Saturday, September 11, 2010

9/11/01, Watertown, NY

Like everyone else I remember where I was when the Towers fell.
I was going out for a bike ride, and I stopped by a local sporting goods store in Watertown, NY for an energy bar, because I had the day off and planned to do a longer ride. When I got to the shop, they weren't open yet, in spite of it being a bit past nine, so I knocked on the door.
The owner came to the door and said sorry, they'd been listening to the news, because an airplane hit one of the Twin Towers. At the time, we assumed it was an accident and we were waiting to hear more, so I set off on my ride and was gone for a couple hours.
When I got back home I checked online to see what happened, only to hear that both towers had fallen.
The next 24 hours were pretty surreal. I was a New Jersey boy living way upstate because of my then-estranged wife's job with the military. The first thing I did was try to call my folks back home to make sure they were alright. I had friends who worked in the Trade Center neighborhood. After a nervous few hours of overloaded phone lines, I found out everybody in my crowd was OK, if pretty shaken in a few cases.
But Watertown was a ghost town. The bike shop I worked in was in the mall, which was deserted that day except for the employees. A lot of the families there were associated, like me, with Fort Drum, and I found out from a few of the Army wives that their husbands had all been called on to the post and told to be ready for travel (the 10th Mountain would be one of the first and longest-serving units in the Afghanistan campaign).
It was scary, and it was weird to be so far from home, from where the attack had hit, and still be somehow in the middle of the storm.

The other thing I remember was the support from the rest of the world. Canadian families took in New Yorkers whose planes had been grounded in Toronto, world leaders made speeches of support and people everywhere kept vigil.

And New Yorkers... well, they were amazing. Yes, they were scared, shocked, traumatized, but they refused to be broken. In typical New York fashion, the people who rubbed elbows every day, who blared horns, swore at each other and cut in line, stood up and watched out for each other.

As that day rolls around once again, how do we remember? Do we honor the innocent dead? Do we remember the courage shown that day, by the NYPD, NYFD and the regular people of Flight 93, the ones who fought back? Do we remember the time when the entire world stood with us as brothers? Or do we descend into xenophobia and fear-mongering?

It's up to us. Not to politicians or talk show hosts. 9/11 wasn't an attack on talk show hosts, it was an attack on the average American. And it's up to the average American to show what's best in us, on this day, as he has so many times in the past.


No comments: