. They had never chosen an occupation involving a commitment to serve and protect, so to speak. They had never signed that dotted line committing to serve our country in our military. Yet on that day, in that very moment, they unanimously made the decision to make the ultimate sacrifice in the attempt to save American lives. As I said, that was, and continues to be, nothing less than awe inspiring to me.

Ester, you asked what gives me hope. People such as the aforementioned give me hope. Knowing there are people in this world that are inherently good, decent, caring people gives me hope. Knowing that, for all our differences, there is a part of all us that is the same. This give me hope.


I agree with Brooke, your 23 hours resulted in an amazing piece of work! As always, your attention to intricate detail is so very cool. Thank you for sharing such a wonderful tribute piece.

The Bitchy Waiter said...

That was great.