At this time 10 years ago, I was getting off of work from my new job at the Pittsburgh Tribune Review. I went home as always, taking the turnpike to Beaver Falls, through Koppel to Ellwood City. Parked in front of the house as always. Went inside, ate something, I showered, I went to bed. I woke up around 830am on Tuesday, September 11 to head to National City to open a checking account, so I could deposit my paychecks. When I got in the car with my ex, the first thing we heard was Howard Stern talking about Tower 1 being hit. We thought it was a joke, we kind of dismissed it. We drove to the bank. We walked in just after Tower 2 was hit. I sat in that chair with the account service girl, just riveted by the tv, completely confused, and halfway blocking her out, having given her all of my stuff to enter. Not long after, the Pentagon was hit, right where my dad's section was when he was there for work, right where many of his coworkers and friends perished. I remember then having the most incredible meltdown. Calling my mom FRANTICALLY, why won't you answer your goddamn phone!?!! Where's dad? Dad's in DC this week? Where's DAD!??? She finally calmed me down, telling me he was at work, there in St. Louis. Ushered underground because of what he did. No one knew what was going on, the motive, the culprit. Was this for money? Was it for attention? Was this someone starting war with us for the laundry list of reasons that would probably be really well justified by someone not living here or even living here because we just butt in to everyone's business when we should mind our own sometimes? How relieved I felt before I really realized how many friends and coworkers he had there? And how many families were just destroyed with that impact?
We went to Sears at the Beaver Valley Mall. We needed a TV for the new place we would be moving into soon. Priorities. THOUSANDS died, and millions lost their everything, and we're buying a fucking tv. Obviously every tv there was tuned to it. JUST as we walked in, Shanksville happened. Word had just hit the airwaves. I remember all these people were sitting in chairs and recliners watching tv. We bought our TV, and got in the car, and went home. I sat on the couch for like 3 hours waiting for my start time for work. Then I headed in.
Working in a newspaper, you obviously are going to see and hear it all. EVERY TV was tuned to every possible feed, and EVERYONE was just staring at the tv. We were scrambling to meet a deadline for the rest of the week's print runs but no one could really focus. I know I had a hard time making that ad for Shults Ford. As the day went on and the presses were full run, there were only the editors in our office and the print staff there with myself and Ryan, the other night guy. We just sat there, riveted. I know a few times I had to hold back tears, just thinking about how in the hell you move on from that. Who could have survived, how many people are in each of those towers, in that section of the pentagon. Then the people whose job it is to go in first and save people, what about them? And those that survived it? Now what? 10 years later they're riddled with diseases that are killing them from what they breathed doing their job, and they can't get anyone to help them. It's not the insurance company's fault that they're sick, so no payment. Going bankrupt to pay for treatment. Many have died. Think about all those kids who lost their parents and were too young to "get it". Growing up with that black cloud, where the people around you are constantly worrying about your adjustment as you age.
I drove home that night just wanting to get home, and hoping that nothing new happened while I slept, or before work.
The next day when I got into work, I grabbed the issue of the paper from that day. Never read it. Just put it in my bag to take home. Like some kind of a sick souvenier I could sell on Ebay later. I still have it. I also still have the whole week's papers. And then the special edition from that Sunday. They're on a bookshelf in my living room. I never opened them. Not one time. Its like a little time capsule. Amid all the clutter and crap in my living room (and there is a lot, as my father pointed out today), that pile of papers to me is priceless and is NOT clutter. I actually am relieved at how well it's preserved despite my not having archived them properly.
I watched CNN and all the cable news talking heads stream all week. I watched the names go across my screen. On the weekends I was still working at Bob Evans on Hwy 19 in Cranberry. I remember it was ridiculously dead, obviously, and that Krispy Kreme was about to open. People were lining up for these donuts. Yea they're tasty. But there's no damn way I was gonna wait in line for DAYS for those. But I drove by every day, chuckling at those people, thinking "hey, maybe this is how they're choosing to move on and "ignore" all of this crap". I did eventually stop watching the CNNs and all that, exactly one week later. At that point it was regurgitation, speculation and the ridiculous news machine we have today: SENSATIONALISM. Ratings. Drama. Bullshit. Gone was the memorial to all of those lives lost. Now it was "how can we make this senseless tragedy make us MONEY!" Fox brought on more blond bobblehead women that embarrass me every time I hear one of their voices on The Daily Show moment of zen.
Every year I watch the "anniversary" broadcasts. And this year I am recording a few. I just watched one on the Smithsonian Channel (didn't even know that one existed, let alone that I had it). It was about "artifacts" donated to the museum from that day's attacks. From an ironworker's tools, that he used to help recover the lost, to someone's briefcase that was recovered. She was on I believe the 106th floor and she survived. She couldn't believe it was found, let alone that this person returned it to her. A paramedic who was lost saving lives at the Pentagon...his badge. A battalion chief's gear from one of the firehouses. I think the most poignant one was some photos a couple who lived a few blocks from the WTC and had a ridiculous view of the towers being hit and falling, had taken from their home. The curator had asked them why they thought to take them. The photographer had said "to silence the screaming". They were and are amazing photos. Very surreal. It captured the horror on everyone's faces like nothing I'd ever seen yet.
I see a few friends who enlisted after that all happened, and a few that already were active, and that were quickly called up and deployed to fight a war in the wrong place, for the wrong reasons. And I remember their "joy" when Bin Laden was captured and killed. The images of the FDNY and the NYPD cheering at that news ticker are pretty incredible.
I will never ever forget that moment, or anything from that day, or week. And I hope that the rest of us don't either. We can grow and move on, but we have to remember.