September 11, 2001 (Tuesday)
Diary of Death
4:45 AM: The alarm in my head goes off and I get out of bed and thus my day begins.
6 AM: I've made breakfast, seen my husband off to work, changed my bed, vacuumed and dusted. I check my e-mail and there is nothing of consequence there.
6:30: I settle down to work at my computer and log in the daily obituaries on my "Death Data Sheet." I have been researching a theory that the time of our birth dictates the time of our death. An interesting theory to no one other than myself, I'm sure. My research has begun to show that the most likely day to die is Wednesday with Tuesday a close second and Saturday is the front runner for the day to be born. My spreadsheet is set-up thus: Surname, Gender, Age, Day of Birth, Month of Birth, Year of Birth, Day of Death, Month of Death and Year of Death. I now that this information is telling me something but just what it is, I'm not quite sure at this point in my research.
7 AM: The bright, morning sun streams through my bedroom window and across my computer screen. I walk to the bedroom to close the blind and as I pass my small secretary, I hear a soft "thud" as something falls to the floor behind me. I adjust the blind and turn to see what has made the sound. Surprised, I kneel and pick-up a small, silver framed picture that has fallen off the top shelf of the secretary. I laugh to myself and put the picture back. It is a picture of mother and her brother. I've forgotten that today would have been mother's 80'th birthday and apparently, she's trying to remind me! I call my sister and we laugh about this little incident.
7:30: I wash two loads of laundry, fold the dried clothes and put them away. The sun has a sharpness to it this morning and I can feel the heat through the closed window. I make a mental decision to spend the rest of the day doing things that won't take me outdoors. It has been hot and very dry here in Maine this year and my beautiful cream-colored chrysanthemums stand like crumpled soldiers in the late summer's heat.
8:45: The television is turned to ABC's "Good Morning America" and I have my back to the screen. I am a writer and as I work, editing one of my stories, the banal chatter between Charlie Gibson and Diane Sawyer fills the living room and slides past my head and then, the tenor of their voices change. There is a slight edge of barely concealed surprise and shock as I hear "apparently a plane has just hit one of the World Trade Center Towers." I swing around in my chair as the video tape displays the carnage that has just taken place in Manhattan. It appears that the plane has hit the building at about the 96th floor and there is a huge, gaping hole in the side of the 110 story building. The crash site is engulfed in flames and the oily, black smoke is drifting up over the entire top floors, obliterating the top of the building from view. I sit glued to my chair as I think about all those poor people who were on the planes and all those trapped inside the tall towers. There is no way that firefighters can rescue those people, they are trapped inside a burning building with no way out! ABC reruns the event over and over and the word "accident" keeps emerging. Then, I hear that upwards of 50,000 people work in those two buildings. My God!
9:18: Just as I am about to swing back to my computer, I see the image of another huge plane as it swings into view off to the right on my television screen. "Gee, that's odd," I think to myself. "How could another plane be so far off course? Something must be wrong with their computerized navigation system and that's why they're flying so close to the burning building. Maybe it's an optical illusion with the television camera and it only seems to be that close." My shocked mind tries to find one excuse after another for what my eyes are seeing. I watch in disbelief as the second jet disappears from view behind the façade of the first, burning tower. My eyes see the impact explosion but my mind refuses to register the event! I hear shock in the voices of Charlie and Diane as we all try to comprehend what has just happened. A second plane has just flown into the second World Trade Center Tower! My God! This can't be happening! I rush to dial my husband's office.
9:30: The top floors of the first tower are totally engulfed in flames and black smoke from the second burning tower blocks the bright, summer's sunlight. New York City will never be the same! My mind is in such denial that I barely catch what Diane is saying. I gasp in horror as I watch the top floors of the first building begin to collapse in upon itself! The first building is falling down! This can't be happening! Yes, the building has been hit by a plane and it's on fire but it shouldn't be collapsing! Not this quickly anyway! Planes have hit buildings before and they didn't fall down! The collapse occurs so quickly, in a matter of seconds and in a massive cloud of dust, the building disappears from view! The entire section of Manhattan is obliterated and there is nothing to see but dust and debris. Firefighters and policeman scream at anyone left standing to run, run like hell, away from the devastation that surrounds them. Thousands of tons of concrete are pulverized into a heavy, choking dust that covers everything in its path as it rolls thru the streets of Manhattan!
I am no longer aware of time or anything else except what is on my television screen. I hear and see that the second tower has begun to lean ominously and ABC News is stating that the second tower is going to fall too! Suddenly, the air is filled with news flashes and a new word is beginning to emerge. Terrorists! Terrorists have attacked the World Trade Center Towers! They have hijacked two planes from Boston's Logan Airport and have flown the planes into the towers! My mind races to comprehend this information. "What country were they from?" "Why would they want to hurt all those innocent people?" "Are we hated that much and if so, why?" My mind reels with all the unanswered questions. I hurry to call my husband again. I feel the need to talk to another human being.
The second tower falls in an exact duplication of the first tower and before I can even comprehend this, the television screen is filled with the next bulletin. A camera view of the Pentagon in flames fills the screen and sears the image into my brain. I stagger out of my chair and dial my husband's office for the 20th time that morning. I need to tell someone that the entire world has blown-up! I need to make a connection with another, living person. My God! My God! It's now the Pentagon! A plane has just been flown into the Pentagon! What's next? I turn to look out the window upon my serene world of flowers nodding their heads in the gentle breeze and the events of the past hour seem surreal.
Then I hear the hateful words again! Another hijacked plane has just crashed into a field in Pennsylvania! I feel angry that Peter Jennings is showing absolutely no emotion as he related the latest events. "For God's sake man," I want to scream at him, "This isn't something that you see every day, couldn't you show a little emotion!" I wipe the tears off my face with my sleeve.
The hours pass and I call my husband again and cry. Then he tells me that he has heard that some of the hijackers spent the night here in Portland, Maine before traveling to Boston for the hijacking. I am outraged that they had to involve our great State of Maine in something so despicable that will forever be etched in our memories and recorded in our nation's history too.
I call my daughter who lives in New Jersey and she says that the air is filled with smoke and ash from the buildings. I warn her to be careful and to hug and kiss my granddaughter for me. Then I call my son and say the same things to him. I also ask him where he keeps the bullets for his guns. I just might need to know. We take our peace for granted and we always think that nothing bad can really happen, after all, I live in the peaceful foothills of south, central Maine. But, I suddenly realize, the world as we know it, will never be the same. Our course in history has forever been changed by one terrible word, Terrorists.
My heart is broken for all those unfortunate souls, not so much for all those who have passed but for all those who have been left behind. I walk to my bedroom, take down Mother's picture and say, "Happy Birthday Mum," but it's not a happy birthday after all and I sink to the floor and cry.
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