Friday, September 11, 2009

Witness to the tragedy

I hadn't intended to write about 9/11. So many bloggers are writing about it more eloquently than I could ever hope to.

As I do every year on this day, I think back to where I was when I heard the news - at work - and how I heard about it - my mom called me at the office. Everyone in the office clustered into the A/V room, which had the only TV with cable. After the room was crammed to capacity, one of the technical guys managed to rig an extension that allowed us to bring the TV out into the main area of our division. We all stood and sat around the TV in silence, hands over our mouths or in someone else's hand.

I left the office at 1:00, like I did every day, went home, and sat in front of the TV, watching and crying. I spent much of that night awake, either watching Ella, who was 11 months old, sleep in her bed or watching TV. What I saw that day, what everyone saw, was beyond belief.

Today I hadn't planned to watch any of the documentaries or specials about that terrible, terrible day. But as I was folding laundry in my room and flipping through the channels, I stumbled upon a documentary on the History Channel that was riveting.

It's called "102 Minutes" and it is made up entirely of archived footage shot by dozens of average people and professional cameramen on the streets and in their apartments showing what was happening as it happened. Some of the footage was shot by students living blocks from the WTC, some by people living a mile north. One cameraman was at Times Square, and he did nothing but film the people watching the events unfold on the big TV there. The shock and disbelief on their faces mirrored what I remember feeling that day.

The worst part was watching the footage of the firemen walking towards the buildings, carrying their gear and hoses and wanting to scream at them to stop and turn around. Knowing what was in store for them was unbearable.

A lot of the footage is of the aftermath, of people walking out of the smoke and debris, covered in ashes and soot, grey and gasping for air. The silence in all of the scenes is stunning. No one was screaming or yelling, just watching and moving in silence.

One man, who was in an apartment four blocks from the Trade Center, filmed the firemen who escaped as they staggered into his building, covered in debris and totally in shock. He helped them make phone calls to their families before the lines went dead.

The documentary has no narration, other than the voices of the people in the films, which is what makes it so powerful. The commentary of the people on the streets, the people watching it happen, truly conveys the shock and horror.

I hadn't intended to watch the whole film, and I set the DVR to record it, but I couldn't bring myself to turn it off. Now that I've seen the entire documentary, I'm not sure I can ever watch it again, or if I even want to.

I do know that I probably won't sleep much tonight, but that's ok. We should remember what happened on September 11, and we should take time out of our lives to think about those who lost loved ones, about those who walked into the building when others were walking out, about those who worked for months and months afterwards searching the wreckage to provide answers. We should also think about those who have been injured and killed in the two wars that were started as a result of September 11.

The effects of that day are still being felt now, eight years later.

4 comments:

DG at Diary of a Mad Bathroom said...

It was a horrible time. Many friends and coworkers of mine suffered losses. I am so thankful that I did not. Around these parts, many people have 9/11 bumper stickers that say "never forget". That almost seems unnecessary as I don't think it is possible to forget such a huge national tragedy.

Baino said...

Heather I read that further deaths have been attributed as victims of the attack even though they died long after September 11, the cause, inhilation of all that smoke and ash. It was an awful day but as years go by, there will be a whole generation unaffected by it so they need to be reminded.

FishyGirl said...

Little Man was born the next morning. He was a scheduled section, so I got to pick his birthday, and I had wanted the 11th, but the doctor I wanted wasn't on that day, and having him was more important than having the date. I was on my way to the OB's office to get my final checkup before they cut me open when everything started happening. If BDF hadn't been with me at the doctor, he would have been at work, in the Navy Yard, in lockdown, and I wouldn't have known if he was okay or not, which probably would have sent me into labor for sure. I saw the same documentary that you did, and it was powerful. The effects of that day will be still be felt for decades to come.

Janice Ellen Wright said...

I think I'm almost ready to be able to watch something like that. I haven't been able to bear the idea until reading your post about 102 Minutes. I'll have to look for it.