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I was in my classroom at Williamsburg Middle School in Arlington VA, two and a half miles from the house in which I write these words.  The Principal's secretary came into my room and motioned me over to her.

"Your wife called to tell you Ron is all right."

I expressed puzzlement.  

"Your wife called to tell you your brother-in-law Ron is all right."

Ron is an FBI agent, married to one of my wife's younger sisters.  At the time he was stationed in New York, near the World Trade Center.

I asked why he wouldn't be.

The secretary explained that a plane had hit one of the twin towers.  In retrospect, my wife apparently felt I would already know this had happened, it was just about 9 AM.  Ron had called his wife who had called my wife who wanted to assure me.

I clearly demonstrated surprise - and my students started to ask questions.  I asked the secretary what if anything we were supposed to tell the children.  She shrugged her shoulders.

I simply told the students there had been an incident with a plane and a building in New York City, and someone from our family had called to say he was okay.

The teachers on our team were on our free period, watching the tv, when the first tower came down.  By then we were all in shock.   And our day had just begun.

By lunch the assistant principals had informed the students what was happening.

Remember, we are in Arlington VA.  Once the Pentagon was hit, parents began showing up at our school to get their children -  who knew what attack might come next.  Teachers would take time to locate the children and escort them to the office.

When we heard about the plane that hit the Pentagon, our 7th grade team had to deal with an immediate crisis:  the science teacher had a father who was a pilot for American who was supposed to ride on a flight from Dulles to Los Angeles to pick up a flight.  One of our students had a father who flying from Dulles to Los Angeles on business. Neither knew the number of the flight their loved one was taking.  They sat crying and hold one another until each learned the love one was safe.

Our school is in North Arlington, more than half a dozen miles from the Pentagon.

Some of our teachers lived in DC, a few in Maryland.

The phone in my room rang in the late afternoon.  It was Jay Mathews of the Washington Post seeking comments from teachers about what they had done, how the situation had to be handled.  No one had told me we were not authorized to talk to the press.  My only words to Jay, a good friend, is that right then we were trying to figure out what we could do for teachers who couldn't get home -  so many roads and bridges were closed.  Fortunately I was able to get Jay to read my words to my principal, who found nothing wrong in what I had said.

When I got home my wife was in shock.  When the Towers came down cell phone service in lower Manhattan had failed, and we had not heard from Ron, and we worried that he had been buried in the collapse.  Some time around 3:30 or a bit later he was finally able to get a message through to his wife, who was near panic, and she then informed the rest of us.

My house is 2 blocks from the major hospital in Arlington County,  to which some survivors were taken.

My wife had been driving to work late, traveling on Washington boulevard which passes the Pentagon, when she was unable to go further because of what had happened there.

The day was consumed with watching television, with reading emails and list servs.

The next day schools around DC were closed, so there was more.

I began to learn of people I knew who had died, others who had been lucky - including an Army colonel whose office was in the part of the Pentagon that was hit, but who was having a cup of coffee with a friend in a different part of the building.

As I sit in the same house in which I lived 11 years ago, as I reflect on those events now, the feelings come back - not only of that day, but of the weeks immediately afterward

I had grown up near New York City.  I lived in the city for a number of years as a young adult.  I knew many people who had worked in the Towers.  For some time i was afraid to read the lists of those who had died, worried about the names I might find.  To my knowledge I knew three of the four from Haverford College who died in the Towers, and knew slightly one person who died in the Pentagon.

This is the first anniversary for which I have not been in a classroom.  The tenth graders I was teaching are by and large to have clear memories of that day.  Already younger students have no memory of a time before that event, and how profoundly this country was changed.

In my parents generation, they knew exactly where they were when they heard about Pearl Harbor.

For many of my generation the signature day was November 22, 1963, and what we were doing when our nation lost its innocence with the assassination of our young and seemingly vibrant President.

11 years ago this morning, and the events that followed, still represent an open wound for many.  My personal loss was not great.  The impact on our lives however was.  

For days afterward we could at night here clearly hear the combat air patrols flying overhead.

When we would drive past certain buildings, say the Pentagon, we would see half tracks with machine guns and anti-aircraft rockets.

Security on Capitol Hill, where my wife works, became increasingly tighter, with new physical barriers, with restrictions on entrance to buildings, with pop-up barriers on the streets, with an increased visibility of police.

Some have argued that today we should forego politics.  I disagree.

We may well have suffered the damage of those attacks because of the views of those who had as a result of the election the previous year, views which led them to ignore and downplay warnings of the threat Al Qaeda represented in their fixation to "get" Saddam Hussein.  

2001 was not a major election year, although New Jersey and Virginia elected Governors, and New York City its mayor -  in fact, that was a primary day in New York City, and Rudy Giuliani tried to use the tragedy that had occurred to extend his time in office.  

Today would have been primary day in New York City, but because of the anniversary the voting has been moved two days to Thursday.

And certainly the events of 11 years ago this morning have been used by many to advocate political positions, to insist on policies to which many of us may have objected.

Certainly we should stop and reflect, as i have done here.

That reflection should inform our political action, especially in the midst of a critical national election season.

I write and post this to remind myself -  not only of lose, not only of national shame of some of the things that came about as a result of the events of 11 years ago, but also to motivate me to do what I can to reclaim what this country should be, to ensure we not slide back into the worst of what the administration in power did in response to those events 11 years ago.

I also write and post this to remind myself to mourn the losses, and affirm what is best among people.

Thanks for reading.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (28+ / 0-)

    "We didn't set out to save the world; we set out to wonder how other people are doing and to reflect on how our actions affect other people's hearts." - Pema Chodron

    by teacherken on Tue Sep 11, 2012 at 03:55:32 AM PDT

  •  I remember that day the way I remember (7+ / 0-)

    JFK's assassination.  I was watching TV news when the phone rang and the clinic's nurse told me to turn to CNN.  There they were cutting back and forth from file footage to live footage, when the second plane circled and then hit.

    Our nurse called me again to ask what this meant.  Her husband was career military and she knew whatever actions were taken that her and his life had changed forever.

    In the meantime, the local radio station was broadcasting phone calls from people trapped in their offices.  Their words were seared in my mind as one guy was trying to call his wife and could not reach her.  He had called a local station to report that they had gotten to the stairwell but were instructed to go back to their offices and wait for rescue.  He was going back.  I have wondered if he made it out OK or if he died in his office.

    As I said, even the most mundane things about that day are seared in my mind    

  •  I Went to My Subway Stop (13+ / 0-)

    On the Upper West Side that morning as usual. The attendant was telling people to go back home because there was a fire at the World Trade Center and there would be a mess downtown. I went back to my apartment and started watching the news.

    After a few hours, I started walking downtown along the Hudson River, because I couldn't stand being cooped up in my apartment watching the TV coverage. At 34 St., there was a crowd of hundreds of thousands of people walking in the opposite direction, so I figured I shouldn't go any further south. I stopped there at the ferry terminal and watched the towers collapse.

    I coudn't get on my mobile phone to call my parents, so I went back home and had my boss call them from London and let them know that I hadn't made it downtown to work that day, so I was safe and sound.

    The company I worked for asked us to come back into the office at 39 Broadway about two weeks after the attacks. But after several days of headaches and the HVAC system belching dust into our offices, they sent us back home to work, which we did for several more weeks. I remember tasting burning metal in my mouth for a long time -- it was like the toxins from the fires got into my body and were coming out of my pores.

    But I felt grateful that I was okay.

    I still feel like I was psychologically abused by what happened after the attacks, when a venal and corrupt government used the event to scare the country into going along with their aims -- robbing the country blind and plunging us into a disastrous oil war, all the while wailing, "9/11! 9/11!"

    I feel a mix of sadness and bitterness about what happened on that day and for the next eight years.

    "I'll believe that corporations are people when I see Rick Perry execute one."

    by bink on Tue Sep 11, 2012 at 04:11:36 AM PDT

  •  I got a phone call from my mom (11+ / 0-)

    asking if my husband was home. I said he flew out to California and she just started to cry (we live in Boston and he always flies United). She told me to turn on the TV -- it was a few minutes of watching all the horror before I realized that she thought he was one of the planes, but he had flown out the night before.

    My husband called a bit later and we watched the tower collapse. It was just unbelievable to me.

    His one day trip turned into almost a week since all flights were grounded. Our daughter was only three and seemed oblivious to it all -- but she was just so upset on the day he flew home. On some level she knew to be scared of the planes.

    A child in my daughter's preschool class lost her grandmother on the LA flight. What a horror, just an tragedy. And sadly, one that we are hearing today could have been prevented if the Bush team had listened to the warnings.

    “Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan” is an anagram for “My ultimate Ayn Rand Porn.”

    by theKgirls on Tue Sep 11, 2012 at 04:15:00 AM PDT

  •  I was at my desk in the East Village. (13+ / 0-)

    I was writing an email.  The first plane flew over too loud, too fast.  The shadow of the plane crossed my desk.  I knew from the sound that the plane was crashing.  I started counting.  When I reached four, BOOM.

    The floor shook.

    I picked up my TV remote and clicked it on - the local weather helicopter swung its camera around and showed the hole in the side of the North Tower.

    The newspapers had been full of the conviction of the blind Sheikh in the 1992 attack.  So I knew immediately - they were back and they were going a lot bigger.

    I had worked in that building, on the 84th floor.

    It was a day to remember -  but only because I cannot forget it.

    Still enjoying my stimulus package.

    by Kevvboy on Tue Sep 11, 2012 at 04:16:56 AM PDT

  •  Mark Danner, The Age of Rhetoric written in 2007 (6+ / 0-)

    Just read this morning. He gave a graduation speech to the Rhetoric Department at Univ. of Calif, Berkeley in 2007.

    He describes how the age of rhetoric has won the day. The language used by the Bush administration to lie us into the war with Iraq.

    And just today we have the post by teacherken about the warning given to Bush administration prior to 9/11 attack.

    They wanted an attack from outside to justify military action and serve as the attack on the home front.

    Interesting that the Sunday NY times had an excellent column on traditional rhetoric.

    Also, I seem to not have noticed that Karl Rove was the source of Ron Suskind's 2004 quote that we are now an empire, not a reality based community.

    This is fairly long. On my browser, control + will make the type larger, or control - to make it smaller. Larger is better to read this.

  •  I was at a law firm on Pennsylvania Ave (7+ / 0-)

    We were watching the first tower burning on a television in one of our bond regulator's office who had a tv that he ran all day to watch CNBC, CNN and CSPAN.

    It was early, not every one had arrived yet.  The first plane hit about 10 minutes before I got to the office.  The receptionist told me she heard there was another bombing at the WTC.

    I went to Ed's office, learned it was a plane.  There were 4 of us standing in there (5 if you include Ed sitting at his desk) when we saw the second one hit, live on the screen.

    At that point, I put it on the 8-foot projection screen in the main conference room.  The room held about 110 people and was filling up as more people arrived and came straight in.

    We were on the East side of the building.  Then they announced the Pentagon.  We moved down the hall to a small conference room on the Southwest side that our lobbying group used.  

    From the window, looking South, you could see the smoke.

    That was when we started figuring out ways to get people home to their families.  DC was in some combination of shutting down and panicking and I was sitting on the 7th floor of a building 6 blocks from the Capitol, 8 blocks from the White House, right next to the FBI.

    Such a surreal day.....

    Красота спасет мир --F. Dostoevsky

    by Wisper on Tue Sep 11, 2012 at 05:05:40 AM PDT

    •  "...surreal..." (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      mookins, UFOH1, teacherken, WakeUpNeo

      The first time I remember using that word was in late November or early December of 2000.  Due to office politics, there had never been a lot of camaraderie in my office, on the 64th floor of the World Trade Center's South Tower, but we had been civil.  Then, during the long, long wait before the Supreme Court decided to strip us of our democracy, we looked at each other with wariness and, maybe, mild hatred, as we moved along the corridors.  Some of us had voted one way, some the other, and there was an almost hostile feeling as we waited and opined about what was going on.  The normal laughter and joshing was gone, and the feeling -- especially after we heard of the Supreme Court ruling -- was "surreal."  

      The second time I recall using that word was on September 11, 2011.  For no reason at all, I was late in going to the office that day (although I had been up for hours and voted in the primary at 6 a.m.).    At Chambers Street, where I transferred from the express to the local train, I waited, as five more express trains dumped passengers on the platform while we waited for the local.  Finally, an announcer said that the local was delayed, as there was a sick passenger at Times Square, and we were encouraged to walk if we could.  So I climbed the stairs to walk the few blocks, and reached the street a few minutes after the first attack.  

      I drifted down West Broadway toward the towers nonetheless, walking at half speed, mesmerized by the paper twirling in the wind 100 stories up; it was blowing from the North Tower; it looked like confetti or a Wall Street ticker tape parade; it was so festive, yet the tower had gashes in the sides, and smoke and flames were visible.  

      A policeman told me I could not cross the street to enter into one of the low buildings, to pass through the concourse to get to my desk in the South Tower.  

      I retraced my steps one block, then turned east, to go to Church Street and enter the South Tower from the far side.  As I headed east, hundreds of people, all silent and seemingly sleepwalking, too, passed me as they headed west.  I turned right and walked down Church Street.  Already, there was no vehicular traffic.  There was no sound.  Thousands more people stood about, keeping watch.  

      Realizing I might not be able to go into the South Tower right away, I decided to go into the Post Office just north of the World Trade Center site.  I would mail my sister's birthday present while the waiting continued.  Curiously, there were no people waiting on line for service, and as I walked from window to window, I saw absolutely no one behind the service window counters.  I thought I was the only person in the Post Office, and my mind said, "well, this is surreal."  And then I heard the second crash.  And all the Post Office workers, who had been away from their posts, looking out from the south side of the building, came running toward me as they headed to the north exit.

      We were told to stay inside for several minutes, as the debris flew through the air.  When I went outside, I saw that the South Tower was hit, slightly more than midway up, and I thought for sure my 64th floor officemates had been struck.  

      I subwayed home on possibly the last uptown express before the trains were stopped, called my sisters, saw my tower collapse in real time on television and thought for sure my co-workers were gone.  

      I sat and stared at the television.  About two hours later, a co-worker called.  I learned that those I worked with hit the stairs after the first plane hit the other tower, and they were down to the 6th floor when the second plane hit.  There would be more calls, and it helped to hear the familiar voices, but nothing again would ever be the same.  

  •  And in the White House (6+ / 0-)

    They were looking for an excuse pointed at Iraq, but any War would do, 'strong on national defense' thing:

    Drip, drip, drip, ""He recalled noting that: "the dog didn't bark - it grizzled." Don't forget - this 'grizzling' for regime change was 6 months BEFORE 9/11."". drip, drip, drip, ""But there was a 'sea change' in attitude after the atrocities, with former national security adviser Condoleezza Rice targeting Iraq on the very day of the outrage."", drip, drip, drip, ""George Bush tried to make a connection between Iraq and al-Qaida in a conversation with Tony Blair three days after the 9/11 attacks, according to Blair's foreign policy adviser of the time."", drip, drip, drip, ""There was "a touching belief [in Washington] that we shouldn't worry so much about the aftermath because it was all going to be sweetness and light"."", drip, drip, drip, ""Boyce mentions the "dysfunctionalism" of Washington. He says that he would find himself briefing his American counterparts on what was happening in different parts of the US adminstration. Rumsfeld was not sharing information"", drip, drip, drip...........!

    Written Transcripts by Date of each session.

    Above are just some of what came out in the early days of the Brit Iraq War Inquiry, final submission delayed till next year.

    Vets On FLOTUS and SLOTUS, "Best - Ever": "We haven't had this kind of visibility from the White House—ever." Joyce Raezer - Dec. 30, 2011

    by jimstaro on Tue Sep 11, 2012 at 05:13:59 AM PDT

  •  took my son to preschool (9+ / 0-)

    in North Carolina, and went to the gym, hearing the news reports on BBC news on NPR. I spent the next few days shielding son from the tv but watching for hours when he was sleeping. Later that week, my dad had heart bypass surgery in Texas and I couldn't go because of flights down and my mother terrified of my traveling. To deal with the stress, I crocheted this blanket:

    I talked to my son on the way to school today. He is 13, and dreads talking about 9/11 at school. I told him about the NYTimes op-ed on the warnings Bush ignored, and I said we still had to learn the lessons of that event. "I know, Mom, Bush is a jackass," he said. "I have taught you well, young padawan," I replied.

    George W. Bush: the worst Republican president SO FAR.

    by Chun Yang on Tue Sep 11, 2012 at 05:22:44 AM PDT

  •  Teacherken, a brief word of thanks (10+ / 0-)

    for your earlier diary about Eichenwald's NYT Op-ed that affirms what many of us have believed for many years, and for your empathy in knowing this diary would provide a place for some of us to share and vent our feelings.

    I know you read what I posted to your comments in the earlier diary about my feelings surrounding this anniversary, and thank you for your response. I may return later to share a bit more.

    You are a wise teacher and your contributions here today make plain why you are so widely respected here at DK, with good reason. Thank you.

  •  September 11, 2001 (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Chun Yang, Oh Mary Oh, Olympia, WakeUpNeo

    was a very painful day and the memories will always be that way.  I also feel much sadness knowing how our leaders failed us leading up to that day and then used that day for political purposes for many years.

    While I live in the DC area I was in Denver that morning and felt very far away.  Like many I took my rental car and drove across the country to get home.  

  •  Also, we remember (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    mookins, WakeUpNeo

    9/11/01:  Approximately 2,900 people die in terrorist attacks sponsored by Al Queda.

    9/11/01: On this day, 21,000 children around the world die from hunger and malnutrition. Approximately 80,000,000 have died since 9/11.

    2001: 30,000 people in the US die due to lack of health insurance.  This increases over the years to 45,000,  resulting in approximately 500,000 dead since 9/11.

    2001: 20,000 people in the US die in gun-related deaths. Since 9/11 approximately 240,000 people have died as a result of continuing gun violence.

    2001: In Rwanda, Uganda, Congo, and Indonesia, approximately 10,000 men/women/children die to provide tin and coltan so people in the US can have cheap cell phones and other electronics, and in diamond mining operations.  This continues through to 2012, for a total of over 120,000 dead since 9/11. In 2012, Gina Rowland, richest woman in the world, celebrates these deaths and suggests her fellow Australians should work for $2 a day and die off as well.

    Liberalism is trust of the people tempered by prudence. Conservatism is distrust of the people tempered by fear. ~William E. Gladstone, 1866

    by absdoggy on Tue Sep 11, 2012 at 06:39:15 AM PDT

  •  I had taken my vacation and was (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    mookins, WakeUpNeo

    waiting for friends to arrive from Germany.  My son called to say turn on the TV and then hung up.   The announcer said that there were planes in the air bound from Europe to New York and they had no idea what was happening with them.  It was 8 hours of hell before I heard from them.  They called when they landed back in Germany only to say they would take the next flight out.  I told them what had happened and they were stunned.  They had only been told that there was an 'incident' in New York and all planes were being either turned around or headed to Gander, Newfoundland or Halifax, Nova Scotia (in Canada).

    My friends were fine but my heart still aches for those that were not so lucky.  

  •  I was getting ready for a taking a class in Kansas (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    City. I was 2000 miles away from home, watching CNN news (when it was news) and seeing the fire from what was then thought to have been a small plane hitting the north tower. Saw the other tower hit and knew it was an attack.

    Didn't know how my wife and I were going to get back to our kids in Florida (lived there then), had visions of renting a car and driving it. Flew back the first day flights allowed, got off in Orlando to see national guard troops with M-16's on the shuttle from the gate to the terminal. Scary shit.

    WTF!?!?!?! When did I move to the Republic of Gilead?!

    by IARXPHD on Tue Sep 11, 2012 at 07:49:55 AM PDT

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