Thursday, September 11, 2008

I Remember

Today is one of those days that you look back on and know what you were doing when. It is like remembering where you were or what you were doing when you learned that Kennedy had been assasinated, or that the Challenger exploded, or that John Lennon has been killed. Today, most all of us can recall that Tuesday in September 2001 and all the emotions that went with it.

Today we will bring up those memories once again and we will pause in the hurried pace of our lives and think about the tragedy of that morning. For some it is a very personal tragedy whle for others we are a part of the national tragedy. But we all think back to that time if only for a moment.

For my wife and I, we were celebrating our 10th anniversary by giving ourselves a Caribbean cruise followed by a few days in the parks. That morning the ship's alarm bell sounded and the Captain came over the cabin speakers telling us what was happening. For us, and for most everyone else on that ship, the cruise was over. Yes, we were still at sea, but the things one associates with a cruise were over. Instead, a numbness settled on the ship as we all gathered around televisions, emailed loved ones for information and supported each through memorial services held on board.

The next day we were at sea headed back to Port Canaveral and by Thursday morning we were making our way, through the rain, to Walt Disney World.

There was a tropical storm parked just off the coast and it rained hard that night. The next morning we were going to Epcot, but not before being evacuated from Fort Wilderness Campground. The amount of rain brought the possibility of flooding. So after moving into Port Orleans Riverside, we made it into a nearly deserted park. We were in the World Showcase near the American Adventure when the entire park paused to remember those who were lost on Tuesday. That day, even the park was sad.

It is hard to quantify how much someone loses in events of this magnitude. Some people suffered the most profound forms of tragedy. Me, I was blessed in that I did not loose a family member or a friend that day. But I do feel that I lost a bit of my innocense, as I believe many of us did. We faced a harsh reality that morning and left a little of ourselves behind in the process.

The events of that week were some of the saddest I had ever experienced or wish to experience. All the magic in the world could not bring a smile or replace a compelling need to be with family and friends. So, my wife and I walked out of the park, got in our car and drove home to Tennessee.

I write these things simply to say, I remember.


Craig Wheeler said...

My parents 30th wedding anniversary was 9/11/01. They were at Disney World, watching Beauty and the Beast stage show when the decision was made to close the parks. The theater was escorted out after the show completed; each guest was given a one-day ticket. None of the cast members were telling people why the parks were closing. But my parents soon heard from another guest what had happened.

That evening characters were bussed into the resorts to ensure that there was some entertainment. Phone calls from the rooms were not charged to the bills. And I've heard that Disney bent over backwards to see that those intending to leave that day were able to stay until they could get flights booked.

My parents anniversary dinner at Brown Derby was pushed back a day, and they were given complimentary champagne when the waiter heard their story.

They stayed on at the resort until Saturday, living through the same tropical storm that you survived. They said they have never seen the Magic Kingdom so empty as it was that Friday. The combination of the tragedy and the storm caused there to be only a few thousand people in the park that day (I don't recall the exact number, but a cast member that day had told them what the attendance figures were).

They continue to go in hurricane season every year...just having been there through Fay a few weeks back. I'm glad I've never had a big storm or tragedy dampen my vacations.

And BTW...I was walking into a computer lab at The University of Akron when a classmate told me the news. After class, everyone was in the student union huddled around the big screen TV watching events unfold. When they closed the university, a group of friends spent the day together in their apartment across the street from campus. As you suggest, this is a day to define a generation. I was not yet in kindergarten when Challenger exploded, though I do remember seeing it on TV. 9/11, however, is the defining tragedy of my generation.

sambycat said...

wow. thank you so much for sharing that. how sad.
i was actually waiting for a taxi to pick me up at home to get on my 1030 flight or something from kentucky to boston and was to be going with my step mom to italy the next day.

we still wanted to try to go, as we didn't beleive that flying was any more or less safe before or after this horrible event, but, obviously, that was not to happen. as i canceled all of our italin reservations, the people were nothing but gracious and warm and very very compassionate.

i was home alone that day, but on the 12th, i drove up and spent a week with my grandparents in indiana, given that i had the vacation time and all. it was kind of heart breaking i remember to be at this all american home coming game the following friday, and watch the ROTC kids fly the colors and sing the national anthem.

we went to italy september 11, 2002.

-- Ryan P. Wilson said...

That morning, I can remember being in my student center in school and watchnig the first plane crash. There was no one in the room with me, and I couldn't take my eyes off of the screen. By the time I looked around, after the first tower fell, I couldn't see the end of the rows upon rows of students. I called my mom to tell her classes had been cancelled, and then I went in to my child care center and stared at the toddlers as we waited for their parents to come and pick them up, as we were closing as well. I remember thinking that these children I loved so much would never live in the world I had grown up in, and how sad it made me.

That was a rough week for my entire family, my Uncle Don (who isn't realted to any of us, but grew up with my mom and my uncles and I love him just as much as any of them) worked at the Pentagon at the time. No one could reach him, and he never called. Trying to find anyone who might even possibly have news about him was almost as impossible as getting ahold of him. Because of all the work that was being done at the Pentagon that day and on into the foreseeable future, we did not get any information on my Uncle Don until Sunday, when he finally came up for air. I remember how relieved I was that it hadn't been him, later I was angry at my relief because my relief meant someone else would suffer.

I remember the children in my care, the family I thought I had lost, the notes of concern I left for friends on their cars as I left campus, the phone calls (when you could get through), and the overwhelming sense of how the world had shifted in the blink of an eye. To this day, I still cannot put my feelings into perspective or words. Like all of you, I can only remember.

Craig Wheeler said...

Ryan's mention of the Pentagon reminds me, too, that the Chaplain of the Air National Guard at the time had been the best man at my parents' wedding. The office he had just moved into was right where the plane had impacted. Thankfully he was not there when the incident happened.

Well Behaved Krissy said...

Thanks for sharing your memories. The picture of the flag at half mast was amazing.

MainstreetMom said...

Thanks DOC for your memories,

I was in New York that morning. My husband worked near the towers (later a TV camera placed to watch ground zero was placed on his old desk) but fortunately didn't go to work that morning as he was out the night before celebrating a friend's engagement (so funny how we lost friends who shouldn't have been there that day - a meeting, a breakfast etc.) It was not a morning I usually worked but I had a meeting so I went in anyway. I remember being late and not being able to find a parking place (so weird the mundane things you remember) when I heard that the first tower had been hit by a plane. I remember thinking that it must be a small biplane (not what they said but this is how my mind was working) I figured someone was lost and the plane had just bounced off - no biggie. Needless to say we all know what happened next. I have two lasting images of the day...there was the most beautiful blue sky (not a cloud in sight which is unusual for NY) and the black cloud lower Manhattan that streaked across the sky and the absence of the two buildings that you could see from practically anywhere in the city.

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