• author
    • Julie Parker

      Columnist
    • September 11, 2015 in Columnists

    Where were you when

    My alarm woke me to the news, which took a few moments to process as I mentally floated up from the land of R.E.M’s. Although the horror was occurring on the other side of the country (I lived in Northern California), the profound humanity of it struck home. I immediately got up and turned on the television. The initial images consisted mainly of fire and smoke emanating from the top of one of the Twin Towers. Chaos on the ground allowed merely bits and pieces of the street scenes, but like the blossoming smoke, they were enough to communicate the growing magnitude of the devastation.

    Memories of events, whether tragic or celebratory, are comprised of moments. Although it has been fourteen years since the insanity of September 11, 2001 in New York City, tears nevertheless welled up as I sat down to list my memories of that day.

    I can’t even begin to imagine the terror experienced by those lost and the day’s survivors, the loss experienced by those left behind, or the epic heroism and bravery of firefighters who will retain vibrant, heartbreaking memories everyday of their lives. My effort here is infinitesimal in comparison, but I feel it necessary to share my memory moments to let it be known that I have not forgotten, and those who were not yet born should read my words to know the intense sympathy and empathy felt by me, and others like me, even though I couldn’t be there, and didn’t know any residents of New York City.

    • The catch in Peter Jennings’ voice as he asked the reporter to repeat the incomprehensible news that the second tower had also been hit.
    • News that another plane had crashed into the Pentagon.
    • The passengers of a fourth plane, Flight 93, learning of the events from loved ones calling on cell phones, took down their hijackers to prevent additional loss of life.
    • People imprisoned in the upper floors, surrounded by walls of fire, choosing to jump to their deaths. A video of firefighters with lowered heads in the Tower’s ash-filled lobby, as the thuds of bodies could be heard as they hit the ground.
    • My cousin’s husband in California unable to focus on anything, fearful for his childhood friend who worked in one of the towers. (He later received news that his friend was okay, having walked down several flights of stairs in the dark, with a terrified woman behind him clasping his pant belt loop.)
    • Covered in ash, and stumbling through debris, random strangers handing their car keys to people who needed to get home to their families.
    • Jon Stewart, with shaky voice, tearfully sharing with The Daily Show viewers that because the Twin Towers had fallen, he now had a clear view of the Statue of Liberty; freedom for all. He was chastised for showing emotion on television.
    • The free concert in New York City given in gratitude for the firefighters, including The Who and Paul McCartney, whose father had been a firefighter.

    The United States is a complicated, dysfunctional family. But, when the shit hits the fan or, in this case, planes hit buildings, junk yard dogs have nothing on us. And, we have a long memory.


      • Maya Spier Stiles North

      • September 11, 2015 at 5:39 pm
      • Reply

      My cousin’s beautiful teenage son emerged from the ruined subway to the sounds of falling bodies. He was never the same afterward — he was more thoughtful, more compassionate, more spiritual. He took nothing for granted. He was a great kid before, but while it ravaged him beyond my ability to even imagine, he took that horror and turned it into growth…



    • In war ravaged regions around the world. children are forced to deal with shocking travesties of adults they are demanded to respect. In this country, where such events are the exception, not the rule, processing it can be monumentally challenging for any age. It sounds like your cousin’s son serves as a great leader for healing.



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