Wednesday, September 12, 2012

From tragedy to bizarre


I don't think there is a combination of any other two words, that could possibly stir the feelings in Americans like those two do.


And the feelings are so mixed. They include sorrow, compassion, guilt, pride, patriotism, ANGER and many others.
I think for those of us who were alive and old enough to comprehend the incomprehensible acts of that day, those feelings will return with regularity.

They say time heals all wounds. From what I can see that is an incorrect statement.
I get uncomfortable watching people mourn, but I can't help but tune in, if at all possible to watch the memorials held each year in New York, Pennsylvania and Washington DC., remembering 9/11.
It should be a law. If you are an American citizen, it should be required that we watch and remember how thousands of our fellow citizens lives were cut short by the cowardly acts of a few radicals.

It still blows my mind that we, the USA were so asleep at the wheel that we enabled these crazed lunatics to orchestrate such an attack from our own airports, using our planes and killing our own citizens.
Truly unbelievable.

Every anniversary of that fateful day brings with it more reasons to be upset.
How heart wrenching it was to listen to the little girl who said at one particular memorial, " Daddy, I was only 9 months old when you died but I want you to know I love you very much."

Such a horrible day, but then it turned bizarre.
Every September 11th, another memory comes back to me.
If you remember, all the airports were closed that day. Not one plane in the sky. All 4000 planes that are normally flying through the friendly skies at any given moment, were grounded while our government took a deep breath and said, WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON?

As luck would have it, I was scheduled to fly to Puerto Rico the next day, Wednesday. So I just waited until the airports were once again opened.
Friday of that week, is the day the sky's over our country were opened for business again. My company put me on the first flight out of Philly. I remember the tension. There wasn't much happy talk going on between passengers as they waited in line to get their tickets. It seems everyone was looking at each other, wondering, "are you a hijacker?" Now, I can't speak for the other people but I'll tell you this, I was looking at every passenger and wondering, "are you a hijacker?"

As we stood in the tension filled line waiting for our boarding passes, a loud voice broke the silence.
Everyone turned to look at the unsmiling police officer who was pointing at a carry on bag sitting by itself with the word JESUS printed on the side. Some people moved away from the bag.
I was sure it was a bomb of some sort, that's how paranoid we were as a people at that moment.
It wasn't an outlandish thought. Just days before our planes were stolen and rammed into our National landmarks. There was no thought too crazy that day.

The moments that passed as we all stared at the JESUS bag seemed like hours. The silence was deafening.
Finally the silence was broken by a young mother dragging 2 young children with her, "It's mine, I'm sorry."
At that moment everyone exhaled.
It seemed she left it under the payphone as she was making a call, then left it there by mistake.

I finally got my ticket and headed up through the new security that was hurriedly and thoughtlessly  put in place. Once through I found myself walking through the terminal. The normally packed gates were empty. I could count the number of people in the whole airport. It was eerily quiet.

I stepped up to the little shop that sold sandwiches. They offered subs, cut in half or whole. I ordered a half a sub. The lady said she couldn't sell me a half, just a whole. I reminded her that posted on her menu it says,
"half or whole."
She then told me that the police came through, early that morning, visited every establishment that served food and removed all of the knifes. There wasn't one knife in the Philadelphia airport. You couldn't get a slice of pizza, but they would give you a whole one.
At this moment I thought, wow, we are in full panic mode. Believe me, I'm not scoffing, I was in full panic mode too.

Then I made my way onto the plane. For sure, every eye was on me as I walked down the isle to my seat. Everyone was checking everyone else out. You could have cut the tension in that plane with a knife, but as I said earlier, there were no knives.

The tension escalated when the pilot came on the air to make an announcement. Usually it goes something like this, "Good morning, and welcome aboard flight 987 to San Juan Puerto Rico. Our flying time today will be ....bla  bla  bla."

The announcement this day, the first day that airports opened since hijackers forced their way into the cockpits of 4 of our airplanes just days before, went like this.

"Good morning, this is the Captain speaking. You are on flight 987 to San Juan Puerto Rico. We request today that there be no gathering in the isle. If you need to use the restroom you may get up, other wise, everyone is to stay seated until we land in San Juan. The cockpit door is now closed, it is locked and it will not be opened FOR ANY REASON until we land safely in San Juan."

His message was clear. It was directed at any hijackers who may have made it on to his plane. Basically he was saying, "It doesn't matter what you do or who you kill or what kind of commotion you make out there beyond this cockpit, but this newly reinforced cockpit door will not be opened and you're not using MY freakin plane as a weapon against America."
You could hear it in his voice, he was pissed.
He, like everyone else, watched for days the replays of the 2 planes crashing into the Twin Towers. Airline pilots are a close knit fraternity. It's not a stretch that he knew some of the pilots or the stewards or stewardesses that were on those planes.

He was angry and he didn't hide it. Nobody was taking his plane.
I loved what he said.


Two very sad words.


Joey said...

This was a great post. I too, keep asking myself how "they" let it happen. I too STILL look for the hijacker - 11 years later. Now my big fear is that we WILL forget. Just like we do on Memorial Day and Veterans Day. We go thru the motions or we DON'T. The kids don't REALLY get it. It's a day off from school or work. Yeayeayea - the just isn't that meaningful to most people. I envision NINE ELEVEN to be that way soon. It doesn't seem possible as my geberation will NOT forget but my ked's generation? Not so sure at all...Sad

Joey said...

Oops - can't edit those spelling errors! Hate that! Pet Peeve but I am in a hurry! LOL!!!!

beth said...

i love how you write....the detail is amazing...and sharing this story with us made me realize that we will never forget, will we?

Marilyn said...

Your words do remind me of the fear those days and what an impact it has had on our world. On this 9/11 I told my daughter, please don't have your baby on 9/11. She didn't and I was happy, now where is that baby? Thanks for all you share.

Karen said...

Great post, Mark, your writing gets better and better. Here on the shoreline we live in a flight path for several major airports.. the silence was eerie.

Because I am dark skinned and dark haired I have often been the one to be pulled aside and my bags checked when we've been standing in line for an airplane headed for vacation. I don't mind. Please... check and check again.. as many of us as you need to.

How DID this happen in our country, on WHO's WATCH???....

Jerral Miles said...

It's painful... but good, I guess, to be reminded.