There have been many times in my life when an event has had me reeling enough that time actually stood still for me. The first time it ever happened was when my aunt died in the living room at my grandparent’s house. I was four, and my young mind couldn’t figure out how to accept what “she’s dead” meant. The next time it happened I was tutoring and when I returned home, my niece told me my grandpa was dead. A phone call told me my best friend’s sister was murdered and I covered my mouth and stuttered through an apology, not finding adequate words for such a loss. I sat in the hospital room listening to the continuous beep of the heart monitor, as I stared disbelieving, at the lifeless body of my mom. Time was non-existent for almost a week when she died.Then the unexpected heart attack of my best friend’s father (the same best friend who was still missing her sister). I had just hugged him a few days prior. I thought I had endured it often enough… and then 9/11 happened. It would be in the years after, that I would hear all the stories and hear the voices from the loved ones lost that day. But on the day itself, we knew something was wrong right away. I was in the Army in a computer class and our classes were rarely interrupted. On 9/11, someone came in and our instructor gasped and cried out at the same time. That sound stayed with me through all these years. They announced that one of the Twin Towers had collapsed. Stunned and horrified, we continued to stay in our seats, unmoving. My friend told the instructor she needed to use the bathroom. I went with her and we bypassed it for the payphone that hung in the hallway to try and call her husband. It was not for students. We were reminded of this rule by a sergeant passing by. She stopped us and sensing my friend was about to lose it, I stepped forward and asked that she please let us make just one call. She let us. Busy. It was busy again when we returned to our barracks. We shuffled like silent zombies around the main room where meetings were usually held. There was a tv that we never used. It may as well have been a painting hanging on the wall. On 9/11 it was on all day. We got to watch what happened. The rest of the world had seen it all day long, but we were finally witnessing it ourselves. The room was eerily quiet. I never thought there existed a silence where you could actually hear a pin drop until that day. We stared, transfixed at the nightmare trying to absorb that what we were seeing…was real. Time did not exist beyond seeing and waiting. Every phone was engaged. Still busy. My friend’s husband had a meeting right near the World Trade Center that morning. He left something important for his meeting back at home and had to go back for it. By the time he headed back (very late) he was not allowed back into the city. It was closed. So many stories have come out of the ashes. Life has moved on and a new World Trade Center exists. But no matter how much time passes, I will never forget that feeling of crippling fear and desolation watching and waiting with the rest of the country for signs of life, a small part of me hoping the whole time, that it was all a very, very bad dream.
Hug your loved ones friends, and tell them you love them. We will never forget.