A Personal Reflection on a Sad Day - 9/11/01
One of my most vivid memories of September 11, 2001 is this recollection of a sequence of events that began the morning before.
The morning of Monday, the 10th, we had been invited to have breakfast at Leal's home at 9 a.m. We set the alarm at our mid-town Davis, California motel early enough to be able to shower and dress and still get to her apartment by 9:00. While we were getting ready, I turned on the television and tuned in the morning show with Bryant Gumbal. As the newscasting team got ready to break away for a commercial or for a local station break or something of the sort, they showed a view of the twin towers of the World Trade Center. The commentary went something like this:
"This is the World Trade Center that you are seeing. We should be showing a view of the Empire State Building because next month it will be celebrating it's 71st birthday. However, this is a view of the "WTC" with it's twin towers. Isn't it beautiful? And it's a beautiful morning here in New York City....."
I looked at the live picture as it was shown, but truly didn't take any special note of it, as it's familiar outline was very often shown as filler and/or for background shots on such broadcasts. Little did I or any other American viewer that morning know that less than 24 hours later, it would be attacked by terrorists or that in just over 25 hours from that basically predictable shot of a familiar landmark outlined against the skyline of New York City, that it would be reduced to a huge pile of rubble that would form the tome for several thousands of innocent human beings whose only crime was that they were in the wrong place at the wrong time.
My next view of the twin towers was after a last (for many and many a day) carefree stroll down the block and around the corner to have breakfast with John on Tuesday morning, before we checked out of our motel and headed toward the California coast to commence the remainder of our two week vacation. No whisper of what had already begun to unfold on the east coast of our Nation reached us during breakfast. More than half the tables in the restaurant were filled with other breakfasters who also seemed wrapped up in only the everyday pursuits of a typical workday morning. We ate and then went back to the motel and hurriedly completed our packing -- so as to be on our way, anticipating a lovely day with new adventures to experience and sights to see. John waited in the car while I went to the office to return our room keys and take care of paying the bill.
As I walked into the office, my eye was caught by a scene on the television behind the counter where the desk clerk was standing talking with another customer. The image was of a large skyscraper building which was heavily involved in fire and smoke on it's upper floors but the sound was turned too low to hear any commentary. I watched for a short time and was horrified by the thought that "where ever this building was, it was going to be a tragedy with possible great losses of life, if it was somewhere that was in the middle of the work day" but it never crossed my mind to think that it could be here in America. I assumed while I watched that it was some terrible tragedy for some foreign country such as South America or somewhere in Europe. When the clerk was finished and began to wait on me, I asked: "What city is that?" Her answer was chilling, but because of it's incompleteness and because of my na´vetÚ, I did not comprehend the full import of her words as she said, "It's New York, the World Trade Center. Two planes collided and crashed into it. A terrible accident." I either misunderstood what she had said or my mind refused to comprehend the malicious intent of the actions. I completed my business and left the office under the impression that this was some tragic, horrible accident. My feeling at the time was that even though it certainly looked bad, that (no doubt) the fire would be contained, since the buildings were young enough construction to be equipped with fire sprinklers. It really never crossed my mind to think that the buildings would not survive the devastation and that they would collapse within a very short time.
I told John as I got into the car that I was about ready to stop going away on vacation, since it seemed that something "terrible" happened nearly every time we vacationed. ~On a previous vacation, Princess Diana had been killed in a auto accident in Paris. Another time, we were vacationing when a terrible flood ravaged the Big Thompson Canyon in Colorado only a few miles from where we were staying. Another vacation was marred with the knowledge that only hours before we were to leave to go on vacation a popular hotel in the Kansas City area that was holding a dance attended by approximately 1600 people had a balcony collapse that killed over 100 attendees and injured over 200 others. And through out the years other unusual and sometimes tragic things have happened, although possibly it just seems that we remember those times more vividly.~
Unbelievably, we didn't even try to tune in a radio station in the car to find out further details. We rolled down the windows and drove through bright sunshine into the beautiful vineyard country in the Napa Valley, stopping often to try and capture the perfect snapshot of the vines in precise rows of stakes and guide wires following the contours of the hills, of their symmetry and the promise of their bounteous harvest of grapes. So it was not until we stopped for lunch that we realized the vicious and senseless intent of this "accident" which was no accident at all.
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