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I Wasn't There

I wasn't there when the Towers fell...I wasn't there when the thick smoke enveloped the people of Manhatten and beyond.  I couldn't sense their panic and fright...I wasn't there for my kids and that was the hardest piece for me..I couldn't protect them, I couldn't comfort them,  I couldn't comfort me,  the not knowing of this great tragedy first hand.  I wasn't there for 911.

I was in the beauty of Venice, Italy..and I remember someone yelling on the balcony below,  America has been was late afternoon.  I opened the large veranda windows and I thought someone must surely be playing a joke...they were not.  Limited access to the BBC and trying to phone home was a nightmare...I wanted to be there,  not in Venice.

It was a week before we could return..I did know that my kids were o.k. but it was a very eerie feeling on 9/12, when we were waiting to board a gondola, and the tour guide informed all of the visitors that at noon time..there would be a minute of silence to pray and support the United States...It was the saddest moment because they were talking about us.

At the airport the following week...I tried not to let the man in the Orange jumpsuit and turban,  sitting crossed leg on his seat..scare me...but I was scared. Scared of everything,  him,  the unknown,  the plane and so scared of what we would find when we got home.. It was surreal to arrive in Boston under heavy security.  I felt like I was in some weird science fiction movie as I drove out of the city and followed the route to my small town...So many American flags flying...quiet in the air,  quiet everywhere...I just kept looking and my throat welled up to have my feet on American soil again...even if, at that moment, it was tarnished by Terrorist...It was still home and my kids were waiting and we would hear the stories...because I Wasn't There.

Shortly after returning home my husband and I wanted to feel the connection that we were denied by not being here so we went to New York and we visited Ground Zero..It was soon after the attack,  shortly after they allowed the public to walk there.  That's where I saw the devistation and that's where I smelled the violence...That's when I knew and felt the soul ripping events of 911...that's when I cried for real.  I think that smell at Ground Zero will stay with me forever as all horrific things do...they get into your heart and soul and find a place and they become part of you.

As life does,  it moved on and slowly we learned and listened but they were stories...It doesn't get in your bones, nothing gets in your bones unless you experience the actual event...for me I will always feel left out of 911 to a certain degree.   Not totally though because I did know of some of the people who died that day. I knew the head flight attendant on Flight 11 out of Boston...MY Aunt's niece,  Karen Martin.  Young, so young. It was becoming more personal for me...I went to her funeral and it was like no other.  Sad beyond sad...respectful beyond respectful..standing room only.  And then we waited...for someone to lead us to peace.

In June of this year my Son and his Girlfriend took me to New York...It was a Christmas gift from Jen..She is a photojournalist and she lives in the city...such an awesome gift and she had planned a beautiful weekend for us..It was wonderful having someone that knows their way around the city and also the subway system,  my own personal guide.  We visited several photography galleries and museums,  walk all the districts and then had a wonderful high tea at Sympathy and Tea in Greenwich...during that weekend they had asked if there was anything that I would really like to do or see while there and all of a sudden it occured to me that I would like to see the Memorial for the 911 victums...I had read that it was newly opened.   So after a busy day in Manhatten they told me that if I would really like to see it that they would take off we went...we hailed a cab...Mary Tyler Moore style.

I was so surprised as I visited the museum...videos of that day and the days that followed...voices, real people from the depths of the destruction talking and I felt like they were talking personally to me...I zoned out.  I listened to it all while following along with the photo's that were taken and displayed on the walls. Pieces of the clothing of victims,  badges,  gear of the firefighters encased in glass ...I was wandering in my own world and soaking up all that I had missed and it felt like "real time"...

Then under heavy security we moved outside to view the two water pools,  each set on the footprint of the two towers that fell.   Both towers honoring the lives of those who were lost is at the heart of this mission.  Occupying eight of the 16 acres at the World Trade Center, the Memorial is a tribute to the past and a place of hope for the future.  Each person who died in those towers or on those planes hitting those towers, and all the folks who rushed in to help are etched in the tower that they were involved with...we were there at dusk and each name is illuminated at night from below...roses can be bought and left in memory of a loved one...the water continuously flows over the rail and into a fountain at the bottom..Park benches,  beautiful trees and a sense of peace and honor...a beautiful and loving tribute to all who gave their lives for us that day...


As I turned to leave I looked up and right in front of me,  amongst a group of trees and wonderful golden light, I saw the flag,  The American Flag,  and I saw other's looking up also...a reminder that we continue to live in this great country and that nothing can take us down forever...we will always honor those who give of themselves and we will always be Free...

I Wasn't There....but I will always be part of that day...because I am an American.

"What we have done for ourselves alone dies with us;  What we have done for others and the world remains and is immortal."    Albert Pike

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Reader Comments (4)

Thank you for this remembrance, Cheryl. On 9-11, I was living 1 hour north of NYC. There was no public address system in the school where I worked, so our principal came, classroom to classroom, to inform us what had happened. Since some of our students were likely to have family members or friends lost in the attack, we were instructed to say nothing to them of the event. It was a tough day to teach, as if nothing had happened. I remember turning on my car radio, as soon as school let out for the day, & crying all the way home. We did not lose any direct friends, but knew many in our area who did. That day had a profound effect on the way we view the world today.

September 11, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterB. Bowen Carr

Cheryl, this is quite an awesome remembrance of 911. I read every word of your engaging account of your experience. I was glued to the TV as a the news as most Americans were. I was getting ready for work ... standing in my living room staring at the TV ... stunned. Later it struck me that some of my relatives would be affected as they live in North Jersey. As it turns out, my cousin's husband was on the subway that was turned back. My other cousin had decided to go into work late that day. It could have affected my family ... but didn't. A neighbor of my brother's lost her husband, a Port Authority police officer. The event touched us all in some way, didn't it?

September 11, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLissa @ lafcustomdesigns

Thanks Barbara and Lissa for stopping by...Like both of you I hope that in the future people don't forget this day...Maybe that's why I wrote about it. So my children and grandchildren will remember how it was and how I felt about it. For all of us, we will always remember where we were and what we were doing that morning... Have a wonderful week.

September 12, 2012 | Unregistered Commentercheryl c.

I will never forget that day, where I was, what I was doing and how I found out. Then a feeling of dread, sickness and an overwhelming sence of insecurity...if they could do that they could do more. I don't live in fear, but the insecurity is still there.
Reading your blog about what happened and your thoughts and fears put me right back to that day. I don't know how anyone could ever forget...we are a changed nation.
I want you to know Cheryl, you are an awesome writer. I was glued to your every word, not just about 911 but your grandboys your life. You can explain so well your thoughts and feelings. It is a real gift you have and you are a pleasure to read.
I look forward to reading and viewing more of what is to come from you.
Take care my friend.

November 14, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterStephanie Calhoun

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