11 September 2014

Death leaves a heartache no one can heal; love leaves a memory no one can steal. (author unknown)

What do you remember?

I remember sleeping late and waking up cross, an hour behind NYC time-wise, at 0845h CST. I remember looking outside the upstairs bedroom window and seeing an impossibly clear, crisp, blue sky September morning and thinking I'd go for a swim if the complex maintenance man weren't such a pillock as to stand on the pool deck staring.

I remember realising I'd slept so late Fox had already gone to work (he worked at the local Books-A-Million) and I was alone in the townhouse. I remember getting dressed quickly and stumbling downstairs, focussed on starting my day with my usual cup of hot chocolate and the news - part of the reason I was cross that morning was I preferred the morning news straight, thank-you, not those awful 'breakfast' or 'morning' shows the networks and CNN seemed to love.

You know, it's just like the day President Kennedy was shot and killed (I was 7 and remember the day so clearly) - each of us who remembers, remembers with diamond sharp, clear clarity the moments before, the moment(s) of the actual event, and the horrific days after. 

I remember being slightly surprised the TV remote was where I'd left it. I remember turning towards the TV, pointing the remote and turning the TV on.

And I remember the first thing I saw on the TV screen was the South Tower collapsing, immediately recognisable to anyone who knew the NYC skyline. It was 0859h CST. I dropped to my knees knowing something truly horrible had just happened to people I knew - I knew Crusty's company had an large office there and I knew I'd just seen them all die.

I knew my friend Joey had gone to his attorney's office there that morning to finalise the details of his will (Joey was dying and knew it, of pancreatic cancer, and a few weeks before 11 Sept 2001 I'd used a little grim humour to cheer him up by saying 'Relax, Joey, you'll probably get hit by a beer truck before the cancer gets you'. I've never forgiven myself for that although Joey had the best hearty laugh he'd had since the diagnosis when I'd said that to him.). And I knew I'd just seen him die too.

I remember staying on my knees as the morning show presenters 'recapped' the morning events so far 'for those of you just joining us'.

I remember everything about that morning but I cannot recall who the presenters were that morning on ABC, NBC, CBS, FOX, and the CNN presenter who stayed on TV the rest of the day and into the night? His face and voice are clear in my mind but I cannot recall his name!

I remember frantically switching channels, finally (about three minutes later) choosing CNN, and watching/listening as I made a cup of chocolate.

I remember thinking, when the news came across that there were two 'unaccounted for' US airline flights, that the people aboard those planes must be in utter terror for their lives. When President Bush appeared and proclaimed 'We have a national tragedy...' and just seven minutes later Flt 77 hit the Pentagon, I was sick to my stomach because I knew then with absolute certainty this was an attack on the USA, and I knew people at work at that moment in the Pentagon who were either dead now or dying.

I remember the presenter trying to get more information on Flt 93, the other unaccounted for flight; I remember thinking the people aboard knew what was going on because already CNN had reported mobile calls were coming through to loved ones on the ground, the FAA, the police departments across the Eastern Seaboard, and I remember thinking 'Fight, for God's sake don't go down like sheep, fight!' and how bloody terrified the passengers must be...

And then of course the report of a passenger jet crashing with massive impact in a Pennsylvania field came over the TV.

I remember trying to ring Fox at work - of course the lines were busy and I drove over to the store. remember a very surreal moment in the car park when I wondered if I was the only person alive, and then hoping that maybe, just maybe, I'd dreamt this was happening so I walked down to the complex office to see if this was real. I walked in the office and the complex staff was watching the television news. It was real. It was happening. I looked at the complex manager and asked 'Is this real?!' and she just nodded. She looked as though she was in shock, her face was pale and although she wasn't crying, her eyes were red rimmed. The creepy maintenance guy was looking the same, and I remember thinking something had finally shut this bastard up. I left the office and went back to the car, got in, and drove towards my son's work.

I remember how empty the streets of Dothan were, and how empty the skies were as well although that was so rare in that area of Alabama. I remember the skies were empty for so long, for weeks and weeks  and weeks that when the first jet appeared in the skies over Dothan I stood there and stared in shock at the sight.

I remember stopping at the petrol station to fill the car tank and being surprised there were only four other cars at the pumps. I remember the older woman behind me in the pay queue saying she was surprised too because she remembered how everyone rushed to fill their tanks the minute President Roosevelt finished his announcement after Pearl Harbor.

I remember the grocery store being empty, too, and I remember filling my trolley with water, first aid supplies, meat, bread, milk, tinned foods, and BBQ charcoal. I was already fairly well stocked up 'in-case' because it was still hurricane season but who knew what was going to happen, so I stopped at Food World and topped up. I remember the clerk at the till crying silently as she rang and bagged my groceries.

I remember. I remember. I remember.

'Please, can you call my wife?'


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