Saturday, September 11, 2010

my 9/11

Knuckles whiten with each shudder of the airplane, as it knifes through the sky, descending rapidly. Snatches of the pilot's announcement are heard above the din of concerned conversation, "told to put down...Atlanta...." We are supposed to be heading to Florida, why are we stopping in Atlanta, and why so fast?

We waste no time taxiing to a gate, planes are lining up to land, one after another. No answers are offered as we are asked to disembark. Stepping into the terminal, everyone is staring at the television. Following their gaze I watch as a plane flies into the side of a very large building. now I am standing and watching in silence like everyone else. towers fall and the screen goes black, all of the screens in the terminal are black.

Fumbling my cell phone out of my pocket, I try to call my wife, but the call will not go through. People keep pouring out of terminal doors, crowding the halls, all the chairs are quickly taken and people begin slumping against walls, in small groups, trying to get word to loved ones, to find out what is happening outside of the airport. When anyone gets through, word is quickly passed, some true, some exaggerated (as we would find out later), all of it scary.

Baggage begins to back up on conveyors, so several of us begin stacking it in endless piles, strangers bonded together by something to do, something to feel like we are helping, and not helpless and stuck on the island that the airport has become. Someone says the pentagon has been hit, somewhere in Pennsylvania as well. Luggage keeps coming, we keep stacking.

Taking a break, we gather together, eating chicken sandwiches, someone got from one of the stores in the terminal. Police are setting barricades outside the glass doors. There are bodies everywhere, some crying, some sleeping, some praying, many just staring through empty eyes. What does this mean? What is happening? How many are dead? Did I know any of them? Questions, all we have is questions. It has been hours since we were put down here, since we were cut off from the outside world.

My phone rings, my secretary somehow gets through, she has a car waiting for me at one of the rental companies, a hotel room an hour away in Columbus, GA. She will call my wife and let her know I am okay. I still have no luggage, and figure I will stop at a Walmart. Receiving the keys to the rental car, I make my way back through the lobby, asking my new friends if any of them are heading the same direction, saying goodbye.

As I am about to walk out into the evening, the nose of my green suitcase pokes up the conveyor from below, and I smile at small graces. There are tanks in the streets, fear thick in the air. In just a few hours, everything has changed.

I finally speak to my wife and we cry together, in relief, for what has been lost, for those that have been lost. Reaching the hotel, I lay on the bed with the television on, listening to news and press conferences, and somehow find sleep, not knowing what tomorrow may bring.


I wrote something similar a couple years ago, some of you may remember it. It is a day, I will never forget.

79 comments:

Mama Zen said...

That must have been terrifying.

Cop Mama said...

I just can't imagine. And that you had to spend that night alone...tough. Thank goodness you got through to your wife.

Thanks for sharing this today. So many stories...yet we all share the same pain.

Bonnie said...

It must have been horrific in NYC, but it was scary right across the country and continent. A riveting recollection Brian. Quite something that you, too, were in the air when the four other planes were hijacked.

Miss Nikki said...

I still shudder. That day will be with us forever. Thanks for sharing your story...

Prayer Girl said...

A day that will never be forgotten by any of us.

Thanks for sharing your experiences.

PG

Betsy said...

hadn't heard this, B...wow, not a good day to have been flying! Glad you were OK. None of us will ever forget where we were.

otin said...

I never really thought about the effect that the tragedy had on all of the people on the planes that were forced to land. It really must have been a nightmare for you.

TALON said...

That must have been so incredibly terrifying, Brian.

lakeviewer said...

Oh, how gripping and terrifying for you, for your family, for the rest of the passengers, and the entire crew on land and in the air. Never forgot.

Who Is Afraid of Alfred Hitchcock? said...

Hi! Brian...
What a very descriptive piece...I now understand what the word "empathy" mean(s).

Thanks, for sharing your experience and what happened to you and the countless other passengers in a blink of an eye...on 9/11

Take care!
DeeDee ;-/

Cindybrown said...

WOW Brian, incredibly terrifying. I will never forget that day or where I was or how I found out. I know anyone who is old enough to remember that day will never forget as well.

ananchorage said...

A good account of what if felt like to be somewhere else...when really it could have been you.

Gloria

joanny said...

A mixed blessing , a day of gratitude, you were spared, But an horrific experience, for you and many others. There is a season under sun for everything, --a time for healing and forgiveness.

Joanny

King of New York Hacks said...

The small graces Brian...there but for the grace of God go we. Peace brother, thank you for sharing your memories from that horrific day...I share the moments of silence with you.

adeeyoyo said...

What a dreadful day that was... I never would have dreamt that something like that would/could happen. Thanks for letting us see it through your eyes, Brian - real life, not TV's version!

JeffScape said...

Yep. I was still active duty on 9/11. What a dicked-up day that was.

steveroni said...

Well, you were really in a "WAYSTATION" at that time, Brian.
Hopefully, peace will one day happen.
Thank you for sharing that story...

Bernie said...

Too this day my heart aches and my eyes fill with tears whenever I read or am reminded of such a tragedy.....my heart is always with the families of the victims.
.....so glad you were safe....Hugs

heartspell said...

I remember that morning so well and feared for my husband and children, who had already left for work and school...it was just me and my youngest daughter here at home. We never turned the tv on in the morning, but for some reason, that morning I wanted to check the weather and there was the plane crashing into the 1st tower and my little 4 year old said , "Mommy, why did the plane go into the building?" Then within minutes, we saw the next plane go into the building and then the buildings coming down..... I was so afraid for my family and just began to pray.... tears come to my eyes even now, as I remember.
I really was not expecting to find a post like this; I was coming here to give you the Happy Award as given to me, I hope it is not inappropriate.
http://heartspell.wordpress.com/2010/09/11/call-waiting/
please disregard , if necessary.
I wish you happiness. :) Heartspell

R. Burnett Baker said...

No matter when you wrote it, the emotions are real and NOW. We are all fortunate to be able to remember, talk, write, and share.

Rick

June_Butterfly said...

Can't imagine the fear and anxiety that you and other people would have felt.

The sorrow of that day still lingers on.A friend of mine actually lost a son on that horrying day.

Everyday we all hope that nothing so painful as this would occur ,again.I'm glad that you were spared.And that you are here to share your wisdom to us in everyway you can.

Kulio said...

Oh my goodness, I haven't known anyone who flew that day. I remember for so long afterwards I felt afraid when I saw a plane in the sky. Blessings to you.

ladyfi said...

What a terrifying experience!

n. davis rosback said...

really good secretary.

Candie Bracci said...

I remember the post you wrote about it.This memories haunt forever.Nicely written.

Just Be Real said...

What a terrifying thing! I still shudder when I see images of that day. What man can do to man.

Valerie said...

It must hae been dreadful for you and people like you. Like Bernie, I find my eyes filling up at the mere mention of that awful day. I was celebrating big son's birthday at the time ... we lost all desire to carry on, and we never forget the tragedy that occurred.

Cheryl said...

Each new story that emerges brings fresh nightmares of what was, what it was like, and what changed.

Zuzana said...

I think we all have similar stories, even those of us here in Europe know exactly what we were doing that day... I was back in Denmark only two years by then and thus still felt that US was my home and the tragedy had a major impact on me.
Beautiful, heartfelt writing...
Hope your Sunday is lovely dear Brian,
xoxo

Lorraine said...

I'm so sorry, in your writing I was right there with you
I remember I was working in a federal bldg when I hear the news...no more words were spoken, as we stood in horror while watching ourneighbours from so far away

Brian Miller said...

thanks zuzana...had not intended to post on this tonight...but after watching the rememberances and reading all the stories on peoples blogs last night it just kinda spilled out...hope everyone has a wonderful sunday...

natalee said...

touching..awww Brian...Your poor wife...

you know how i feel my friend...

it was a terrible heart wrenching day

Vicki Lane said...

Yes, everything changed.Our feeling of invulnerability lost forever.

Vicki Lane said...

Yes, everything changed.Our feeling of invulnerability lost forever.

Kat_RN said...

Wow. It is interesting to read other peoples perspectives on that day. How we all remember it, what we were doing. As usuall, yours is very well written.
Kat

Nessa said...

As none of us will.

My brother and SIL were in Washington DC. No phone contact. No way out of the city.

The quiet here in NJ when no airplanes flew from any of the surrounding airports was ominous.

The fear, pain and grief as friends, neighbors and relatives tried to locate each other. The horror for those who could not.

Jill said...

So VERY scary and everything that we worry about/become consumed with in daily life becomes SO VERY SMALL.

annell said...

Very beautifully done. And even though the event was not so good, it is a good memory of that day. There was a feeling of "coming home" after being lost in confusion and fear. Perhaps there was a sigh of relief, when we knew something?

TechnoBabe said...

Some things are embedded in our minds and hearts and will be there forever. I for am glad you will never forget that day. Keep reminding us of your experience and continue our united vow to stick together like we did right after that day. Where is the unity now?

Tracy said...

I remember that day, too. Now I look back on it and realize that it was the last time we Americans all banded together like that. Not even hurricanes could bring us back together. Like you say, everything changed. It was a day that tore us apart. Things could have - should have - been so different. So sad.

Vodka Logic said...

How scary for you and your wife... I knew no one affected but was deeply changed.

xx

Joseph Pulikotil said...

Hi Brian:)

This is a gripping description of the events.This is a terrible thing that happened in your country.Bin Laden should have been cut to size in the beginning itself but unfortunately he was allowed to grow and terrorize the world.

I watched the entire events that took place on that dreadful night.I could not get sleep and I went and switched on the TV and to my horror I saw one of the twin towers already in smoke and a plane was slowly approaching the second tower.It was coming steadily closer and closer and I was thinking that the pilot had gone mad.As I watched it crashed into the second tower and I could see huge smoke and fire coming out of the top portion of the second tower.Very soon the first tower crumbled to dust and the second tower too collapsed like a match box.It was a dreadful sight.Then I could see heavy dust and smoke chasing people on the road near the towers and people running for their lives screaming.Many looked hurt and I could see blood on them.It was a terrible sight.I just sat glued to the TV set for hours after that watching the grue some scenes that was beamed on the TV. Only people who suffered and lost their near and dear ones in the calamity will know the extent of damage they suffered forever in their lives.

Even now Bin Laden is at large and there are countries hiding him.He should be ferreted out and made to pay for his atrocities.

Your brief description of the scenes and feelings are very gripping right from the start to the end.

Best wishes Brian:)
Joseph

Caty said...

I remember exactly where I was that day too...the fear and confusion and lots of questions. thanks for sharing.

Tina said...

Wow, hadn't considered what it would have been like for those in the air at the time...how completely terrifying. Thanks for sharing your story with us.

Daniel said...

Your tale is like many others that I have stumbled upon during the past 9 years. Thanks for sharing yours.

Lori said...

I cannot imagine. I love that your suitcase showed itself just as you were leaving. I am thankful for stories like yours, that remind me that we as a country need to continue to strive for peace & unity. Hope you and yours are having a good weekend. XX

slommler said...

It is a day that I will never forget as well! It forever changed the way we view the world and each other. I hope none of us forget that day!
Hugs
SueAnn

Sam Liu said...

I cannot even begin to comprehend how...how awful, how utterly terrifying that experience must have been. Stranded, cut off, left asking questions on that terrible day, that day that changed everything. But it is truly wonderful that everyone in that airport came together, helping each other out...and that you managed to speak to your wife. That must have meant a lot.

chiccoreal said...

Remembering the moment. Very poignant account Brian! I heard the news while on the computer online chat(the thing to do in 2001). The first plane hitting the tower I thought what a horrible accident; the second one hit, I thought war is declared. All I could say was OMG. It seemed to me to be the beginning of WWIII. No one knew at the time what was happening, and it did seem like a coupe d'etat. Still does. Praying for the families. I wrote a poem about the rebuilding of the towers years ago...I should try to find it. This is an excellent account Brian. Thank-you.

ds said...

Yes, a terrifying day. So many in this area were lost; so many took days to come home (my hub too).It has changed us all profoundly...

This is full of "small graces." Thank you. So glad you were able to return quickly to your home.

sheila said...

There were tanks in the streets? Damn! Yes, it's a day ingrained in all our memories for sure. I think even some of the youngest at the time remember clearly.

Carolina Linthead said...

Dear Brian,

Small graces were what we had that day. I've watched the story on tv of how masterfully the nation's air traffic controllers got you all back on the ground that day, and I saw first hand the "empty sky" that was the result. I wrote about our immediate experience on my blog yesterday, as well. I will follow that sometime with the story of how we decided to pack up and drive from the outskirts of DC down to western NC to "hole up" with our parents until we knew what would come of all this. That was one long day, for sure! Yes, there were many tears shed on this end, as well. Thanks for sharing your experience with us!

PattiKen said...

Wow! Is this true? Did you live through that day in this way at this place? If so, how terrifying!

gayle said...

I am sure it had to be so very scary for you and your family. I was so thankful that my husband was not traveling that day!!! I had many asking is your huband in town. It is a day none will forget!!

Gary said...

I think that 9/11 is like those other dates in history (President Kennedy's death, Pearl Harbor) that we will continue to talk about in the mode of "I remember where I was when I first heard about it". Terrible. And you were on a plane at the time?! I was teaching PreK in NYC and word was that the Empire State Building was hit too and we figured the whole city was being targeted. Just horrible and we will never forget. Thanks for sharing your story.

Madame DeFarge said...

A good personal account. We were in Oregon, visiting my parents and met many of the 'strandees' in Portland. But I did see the best of the US at that time and it changed how I thought of your country.

Emmanuel Ibok said...

Tragic indeed. May the lost souls rest in peace.

Cheers!

G-Man said...

Thats why I drive my car...

Joanna Jenkins said...

This gave me chills. I remember every detail for that day too-- jj

william said...

pretty dreadful mate. well written ..

Pat said...

What a scary day! I think we all will remember what we were doing that day - the day the world changed.

Teri said...

All a person needs to say is: 9-1-1 and it immediately transports each and every one of us to where we were on that day, what we saw, what we felt, where our loved ones were. My Mom was on a tour in NYC and we had no idea if she was safe or not for a day or two. Like you, our calls would not go through. Horrific day. I send peace to the world so that this never happens again.

Beedeebabee said...

Your story was riveting. That was such an unreal day...it still is. I think of it every time a plane passes over. The world is so much scarier now. Paulette

Reflections said...

I can't even imagine having been in the air at that time. I know that we all will forever remember exactly where we were and what we were doing. All of us, not knowing... hoping for the safety of anyone in the air once the first plane hit, then the second.

We all share in the pain of that day, those events, yet we all have our own individual stories as well. Thank you for sharing yours.

Graceful said...

Mmmm, very poignant, Brian. Brings me back to that day. Doesn't it feel like yesterday? I can't believe it's been 9 years. In some ways I don't think I'll ever get over it. In many ways I don't think I ever should.

Goofball said...

I've also never really thought about those in the air, forced to land. Quite poignant told

Mmm said...

Oh gosh, this brings back so many memories. How scary to have been at a an airport. Still just so so surreal. A very sad day indeed and a wake up call too...that, like most of th wors already knows, we can;t hide from eveil forever.

Slamdunk said...

Thanks for sharing your experience Brian. That day is one for each of us where we can describe exactly where we were when we heard the news.

Syd said...

A terrible day. Strangely I had too much disbelief to be afraid.

Bill Cook said...

I still remember where I was. I was having breakfast with a colleague. The first plane hit. We thought it was an accident. And then a second plane hit.

If you would like to check out my post on 9/11, it is on my other blog: http://revbillcook.wordpress.com/2010/09/09/work-for-peace/

- bill

flaubert said...

Brian who could ever forget that horrible day!Thanks for sharing this!
Pamela

kkrige said...

you were in the air.

the retrospect of that most have been absolutely horrifying.

I remember exactly where I was and being shocked (at daycare/work glued to the radio as soon as I found out what had happened on return from a walk) The air was heavy;EVERYWHERE. No flights on the continent and nothing on the TV but images of airplanes flying into buildings with flames, sirens and screams. On one hand it seemed far away, but just too terrifyingly close. I am so glad that you and your wife were able to find each other safe. peace my friend

The Retired One said...

You and your family must have been terrified...you, especially..not knowing as much as we did, sitting and hanging on every word, every image on TV...
my heart is still heavy..

deb said...

oh, Brian , this hurt.


we are forever changed .

Sophia said...

How horrifying!!! Tears streaming here at my desk at work. Gosh, Brian! Hugs!!!!

Magpie said...

It was a day we remember where we were and what we were doing when we saw heard or saw the news. It was also my wedding anniversary. Now, there is a sadness mixed in with our celebration.

JamieDedes said...

A day none of us will forget. What an exprience for you...

Hilary said...

None of us will forget it. I can only imagine how frightened your wife was for your safety. At that time, I was seeing someone who worked in Boston.. and that particular day he was repairing computer networks up in the control tower at Logan in Boston, from where those planes departed. Because events were still unclear, and speculation was rampant, I was so afraid for his safety until I heard from him hours later when the area was evacuated. Such a horrible time for so many.

Marla said...

How scary, Brian. I will never forget that day or the feelings of wanting to gather my family together and never leave our farm again. Such a tragic day for us all.