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I was a senior at Vanderbilt and had the good fortune of having only one class on Tuesdays.  This was early in the schoolyear and I was enjoying the feeling of being a senior.  I had pink hair and overslept a lot.  As a result of the latter, I woke up with five minutes to make it across Alumni lawn from my dorm.  That was pretty easy so I got out of bed and started on my way.

I passed one of the doubles on the first floor of my door and noticed that it was not only full at 12:30 in the afternoon, but that the collection of people in the double was oddly disparate.  I was a bit of a social butterfly, so I knew who got along with whom and who hung out with whom.  To see that cross section set off a bit of curiosity, but it was a beautiful day outside and I was almost late for class.

When I got outside I saw a roommate from the summer making her away back toward the dorm.  She was a Human and Organizational Development major and Vanderbilt had structured the major to require an internship during one of the semesters of senior year.  Being in Nashville she had found a job at a recording study and seemed to enjoy it.  I asked her if everything was okay as we crossed paths and she stopped to stare at me.
"You don't know?"  Of course I didn't know.  I had just woken up; so I admitted as much.  "The Trade Center and the Pentagon- they're both gone."

So I did the only logical thing and assumed she was playing a joke on me. I thought for a moment she wanted to see if she could get me back to the dorm and make me late for class.  I asked a courtesy "Really?" and then said I should go see if class was cancelled.  I walked the other two minutes and figured that was some sort of sick prank.

When I opened the door to my classroom to see only my professor seated there, it hit me that this wasn't a joke at all.  She stood up and said that because of circumstance we were not going to be having class today.  I asked her what she was talking about and she laid it out in factual detail--the way you would expect a professor to tell a student that the world was coming apart at the seams.

She asked if I had any family in New York, or knew anyone who may be involved.  I said I did not and asked if she ahd heard of anything we could do to help.  She suggested that I go to donate blood if I would like to to do something--this is before the realization hit us all that the attack left pieces of people and not people with pieces missing.

I remember almost everything that day in exacting detail.  I remember how the lipstick of the friend that first told me about the attacks looked like latex instead of lipstick.  I remember how my professor had an unruly sprig of blonde hair on the back of her head.  I remember the coolness of the air and the startling clarity of the sky and the sun.  But I do not remember the walk back from classroom to dorm.  In my memory I am being told what had transpired and then I am watching it in that same double I had passed only fifteen minutes before.

"Has anyone seen Lisa?" That was the first question I was able to ask after watching the video over and over.  Vanderbilt is part of a program called Posse, which provides scholarships to students from New York City's public schools.  She was the only immediate connection I had to New York City and was a popular figure in the dorm.

No one had seen her.  I walked out of double just in time to see Lisa coming out of the center stairwell.  She was gorgeous as always and carrying a bookbag as if she were on her way to class.  I asked her what she was doing and she said she was going to class.  I asked her if her dad--who provided security to lawyers in Manhattan--was okay.  She asked me why people kept asking her that.

I told her the World Trade Centers were destroyed and she dropped her bookbag.

The rest of the day is a blur of increasingly less important actions.  I went to Lisa's Russian class to tell her professor that she was from New York and would not be in attendance that day.  A group (I can remember doing everything in groups that day for some reason) of us went to another dorm to watch the Chancellor give prepared remarks.  We decided to go to Meharry Medical Center to give blood.  The Red Cross was swamped and Meharry had a sickle cell anemia test going on.  When we arrived I was number 342; they were on 115.

There were three phlebotamists working what should have been a simple sample gathering for testing of a predominantly African American school population for a genetic disorder most common amongst African Americans.  Those three phlebotamists were America writ large: they woke up thinking they knew what would happen.  Then they were overwhelmed.  We were all overwhelmed.

We left the blood drive without donating.  We were not sure that they would even get to number 250 before closing.

Since we had spent three hours there, we were all hungry.  And I needed a drink.  Our group- ten at the moment- went to O'Charley's and I went to the bar.  I had just recently gotten a cell phone and the only person I wanted to talk to in the world was my Dad.  I wanted someone to tell me it was going to be okay.  I needed that.

Two Jack and Cokes later I was on the phone with my dad and crying.  I had lost my mom, suddently, six years previously and the only thing I could think about was how many children there were who were going through what I went through.  There were people who had seen their mothers and fathers off to work with a usual routine.  Maybe, like my brother, they forgot to tell their parents how much they loved them the last time they spoke.  I forgot to hug my mom.  In hindsight it's the little things that loom large while the larger things fade into a sort of mist that permeates memory.

He told me it would be okay; that I was safe.  I did not want to be safe: I wanted to be living in a world twenty four hours younger.  I wanted things I could not name and which I had never wanted before.

It was during dinner that George Bush broke in to give a speech made famous for its complete lack of memorableness.  I believe the line that began it was something like: "Today America suffered a great tragedy."  I turned back to my mass produced chicken parmesean and wondered if he was going to tell us next that the sky was blue.  We decided, after listening to him, that we needed to drink heavily because he was going to see us through this crisis.  

In retrospect I did not know how drunk I would need to get to be relieved of the fear of that man in that moment: I would have had to have drunk myself to death at the age of 21.

I did not live in New York City and I did not live in Pennsylvania and I did not live in Washington, D.C.  I did not know anyone in the Trade Centers though there were people on campus who received phone calls before the collapse.  But all of that is irrelevant.  I was an American and someone has attacked my country.  It was not Pearl Harbor where a fascist regime decided to attack military assets.  It was an attack on the people of this country, not the military.  And it broke my heart.

It also taught me the true meaning of terror.  I have always had a very powerful imagination, so it was not hard for me to imagine all sorts of grisly scenarios.  And then there was the fact that Vanderbilt's burn ward was the best in the region, so victims from the Pentagon were brought down.  You never notice the sound of planes until it's gone.  The silence, however, makes more pronounced the sound of medivac helicopters carrying more wounded to the university hospital in the days after the attack.  Each sustained roar was another invitation to realize that someone in this world wanted to kill you only because of the country you grew up in.

I do not need a fictionalized account of any aspect of 9/11.  I have my own memories and I have long ago stopped imagining grisly scenarios.  I do not need a man behind a lens, or a man with an agenda and a pen to tell me their vision of that event.  That event is branded on my soul.

For these reasons, ultimately, I will never forgive Republicans.  They have taken the specter of 9/11 and turned it into a commodity.  They have gleefully taken the very defining moment of terror and worked it into a political weapon.  They have promised us protection, but never delivered.  Instead Republicans--politicians their voter accomplices--have pushed this country into an untenable position while wielding the cudgel of 9/11.

They have dehumanized the memory so fresh in my mind.  I do not need to see their thoughts on the path to 9/11.  I do not need to see Oliver Stone's crafting of a story about 9/11.  I do not need need any of that, because I am of the generation to be defined by that action.  It is from my peers, mostly, that the fatalities in Iraq and Afghanistan have come.  It is my next 50+ years that must be spent untangling this mess they have used 9/11 to make.

So please, conservatives, keep your fantasies and fictions about 9/11 to yourself.  I've seen that show already and I don't want to watch it again.

Originally posted to electricgrendel on Fri Sep 08, 2006 at 04:02 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (18+ / 0-)

    I'm always surprised how exhausting it is to remember that day.

    Lobbyists need Republicans like pimps need whores.

    by electricgrendel on Fri Sep 08, 2006 at 03:48:53 PM PDT

  •  Thank you for your memories... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    gmb, AaronBa, Marcus Junius Brutus

    they are as clear and vivid as my own.  I had a niece and nephew in NYC and worried for them.  I have family in Dc and worried for them.  I had a surreal bus ride through the mountains, headed to DC and then turned around and headed back, with a patchwork of radio stations telling us the tales.

    I don't need to see the reruns or the fictionalized, dramatized versions made for profit by the people who elected Bush.  No need to whoop me up.

    You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you mad. Aldous Huxley

    by murrayewv on Fri Sep 08, 2006 at 03:55:04 PM PDT

  •  As a New Yorker... (10+ / 0-)

    ...who was first alerted that something was wrong by the sirens and the firetrucks suddenly congregating at the Brooklyn sides of the Manhattan and Brooklyn bridges (right by where I was teaching), all I can say is thanks for telling.

    Sometimes, we in New York wonder about the reactions in the rest of the country.  For us, the whole thing was a great sadness, and tremendous loss.

    The anger and vindictiveness that some started bringing to the tragedy has never felt right to me.  It has felt staged, a political tool.

    I'm glad that others in other parts of the country saw it more as we do (I knew that, but it's good to hear it again).  So, thanks once more.

  •  Well put. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    AaronBa, murrayewv, blueyedace2

    I, for one, have had it with the crass exploitation of 9/11. From Universal's United 93 to Stone's WTC, these movie were made because someone thought they would make money. And then repugs, who celebrate this time of the year with thinly veiled glee. 9/11 was a terrible day, and we should never forget all the innocent victims whose lives were needlessly claimed. But I'm almost ashamed to be an American, when I see how people have continually tried to use the memory of 9/11 for their own means--from politicians, to movie studios, to the parasites who were selling cheap trinkets outside Ground Zero weeks after 9/11. Enough already! Let the victims lie in peace, and let 9/11 be a day that unites Americans instead of dividing us further.

  •  CNNs plan for 9/11 anniversary (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    AaronBa, blueyedace2

    I tuned in earlier, and I saw that they are going to show their coverage from 9/11/01 as it unfolded, unedited, all day.

    I cannot imagine watching that.

    I don't live anywhere near NYC or DC, but I remember that day vividly. I happened to tune into Good Morning America for some bizarre reason (I probably have watched it three times in my entire life, but for some reason I turned it on while having a cup of coffee). I tuned in right about 9:00am, and I saw the whole thing unfold. It was terrifying and mindboggling. I can't imagine sitting to watch that again, knowing all that happened.

    I can't imagine how sad and upsetting this weekend will be for those who have a much closer personal connection to the tragedy than I did.

    I remember a time when the American President was the leader of the free world. ****** Repeat after me: "Neoconservatism has failed America."

    by land of the free on Fri Sep 08, 2006 at 04:04:44 PM PDT

    •  that's going to be on cnn pipeline (online) (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      murrayewv, blueyedace2, PhantomFly

      and i can't imagine reliving that horrible day!  i can't imagine anyone who would want to.  just any mention of 9/11 makes chills run down my spine to this day.  today i heard alan jackson sing 'where were you when the world stopped turning' on the today show and i cried.  

  •  it was surreal (3+ / 0-)

    I had the same reaction as when JFK was shot.  I was in HS then and remember when the first crackle came over the loudspeaker saying he was shot.  How the whole class gasped, how we walked the halls in stunned silence with mouths agape and how we cried when another announcement said he was dead.

    It was like that on 9/11.  I was driving into work because I had been at an early morning meeting.  I turned on the radio in the car and couldn't quite grasp what they were saying on the radio.

    I called a friend from my cell phone and he told me what happened and that both towers had collapsed.  I gasped.

    When I got to work everyone was in the break room huddled around the one TV in the place.  They were showing the footage of the planes and the towers crumbling over and over.  We all just were looking at each other in stunned silence with our mouths agape.

    Everybody went home early.  I cried that night watching the coverage.

    I too remember the strange silence without the planes.  I live near an airport so I hear them but don't hear them all the time.  It was so eery.  And I remember my heart racing when I heard the first pass of the helicopter patrol.  I ran to the window to reassure myself it was okay.

    You so eloquently said why so many of us are outraged by not only this so called docudrama but by the Republican'ts overall.  They have dehumanized our memories and mocked our patriotism.

    I've had enough.  

    "Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little safety will deserve neither and lose both." Benjamin Franklin

    by glynis on Fri Sep 08, 2006 at 04:15:31 PM PDT

    •  yes.... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      blueyedace2

      mocked our patriotism.  Thanks for the tax cut George.  I feel much safer and will shop Walmart now and save freedom.

      You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you mad. Aldous Huxley

      by murrayewv on Fri Sep 08, 2006 at 04:24:25 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  What breaks my heart the most- (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      kfred

      What breaks my heart the most is how many Americans have been let down.  There are those who boarded that plane with an expectation that their country would protect them.  There are those who thought they could work an average day because their government was protecting them.  There are first responders who rushed to the scene and were assured the air could be breathed.  There were young men and women who joined the military, or who had already joined the military, to fight against the very same people who had done this to us.

      The first two groups are massacred and the third is dying a slow death.  The latter are pitched into a Devil's lottery where the faintest stroke of bad luck is going to send them home dead or dismembered.

      So much has been exploited through this tragedy.  So many Americans have been left behind and let down.  It's like they're all stones in my soul.

      A spiritual rendition of Virginia Woolf's suicide.  And it breaks my heart everytime I think about it.  We have failed ourselves, our forefathers and those to come.  What do we do now?  There is too much to mourn and too much to do.

      Lobbyists need Republicans like pimps need whores.

      by electricgrendel on Fri Sep 08, 2006 at 04:36:22 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  don't despair (0+ / 0-)

        Those of us in the reality based community recognized early on the exploitation and have been fighting it. And everything we are doing and have done would make our forefathers and those who have sacrificed and who have been sacrificed proud.

        We fought against tremendous odds in the beginning and took alot of shit for it but we didn't stop.  And over the years more have joined us.

        The change hasn't happened as quickly as we wanted but change never does.

        If we hadn't kept at it we wouldn't have seen the kind of backlash about TPT911 as we are seeing.  We wouldn't have seen KO's two great commentaries.  We wouldn't have seen the fear from the Republican'ts about losing the House and maybe even the Senate.

        So we keep on doing as we have for the last 6 years forever into the future. And every now and then we step back and celebrate that the worm is turning and we all had a hand in it.  And we remember and we fight to make sure that history tells the truth.

        One person really can make a difference.  And when each person joins with others the ripples go forth.

        Your generation does have a heavy burden to bear because of what this adminstration has done.  But with others like you I feel better knowing that when I leave this earth I will have left it in good hands.

        "Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little safety will deserve neither and lose both." Benjamin Franklin

        by glynis on Fri Sep 08, 2006 at 05:13:55 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  we (0+ / 0-)

        keep going and keep trying to make it better. It's all we can do. Succumbing to the grief is what enables the rethugs. And the rethugs just bring more death and destruction to mourn. It hurts my soul too. I feel like part of me dies every time anothr soldier dies. But, all we can do is work to get rid of the republicans.

  •  Using 9/1 for Right Wing Fascist propaganda is (0+ / 0-)

    beneath despicable.

    It is an insult to everyone involved personally and an affront to the nation. And these are the people talking about Hitler and Fascism. Projection?

    If not now, when? When they come for you, then it will be too late. Shout it from the rooftops, take it to the streets.

    by tjfxh on Fri Sep 08, 2006 at 04:24:30 PM PDT

  •  Beautiful (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    glynis

    A wonderful memoir - and makes me think about what my mother said to me earlier this day.  I was watching CNN with her, and said something about the ABC trash being broadcast on Sunday and Monday, and she simply said "I watched it the first time, I don't want to see it again."  That's my reaction as well to all of these movies and propaganda pieces - I watched till my eyes were red on September 11, 2001 and I don't need any fictional replacements for my own memories.

    As it happens, on that day, my mother and father were both in Vanderbilt Hospital, not far from where you were (I grew up in Nashville).  I remember calling my mother in the hospital and being grateful she was there and not at home alone - she said doctors and nurses were in and out of her room all day watching CNN with her.  I also remember having to cancel my plans to fly to Nashville that weekend to see them because all the planes were grounded.    I remember not wanting to be by myself, and then obsessively watching Aaron Brown on CNN for hours.   And then my father died a week later.

    A terrible, terrible time - and 5 years later, everything has gotten worse, not better.  I weep for my country.

    Thanks for a beautiful diary.

  •  a-fuckin'-men... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    tryptamine, cats in the curry

    i was spending a lot of time around then playing with flight simulators, and 'learning to fly' via computer. every time i hear a plane in the air, i look to see if i can recognize it.

    i remember very clearly how, for what was it, just one week? seemed like much longer... that the sky was completely clear of planes, big or small.

    don't have to be stuck 'in the middle of nowhere' and feel so disassociated from that event. it was terrible for all of us, in our own singular ways.

  •  Thank you for sharing this (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    tryptamine, cats in the curry, elie

    As someone a bit younger than you, I can relate to how you feel. Again, thanks for sharing your experience.

  •  This may sound strange but (0+ / 0-)

    I thought I was the only one who thought it was a joke when they first heard about it and was completely freaked out by the absence of planes flying overhead those few days.  

    Thank you for reminding us all that in spite of our unique experiences on 9/11, there are some we all share as well.

    "The love of liberty is the love of others; the love of power is the love of ourselves." - William Hazlitt

    by tryptamine on Sat Sep 09, 2006 at 09:38:41 PM PDT

  •  Incredible diary. (0+ / 0-)

    Univ days the time for doing things in groups. We couldn't watch our favorite TV show without setting up a group meeting at someone's place. Then using phrases from it in our group the rest of the week. A good time for that, great experiences.

    Glad you had your groups that day.

    Thanks the insights into the view from where you were.

    Be good to each other. It matters.

    by AllisonInSeattle on Tue Sep 12, 2006 at 01:13:20 PM PDT

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