I was just reading, albeit belatedly, a beautifully structured and written memoir of September 11, 2001 on Liza‘s Reading Makes Me Happy blog. She lists her memories of it and asks her readers to share what they remember as well. I just left the poor gal a lengthy comment that was like a post in itself, so I thought I may as well share it here:
“I remember first hearing about it on the radio, sitting in my car driving across Chicago. The morning show was talking about a plane that had hit the WTC and still wondering if it had been an accident…until the second one hit. I remember my mother’s worried voice on my answering machine when I got back to my apartment and how I tried to tune in on my 18-year-old television! The antenna reception was awful, and the picture began flipping just before I heard the cries of the newscasters. I remember smacking my TV to get a clear picture of what had raised the alarm, and it clicked into place just before the first building finished collapsing. I remember dressing for work, tentatively, then driving on Lake Shore Drive toward the office, listening to how they still didn’t know if there were more planes out there or what their targets would be. From my view, I saw the Sears Tower and my own office building, Chicago’s 3rd tallest in which my office was on the 74th floor. I remember seeing all the workers emptying into the street, so I passed my exit and headed straight for the highway out to my parents’ house in the suburbs…where I remember watching the footage on the news for hours on end with mouth agape and trying to grasp the reality with my mom and dad that we were at war.”
I prayed and grieved all over again this last Saturday, yet I hadn’t retraced my own footsteps of nine years ago so clearly until writing out this comment. There is so much more that is momentous about that day beyond little me and my own little everyday world, but in the wake of my previous post about my latest professional and personal endeavors, I am reminded how that day was so pivotal in bringing me to this point.
I remember the growing discontent I’d had in my world of Finance, but how I’d stick it out with no real impetus for change. I was rotating along as a good cog in the wheel should, but otherwise doing nothing I was passionate about. So then I remember sitting on my parents’ sofa that day and watching replays of the planes flying into the Twin Towers—they looked so much like my own office building, that I thought, “I’ll be damned if that’s the place where I die!” I would not leave this world that way, not sitting in my cubicle, oh please no.
By September 11, 2002, I had started my masters program in Education, having quit my consulting job that year to teach literature and writing.
Fast-forward to 2008, when my high school was in the midst of a Columbine-type scare: a threat had been found written in a bathroom stall that was alarmingly specific as to how many guns (and what type) would be used to kill how many students and how many teachers and on what day. School wasn’t called off, but teachers and students were at liberty to make their own decision as to whether they’d attend; for the protection of those that came, police would be patrolling. Faculty was understandably distressed, but what were we going to do, bail on our students? Call in substitute teachers so then they could be in the line of fire?
Regardless of whether the threat was real, I never questioned that I’d be there. I thought back to 9/11 and my sentiments about dying in my office…I then looked upon my students’ faces and realized there was no better place to be if that was going to be my time.
That’s when I knew I’d gotten my life moving in the right direction, ever closer to my passions of reading, writing, and helping other people along the way—otherwise, I’d still be pathetically comparing my life to the movie Office Space and not doing anything about it. There is much to take away from such a national/global tragedy, not the least of which is an appreciation for every additional day that we get to breathe. Others certainly don’t lose their lives just so we can piss away ours.