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  • Betty Girardeau

What Do You Remember?


If someone were to ask you where you were and what you remember about nineteen years ago today I am sure that you would be able to give a ready answer. I know I can. My sister and I had traveled a few days earlier to South Carolina to spend some time with our elderly father. Monday, September 11, 2001 was my daughter's first day at work in her first "real" job since graduating from college that spring. She got the news about the first plane flying into the towers shortly after arriving at work and called to see if we had the news on. We didn't. My Dad was very hard of hearing and usually only turned on the television to watch baseball. He could not understand why my sister and I were insisting on turning on the news, and after he finally did, he kept turning off the sound so we couldn't hear any commentary. We had quite a hard time getting him to realize that what we were seeing and hearing was really happening and we did not want him to turn off the television or mute the sound. We were all in disbelief, especially when we saw the second plane fly into the second tower. How could this be happening? My Dad at one point believed this must surely be the apocalypse. My daughter had attended college in Manhattan, and I was extremely thankful that she had already graduated, but I knew she still had a lot of friends there. The daughter of my next door neighbor was working on Liberty Island at the time, so I was concerned for Katie. Then we heard about the attack on the Pentagon. My sister's older son and his family live in Northern Virginia, and her daughter-in-law works in Washington, so that added further concerns. Thankfully, all those we knew personally were safe and sound. As the day unfolded and we watched in horror as the towers collapsed right before our eyes, it was hard to believe that this could be happening, especially on a day when the sky was pure blue and cloudless, what could have been called a perfect day. We spent most of the rest of the day glued to the television and, after some discussion, decided that it would be best if we returned home the next day. Under the circumstances, my father was concerned for our safety, so I gave him my cell phone number and told him he could call it periodically, which he did about once every hour. That was the first time he had ever called a cell phone, and was quite impressed with how well it worked. My other strong memory of that day and several days afterward was how quiet the outside world had become. There were no sounds of planes overhead, a sound which had become such a part of every day life, that it had become un-noticed background noise. Once it was no longer there to be heard, the world seemed terribly altered and out of kilter. I have made mental comparisons to that day in 2001 to our country in the midst of a pandemic this year. While certainly terribly different in many ways, there are also many similarities, one of them being the absence of the sounds of jets overhead for many weeks this spring. And this time, rather than coming together to fight an enemy, we have become divided. We should never forget September 11, 2001. But I wish we would also remember how our whole nation came together as a result of that day and try to put those skills into practice again.

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