Thursday, September 11, 2008

I was in Phoenix, still lying in bed when my wife walked in the room to tell me that a plane had flown into the World Trade Center. Like most people I assumed that meant a small private plane had gone off course. I couldn't understand how a pilot could be so bad at flying to not be able to miss an obstacle that large. I walked into the living room, and as I recall, within a couple of minutes saw the second plane hit. I actually shouted "Oh my god, there's another one?" Your mind really doesn't grasp what is happening when you see something like that, especially when you've only been awake for a few minutes.

We spent the rest of the morning watching it all unfold. We were expecting the father of a friend from Ireland to arrive that day, and later that week he and I were supposed to ride mules down the Grand Canyon. The TV reported that the nation's airspace was being closed and all flights were grounded, so we were on the phone back to Ireland to see if our friends had heard anything from their dad. That's when I watched the collapse of the first tower. "Oh dear god, no, no, no, no..." was all I remember saying through my hands that were suddenly now at my face.

Utter disbelief, horror, what other emotions are there at a time like that? I felt the same things as everyone else on this thread. I distinctly remember thinking that the country was now at war and probably would be for the rest of my life. I figured that it would never really end, and the world I grew up in, as violent and turbulent as it had been already, had changed forever and not for the better.

After the second tower collapsed, as I guess we knew it would, I watched the TV a bit longer then finally decided to go to work. But first I had to do something. I had already turned more conservative politically as I got older (I was 44 at the time) but wasn't much of a flag waver and would really cringe when I heard crowds chant "USA! USA! USA!." But I couldn't leave until I went to the closet and pulled out our flag and put it on the front of the house. Unexpectedly, tears welled up in my eyes as I did so. At that moment I knew what it must have felt like right after Pearl Harbor. Feelings of pride, rage, and resolve all mixed together. Had I been 20 years younger I would have enlisted that very day. Strangely enough, I never felt more American.

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