It was my day off, my last one before working 11 straight days. I was the Guest Services Manager of a hotel property, and the General Manager and Assistant General Manager (a married couple) would be leaving the next day to attend the franchise’s annual convention in Atlanta, GA. The convention only lasted 3 days, but since the company was paying airfare, they decided to take a week’s vacation around the area while they were there.
I lived in an apartment complex, on the second floor which had glass doors and a balcony. I’d had coffee with the early morning news and decided to take my shower. For some reason (coincidence or fate?), I’d left the TV on. After my shower, I stepped back into the living room for a moment to gather my coffee cup to go and make more. At that moment, the replay of the planes hitting the second World Trade Center was being aired. I stopped, jaw dropping, trying to grasp what I was seeing. It seemed surreal, impossible! I stood rooted in that spot for a while, trying to grasp what the news was trying to tell me.
You all know what happened in that chain of events. The Pentagon was struck, and then heroes helped divert another plane into the wooded area of Shenksville. And still, it still seemed unreal and impossible!
Coffee forgotten, I sat on the sofa and watched, flipping channels between all of the ones showing this catastrophe as it was unfolding. I was casually dating someone who worked at the Pentagon – at some point I focused enough to think about trying to contact him. Of course, phone lines, even cellular ones, were overloaded and my calls wouldn’t go through. I tried for over and hour.
And then, real terror set in. My brain shifted to think of the three specific places where these events occurred – one not far from me to the north, one not far from me to the south and one not far from me to the west. Suddenly, I panicked. I rushed over and quickly closed my vertical blinds at my balcony doors, not wanting to see a plane come racing towards me in the next attempt of destruction.
The rest of the day was a blur. More news as a plane hit the Pentagon and again when one was hijacked from the hijackers themselves by passengers, causing it to crash land in a small area called Shanksville, PA. Every TV station was covering these events, replaying video of them over and over. I didn’t want to watch, but couldn’t make myself stop watching.
The conference my bosses were going to was cancelled. But they still went on vacation. For the next seven days, I would be consumed by what needed to be done at work with me in charge. The lobby TV was on, much of the same things from the day before repeating. There were photos of people lined up to donate blood. There were photos of ordinary people reaching out to help anyone they could find who needed help. In those days that followed, I found my heart swelling with pride in the way that Americans came together to offer whatever support they could to others.
There was no question or face, religion, sexual orientation, politics or anything else. People simply reached out or stood in line to donate blood for whomever was in need. Our country united in a way that showed how strong we could be as a whole.
And now, here we are, marking another anniversary that changed our country. We think about the lives lost and the heroes who helped. We don’t really focus on the terror of those events. Meanwhile, our country is brewing with war among its own boundaries. Politics greatly divides people. Differing moral and religious beliefs greatly divide people. George Bush once said, “If you’re not with us, you’re against us” and it seems that these divisions are living true to that comment. Some people of a political affiliation don’t believe you are Christian if you’re not on the same team. The same is true if you are on what they believe is the wrong side of pro-life/pro-choice or sexual orientation. Racism is alive and well in the US, just against a different race than it was in the 70s. And these divides are strong! So strong that I wonder, if those events would happen today, would people ask people who need help what political, racial or sexual orientation they were before deciding to offer help? Would people only donate blood if it could be guaranteed that it would go to someone whose values, morals and beliefs sided with their own?
Do we need another terroristic threat against our country in order for our country’s people can reunite for a common good?