Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Sept. 11: Remembrance

Blogging challenge for today: what do you remember about this day in 2001?

Funny that I just blogged about Corinne, as she figures heavily into my 9/11 memories, as well. I guess this is just her week for being featured prominently on the blog! (You can thank me later, C.)

I was in San Diego on business, a conference that is heavily attended by my work and many others in the health care marketing arena every year. There were many of us from work there--maybe almost 20.

On the morning of Sept. 11, I woke up around 6 a.m. PT, and went down to the hotel gym. I got on a treadmill and started walking, and then looked up at the TV. I think the first tower had already been hit, and I stood there and watched the TV for a while before just picking up my stuff and walking back to my room, and turning on CNN there. I sat, glued to the screen, for some time.

I called home, talked to my then-husband, and Seth--who was coming up on 5--and then somehow (how? we didn't have cell phones?) learned from Corinne, who was on her way to see me from the Central California Coast, that she was stuck in some pretty extreme traffic on the way to San Diego.

Anyway, the day was a blur of TV watching. When I went over to the conference center, the huge 20-foot screens were all filled with images of the towers, the Pentagon, the field in Pennsylvania. Soon enough they were filled with Saddam Hussein, and talk of al Qaeda involvement. The conference as it had been planned simply disappeared. People from the east coast immediately started driving home. My co-workers spent time each day for the next couple of days calling Alaska Airlines asking when they would be flying again. The ticket agents would take our names and give us flight numbers and seat assignments, but when those times rolled around and there were no planes flying anywhere, we'd call again. It was a weird, futile exercise, but it somehow helped us feel like we could manage something, control something, when quite obviously we could not.

Corinne brought her daughter, Adrienne, with her--she was just a few months old at the time--so we had something cute and bouncy to pay attention to. We decided to keep our dinner reservations at a restaurant in La Jolla, and drove down and had a quick meal, but I don't remember it very well. It was a highly distractable time.

Finally on Thursday it was decided as a group we would drive home (to my memory, Corinne stayed one night and then drove home Wednesday). There were a few rental cars already rented to those in our group, and we divided up and hit the road around noon. By Friday night we were home, and very glad to be.

Last fall, when Corinne and I went to NYC for my birthday, one of our first stops was the 9/11 memorial at the former WTC location in lower Manhattan. It's a solemn place, to be sure, but very beautiful and still. It's hard to even fathom now how gutted the city looked after the events of 9/11--I've been to Ground Zero four times since then--solo, with husband, with Seth and with Corinne--and each time it is more healed, but what happened there is still very present. Never forgotten.

I have a book that was published on the 10th anniversary of 9/11, called September Morning. It is a collection of poems and readings from the memorial services over the years. There are notes to parents, to spouses, siblings; words about loss and remembering; poems from many well-known writers that fit the mood and the moment of a memorial.

One of my very favorites, "The Names," written by Billy Collins and read by him in 2002, was re-read in part by Mayor Bloomberg in 2003. The final lines:

Names etched on the head of a pin.
One name spanning a bridge, another undergoing a tunnel.
A blue name needled into the skin.
Names of citizens, workers, mothers and fathers,
The bright-eyed daughter, the quick son,
Alphabet of names in a green field.
Names in the small tracks of birds.
Names lifted from a hat
Or balanced on the tip of the tongue.
Names wheeled into the dim warehouse of memory.
So many names, there is barely room on the walls of the heart.

When you walk the memorial (panorama above), and see all the names cut out of metal and lit from behind (below), the loss of life is heart-stopping. You can hear the number: 2,792. But when you see 2,792 names, one after the other, it hits home, much like hearing those names read as they do each year at Ground Zero.

What do you remember about 9/11? Do you do anything special or different to commemorate the day?

Jen and I (and now my mom and Lisa too!) are blog challenging throughout September. You can catch her blog over at Stuff Jen Says. If you want to write along with us, give me a shout and I'll send you the blog prompts.


  1. In some ways it was such a blur and yet I remember everything about it. I remember feeling overly vigilant and yet, I was completely distracted - horrified I'd just brought a child into a world where this could happen.

    Being there last year was such a heavy - time to ponder, bringing it full circle to me in many ways. So glad we went, and were able to be there together.

    We've covered some ground lady! xx

  2. Thank you for this...I remember that day like it was yesterday.

  3. Well done, Sherilee... love that poem by Billy Collins. Shelby introduced me to him some time ago with his 'Lanyard' poem.

    It was some years after 9/11 that your father and I flew anywhere. Hard to take in the scope of it all... all those names belonged to living, breathing people.

    One day at a time, Sweet Jesus.


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